Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

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Thomas Dolhanty
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Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » March 10th, 2015, 12:24 pm

Luke 12:20 wrote:εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός ἄφρων, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται; Luke 12:20
How should one think about the 3rd pl pres act ind - ἀπαιτοῦσιν - in this verse? Wallace (pg 402-03) suggests that it refers to God, presumably as a Hebraism with the idea of the plural אֱלֹהִ֑ים. But it I find that difficult to square with the opening εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός. Would Luke report Jesus saying, 'God said ... they are requiring your soul” with reference to God?

There is another instance of the ‘indefinte plural’ in Lk 12:48 (αἰτήσουσιν), and again in 14:35 (βάλλουσιν), but neither of those instances looks quite the same as this one to me. The speaker (ὁ θεός) and the action (τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν) separate this from the others in my reading.

Is this really a Hebraism? A known mode of expression in Hellenistic Greek? Or what?
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Bruce McKinnon
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by Bruce McKinnon » March 10th, 2015, 2:59 pm

I haven't done a computer search but Genesis 1:1 is an example of the plural Hebrew word for God being used with a 3rd person singular verb. So yes, I wonder whether the Hebraism explanation is feasible.
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » March 10th, 2015, 3:25 pm

Bruce McKinnon wrote:I haven't done a computer search but Genesis 1:1 is an example of the plural Hebrew word for God being used with a 3rd person singular verb. So yes, I wonder whether the Hebraism explanation is feasible.
Well for the Hebrew, that is a normal construction. אֱלֹהִ֑ים is a plural Hebrew noun which can mean gods, God as in Yahweh, or god as in Marduk, etc. The LXX has the expected ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς.

If Luke is reflecting the semitic form, then he would presumably be reflecting the Hebrew plural name for God. Again, though, It is really hard to fit that construction into this context - at least as I understand it. We have Hebrew for God speaking of deity (capital "D") as "we", but I can't think of any place in the OT where God refers to Himself as "they". It is the εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός of Luke 12:20 that makes the allusion to אֱלֹהִ֑ים unlikely as I see it.
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » March 10th, 2015, 4:34 pm

I think Wallace is off, since אֱלֹהִ֑ים normally takes singular verbs in Hebrew.

Might the understood subject of ἀπαιτοῦσιν be the angels (cf. Luke 16:22)?
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by Bruce McKinnon » March 10th, 2015, 9:19 pm

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:I think Wallace is off, since אֱלֹהִ֑ים normally takes singular verbs in Hebrew.
I agree. Upon rereading my first post I see it had the potential to be somewhat ambiguous.
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by George F Somsel » March 11th, 2015, 1:34 am

130. The indefinite subject ‘one’. (1) The impersonal passive (Lat. itur ‘one goes’) is not common in the NT and was never extensively used in Greek generally. (2) For ‘one’ it is much more customary to employ the 3rd plur. (without subject). The range of ideas expressed by verbs so used has been enlarged under the influence of Aramaic (which is not fond of the passive; in classical Greek the construction is used primarily with verbs of saying, etc. as is the case in MGr: Thumb2 §254). Οἱ ἄνθρωποι may also appear as subject. (3) In the case of formulae introducing citations, e.g. λέγει etc., ὁ θεός, ἡ γραφή or the like is understood as subject

Friedrich Blass, Albert Debrunner, and Robert Walter Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 72.
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » March 11th, 2015, 2:24 am

George F Somsel wrote:
130. The indefinite subject ‘one’. (1) The impersonal passive (Lat. itur ‘one goes’) is not common in the NT and was never extensively used in Greek generally. (2) For ‘one’ it is much more customary to employ the 3rd plur. (without subject). The range of ideas expressed by verbs so used has been enlarged under the influence of Aramaic (which is not fond of the passive; in classical Greek the construction is used primarily with verbs of saying, etc. as is the case in MGr: Thumb2 §254). Οἱ ἄνθρωποι may also appear as subject. (3) In the case of formulae introducing citations, e.g. λέγει etc., ὁ θεός, ἡ γραφή or the like is understood as subject

Friedrich Blass, Albert Debrunner, and Robert Walter Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 72.
Hmm. Thank you. I looked at a few sources, but didn't think to check BDG. I see also that Culy (Baylor Handbook, "Luke", pg 423) writes, "Mckay ... argues that the use of plural verbs that refer to a subject that is not identified in the context 'may be influenced by Semitic idiom in which a plural verb with completely vague subject is used in the active in circumstances where English, and normally also Greek would need a passive.'" So the construction probably does have a Semitic root, but nothing to do with the plural reference to deity. I know that the passive is not very common in Biblical Hebrew compared to something like Biblical Greek.

Next question is why Luke would use such a construction here, which clearly seems intended and of which Nolland says, "... it is difficult to see Luke using the third person plural in place of the passive.." (WBC, Luke V 2, pg 687)
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by cwconrad » March 11th, 2015, 6:53 am

Luke 12:16 Εἶπεν δὲ παραβολὴν πρὸς αὐτοὺς λέγων· ἀνθρώπου τινὸς πλουσίου εὐφόρησεν ἡ χώρα. 17 καὶ διελογίζετο ἐν ἑαυτῷ λέγων· τί ποιήσω, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχω ποῦ συνάξω τοὺς καρπούς μου; 18 καὶ εἶπεν· τοῦτο ποιήσω, καθελῶ μου τὰς ἀποθήκας καὶ μείζονας οἰκοδομήσω καὶ συνάξω ἐκεῖ πάντα τὸν σῖτον καὶ τὰ ἀγαθά μου 19 καὶ ἐρῶ τῇ ψυχῇ μου· ψυχή, ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά· ἀναπαύου, φάγε, πίε, εὐφραίνου. 20 εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός· ἄφρων, ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ τὴν ψυχήν σου ἀπαιτοῦσιν ἀπὸ σοῦ· ἃ δὲ ἡτοίμασας, τίνι ἔσται; 21 οὕτως ὁ θησαυρίζων ἑαυτῷ καὶ μὴ εἰς θεὸν πλουτῶν.;
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Next question is why Luke would use such a construction here, which clearly seems intended and of which Nolland says, "... it is difficult to see Luke using the third person plural in place of the passive.." (WBC, Luke V 2, pg 687)
Since the question is evidently still nagging, let me offer a speculative answer, one that is not rooted in Greek usage especially. It's common enough in English, but I think it's rooted more in conventional human social experience. An individual feels isolated even if in the presence of others, is suspicious of what the others nearby are saying, suspects that they are talking about himself, and -- if sufficiently anxious and insecure -- that they are saying bad things and may even be plotting against himself. An anxious and insecure person may suspect that they "have it in for me." Referred to is an objectified hostile force; it may be called "them" or even "the gods" or "God". It may seem odd that in this verse , the words cited are said to be spoken by God, but that's how the voice of conscience is heard in the mind of one who contemplates a measure of some moral questionability. Think of the literary or dramatic device of the good and bad angel or better and more devious self speaking to the individual in the process of momentous decision. Note the context set forth in the parable here: a rich man ponders within himself the preferable course to take under the circumstances in which he finds himself; he sees an inviting prospect if he should follow one course, but then the peril suddenly rises within his mind: "And what if I die tonight? I have all these enemies and they're out to get me -- but who is it that brings that thought into my mind?"

Admittedly speculative; just a suggestion.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » March 11th, 2015, 10:52 am

cwconrad wrote:Since the question is evidently still nagging, let me offer a speculative answer, one that is not rooted in Greek usage especially. It's common enough in English, but I think it's rooted more in conventional human social experience. An individual feels isolated even if in the presence of others, is suspicious of what the others nearby are saying, suspects that they are talking about himself, and -- if sufficiently anxious and insecure -- that they are saying bad things and may even be plotting against himself. An anxious and insecure person may suspect that they "have it in for me." Referred to is an objectified hostile force; it may be called "them" or even "the gods" or "God". It may seem odd that in this verse , the words cited are said to be spoken by God, but that's how the voice of conscience is heard in the mind of one who contemplates a measure of some moral questionability. Think of the literary or dramatic device of the good and bad angel or better and more devious self speaking to the individual in the process of momentous decision. Note the context set forth in the parable here: a rich man ponders within himself the preferable course to take under the circumstances in which he finds himself; he sees an inviting prospect if he should follow one course, but then the peril suddenly rises within his mind: "And what if I die tonight? I have all these enemies and they're out to get me -- but who is it that brings that thought into my mind?"

Admittedly speculative; just a suggestion.
It is a suggestion that fits with, and to some degree explains, the impersonal voice and “vague subject” (McKay in Culy), and it is consistent with the known phenomenon of increased wealth being accompanied by increased paranoia and a sense of anxiety. I question, though, whether it really fits this particular narrative.

The narrative is not that the man begins to be troubled and anxious and paranoid. The narrative is that all of his self satisfied ease is suddenly and dramatically interrupted by an external force – an external force that 'requires his ψυχήν of him' (using the passive of the versions), and calls him to a court he has ignored and an accounting for which he is utterly unprepared.

It seems that the whole of verse 19,
Luke 12:19 καὶ ἐρῶ τῇ ψυχῇ μου, ψυχή, ἔχεις πολλὰ ἀγαθὰ κείμενα εἰς ἔτη πολλά ἀναπαύου, φάγε, πίε, εὐφραίνου.
… indeed the whole parable itself, is informed by Eccl. 8:15.
Ecclesiastes 8:15 καὶ ἐπῄνεσα ἐγὼ σὺν τὴν εὐφροσύνην ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ὑπὸ τὸν ἥλιον ὅτι εἰ μὴ τοῦ φαγεῖν καὶ τοῦ πιεῖν καὶ τοῦ εὐφρανθῆναι καὶ αὐτὸ συμπροσέσται αὐτῷ ἐν μόχθῳ αὐτοῦ ἡμέρας ζωῆς αὐτοῦ ὅσας ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ θεὸς ὑπὸ τὸν ἥλιον.
The τοῦ φαγεῖν καὶ τοῦ πιεῖν καὶ τοῦ εὐφρανθῆναι / φάγε, πίε, εὐφραίνου parallel, and indeed the whole context of the parable, require that association, I suggest. Verse 27 - οὐδὲ Σολομὼν ἐν πάσῃ τῇ δόξῃ αὐτοῦ περιεβάλετο ὡς ἓν τούτων - also points there

In Eccl 8:15 the ‘wisest man of all’ concludes that “οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ὑπὸ τὸν ἥλιον ὅτι εἰ μὴ τοῦ φαγεῖν καὶ τοῦ πιεῖν καὶ τοῦ εὐφρανθῆναι”. But here in Luke 12, it seems to me, another wise man pronounces God’s judgment on Solomon’s conclusion – “εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός ἄφρων

The whole tenor of the narrative for both Solomon and for the man of Luke 12, is that an external voice breaks in upon this-worldly success and self satisfied ease and pleasure to say, ‘You fool. Tonight you have to give an account in another court, and there you are poor and wretched’.

It doesn’t seem to me that there is anything vague or impersonal or self-reflective about the force that breaks in upon Luke’s rich man. Rather it is sudden, external, and of ultimate authority, turning upside down the man’s whole perception of reallity in a way that completely undoes his ‘wisdom’, his wealth, and his very ψυχήν.

It is this dramatic context and "εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ θεός" that leaves me wondering still why Luke uses the ambiguous and impersonal ἀπαιτοῦσιν.
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Re: Luke 12:20: 3rd pl. pres. ind. act. of ἀπαιτέω

Post by Stephen Hughes » March 12th, 2015, 1:55 am

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
George F Somsel wrote:
130. ... The range of ideas expressed by verbs so used has been enlarged under the influence of Aramaic (which is not fond of the passive;
Friedrich Blass, Albert Debrunner, and Robert Walter Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 72.
... I see also that Culy (Baylor Handbook, "Luke", pg 423) writes, "Mckay ... argues that the use of plural verbs that refer to a subject that is not identified in the context 'may be influenced by Semitic idiom in which a plural verb with completely vague subject is used in the active in circumstances where English, and normally also Greek would need a passive.'" So the construction probably does have a Semitic root, but nothing to do with the plural reference to deity. I know that the passive is not very common in Biblical Hebrew compared to something like Biblical Greek.
There are a lot of vague statements about Aramaic / Hebrew / Semitic here. Are people - BDF, McKay and TD - dancing near the edge of the stage here and trying to tread carefully, or are these broad-stroke statements made by standing back and reflecting on the situation? I understand the couching in vagueness, so as not to go beyond one's bounds, but does anyone have a definite defensible (and believable-for-what-it-does-say) statement to make about this?
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