Blessed by the Spirit

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James Cuénod
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Blessed by the Spirit

Post by James Cuénod » January 25th, 2016, 5:24 pm

In Matt 5:5 the beatitudes begin
Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι
Could this be translated "The poor are blessed by the Spirit". I am interested in the reasoning more than the correct translation (or sense).

My suspicion is that the dative would need to be attached to "Μακάριοι" rather than "οἱ πτωχοὶ" and I feel as though I should be expecting an explicit copulative verb but I'm really not sure.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 25th, 2016, 6:18 pm

I don't think so. οἱ πτωχοὶ is nominative, it is not the object of the verb μακαρίζω. If it were, it would be accusative, as in Luke 1:48 ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί.

Μακάριοι is a form of the adjective μακάριος. You're on the right track with the copulative verb, but a copulative verb does not need to be present in a subject / predicate construction. Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι means the same thing as Μακάριοι εἰσιν οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι.

If the Spirit were blessing, then πνεῦμα would be the subject, it would be nominative, and the verb would be μακαρίζει. So if I'm getting this right, "the poor are blessed by the Spirit" might read μακαρίζει τοὺς πτωχοὺς τὸ πνεῦμα.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 25th, 2016, 7:55 pm

James Cuénod wrote:In Matt 5:5 the beatitudes begin
Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι
Could this be translated "The poor are blessed by the Spirit". I am interested in the reasoning more than the correct translation (or sense).

My suspicion is that the dative would need to be attached to "Μακάριοι" rather than "οἱ πτωχοὶ" and I feel as though I should be expecting an explicit copulative verb but I'm really not sure.
Assuming no other context except these 5 words, I would have to disagree with Jonathan here. "The poor are blessed by the Spirit" is a completely viable way to translate this sentence in isolation. οἱ πτωχοὶ is the subject of the implicit ἐστιν; Μακάριοι is a predicate adjective; and τῷ πνεύματι is a dative of instrumentality - acting adverbially to modify Μακάριοι.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 25th, 2016, 10:41 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
James Cuénod wrote:In Matt 5:5 the beatitudes begin
Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι
Could this be translated "The poor are blessed by the Spirit". I am interested in the reasoning more than the correct translation (or sense).

My suspicion is that the dative would need to be attached to "Μακάριοι" rather than "οἱ πτωχοὶ" and I feel as though I should be expecting an explicit copulative verb but I'm really not sure.
Assuming no other context except these 5 words, I would have to disagree with Jonathan here. "The poor are blessed by the Spirit" is a completely viable way to translate this sentence in isolation. οἱ πτωχοὶ is the subject of the implicit ἐστιν; Μακάριοι is a predicate adjective; and τῷ πνεύματι is a dative of instrumentality - acting adverbially to modify Μακάριοι.
Hmmm, possibly, since you are using μακάριοι as an adjective and not a verb. I'd be interested in hearing the intuition of others here. My intuition is that Greek has strong a tendency to build phrases from adjacent words, so οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι is a more likely phrase than Μακάριοι ... τῷ πνεύματι. I would have expected Μακάριοι τῷ πνεύματι οἱ πτωχοὶ if the meaning were what you suggest.

But I'm not sure that Greek can't do that kind of thing, I'd be interested in more examples. Phrases can definitely be interrupted, but does Greek typically interrupt a phrase with something that can naturally build a phrase on its own?
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James Cuénod
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by James Cuénod » January 26th, 2016, 1:48 am

With regards to expecting Μακάριοι τῷ πνεύματι οἱ πτωχοὶ I agree. I'm still wondering whether the option exists though and what the most likely way to express "The poor are blessed by the Spirit" would be. I don't think the Spirit would need to be the subject of the verb.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 26th, 2016, 2:41 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:Hmmm, possibly, since you are using μακάριοι as an adjective and not a verb. I'd be interested in hearing the intuition of others here. My intuition is that Greek has strong a tendency to build phrases from adjacent words, so οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι is a more likely phrase than Μακάριοι ... τῷ πνεύματι. I would have expected Μακάριοι τῷ πνεύματι οἱ πτωχοὶ if the meaning were what you suggest.

But I'm not sure that Greek can't do that kind of thing, I'd be interested in more examples. Phrases can definitely be interrupted, but does Greek typically interrupt a phrase with something that can naturally build a phrase on its own?
It may not be the most likely word order to express that thought, but the question was, "Could this be translated "The poor are blessed by the Spirit". I think it could, and in the case of a simple sentence like this I think one would be hard-pressed to prove on the basis of word order alone that it could not be translated this way. We all have the experience from time to time of being surprised by Koine word order that seems to depart from what is we think of as typical.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 26th, 2016, 8:40 am

Essentially it is the word order here -- While Jonathan is right that word order can occasionally surprise us, it normally doesn't, and when it does, there are usually good discourse reasons for doing so. Since τῷ πνεύματι follows πτωχοί there is a high probability that it modifies πτωχοί. Even more pertinent here, why the dative? Being a Latin teacher (Latina sempiterna regit!), I checked Jerome (on the theory that he knew Greek as a living language, and occasionally seeing how he renders a passage is helpful, despite his sometimes painfully literal rendering of the Greek). He has simply the ablative "spiritu" and the first thing I thought was "ablative of specification" -- and I think that's how the Greek must be rendered as well. While a dative of instrumentality with τὸ πνεῦμα (understood as the Spirit) is not unattested (or at least is argued by some) elsewhere, I think that the passive idea in "are blessed" would pick up either agency, ὑπό, or source, ἀπό.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 26th, 2016, 9:11 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Essentially it is the word order here -- While Jonathan is right that word order can occasionally surprise us, it normally doesn't, and when it does, there are usually good discourse reasons for doing so. Since τῷ πνεύματι follows πτωχοί there is a high probability that it modifies πτωχοί.
I think this is what I was trying to say when I said "Greek has strong a tendency to build phrases from adjacent words, so οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι is a more likely phrase".
Barry Hofstetter wrote:Even more pertinent here, why the dative? Being a Latin teacher (Latina sempiterna regit!), I checked Jerome (on the theory that he knew Greek as a living language, and occasionally seeing how he renders a passage is helpful, despite his sometimes painfully literal rendering of the Greek). He has simply the ablative "spiritu" and the first thing I thought was "ablative of specification" -- and I think that's how the Greek must be rendered as well. While a dative of instrumentality with τὸ πνεῦμα (understood as the Spirit) is not unattested (or at least is argued by some) elsewhere, I think that the passive idea in "are blessed" would pick up either agency, ὑπό, or source, ἀπό.
That seems right to me.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 26th, 2016, 11:14 am

You could compare these two phrases:
Romans 6:20 wrote:Ὅτε γὰρ δοῦλοι ἦτε τῆς ἁμαρτίας, ἐλεύθεροι ἦτε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ.
This is a split example.
Ephesians 2:4 wrote:ὁ δὲ θεός, πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς,
This is an example of the dative saying what scale the relative wealth was being measured on; "rich in mercy"
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Blessed by the Spirit

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 26th, 2016, 1:20 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Even more pertinent here, why the dative? Being a Latin teacher (Latina sempiterna regit!), I checked Jerome (on the theory that he knew Greek as a living language, and occasionally seeing how he renders a passage is helpful, despite his sometimes painfully literal rendering of the Greek). He has simply the ablative "spiritu" and the first thing I thought was "ablative of specification" -- and I think that's how the Greek must be rendered as well. While a dative of instrumentality with τὸ πνεῦμα (understood as the Spirit) is not unattested (or at least is argued by some) elsewhere, I think that the passive idea in "are blessed" would pick up either agency, ὑπό, or source, ἀπό.
The instrumental (means) dative should not be a surprise here. There is no need in Koine to use ὑπό in such a context. The dative will do the job just fine. For example:

… ἐν ᾧ καὶ πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε τῷ πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῷ ἁγίῳ, Eph.1:13

I would make τῷ πνεύματι here a dative of means. Note also the passive voice and the unexpected (to me at least) placement of τῷ ἁγίῳ.
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