Reversed genitives

Forum rules
Please quote the Greek text you are discussing directly in your post if it is reasonably short - do not ask people to look it up. This is not a beginner's forum, competence in Greek is assumed.

Reversed genitives

Postby Evan Blackmore » October 29th, 2012, 9:40 pm

The Greek version of the Psalms of Solomon contains a number of genitives in the reverse of the order found in the other surviving version (Syriac)--and usually also in the reverse of the order that would seem intuitively logical to a native English speaker. For instance:

8:13 ἐν ἀφέδρω αἵματος ἐμίαναν τὰς θυσίας “with menstruation of blood they stained the sacrifices” (Syriac “... blood of menstruation...”)

16:1 παρὰ μικρὸν ὠλίσθησα ἐν καταφθορᾶ ὑπνου “I little short of slipped in the corruption of sleep” (Syriac “... sleep of corruption”)

17:13 ἐν ὀργῆ κάλλους αὐτοῦ ἐξαπέστειλεν αὐτὰ ἕως ἐπὶ δυσμῶν "in the anger of his beauty he sent them away to the west" (Syriac "... beauty of his anger...")

There are quite a number of other instances, but for the sake of simplicity I'll confine my attention to the above three. I've quoted them as they're found in the extant manuscripts (Rahlfs emends some of them).

Of course I don't think "reversed genitive" is a correct description of this phenomenon, but I'll use it for simplicity till the true explanation is uncovered.

Questions:

1) Is there any one explanation that would fit all three of the above Greek genitives? It's easy to think of different explanations for the different instances--e.g. some of them could be epexegetical, others could be textual errors (cf. Rahlfs), etc. But since this phenomenon appears to be a recurring habit of the Greek translator, I'm wondering if it has some unitary explanation.

2) Can anyone think of seemingly-reversed genitives in other relevant Greek texts (esp. the NT)? The best I can recall at the moment is ἐν μηρῷ σαρκός (Sir 19:12), which is usually interpreted as equivalent to "in the flesh of the thigh" (so e.g. RV, RSV, NJB). But I'm not sure that that's a particularly good example.

3) If this is a unitary phenomenon, is there a discussion of it in any of the standard grammars? I've looked in KG, Schwyzer, Smyth, Robertson, MHT, and BDF without success.
Evan Blackmore
 
Posts: 41
Joined: October 29th, 2012, 8:44 pm

Re: Reversed genitives

Postby Scott Lawson » October 30th, 2012, 12:40 pm

Evan Blackmore wrote:Of course I don't think "reversed genitive" is a correct description of this phenomenon, but I'll use it for simplicity till the true explanation is uncovered.


Evan,
Please forgive my ignorance, but aren't all your examples just (after the noun genitives) adnominal genitives? C.f. Smyth 1290 - 1296.
Scott Lawson
Scott Lawson
 
Posts: 314
Joined: June 9th, 2011, 6:36 pm

Re: Reversed genitives

Postby Evan Blackmore » October 30th, 2012, 2:51 pm

Thanks for your help, Scott.

Yes indeed, they're presumably adnominal. But adnominal genitives function diversely (as Smyth notes, 1295), and what puzzles me about these particular ones is that (a) they're apparently reversed by comparison with the other extant version of the same passages and (b) in most cases, they're also apparently reversed by comparison with what this particular reader would expect.

That isn't true of Smyth's examples (e.g. στεφανος χρυσιου), nor is it true of most Biblical examples that I can recall. In the above passages, it's as though we had χρυσιον στεφανου in a context where στεφανος χρυσιου would seemingly be expected.
Evan Blackmore
 
Posts: 41
Joined: October 29th, 2012, 8:44 pm

Re: Reversed genitives

Postby Ken M. Penner » October 30th, 2012, 4:43 pm

Evan Blackmore wrote:The Greek version of the Psalms of Solomon contains a number of genitives in the reverse of the order found in the other surviving version (Syriac)--and usually also in the reverse of the order that would seem intuitively logical to a native English speaker. ...
1) Is there any one explanation that would fit all three of the above Greek genitives? It's easy to think of different explanations for the different instances--e.g. some of them could be epexegetical, others could be textual errors (cf. Rahlfs), etc. But since this phenomenon appears to be a recurring habit of the Greek translator, I'm wondering if it has some unitary explanation.

It has usually been argued that the Syriac of the Psalms of Solomon is a translation from the Greek, which is translated from Hebrew. In this view, the Syriac often tries to improve the phrases that are difficult in the Greek. So there's an explanation for why the Syriac matches what "would seem intuitively logical". But Trafton (1981) concluded that the Syriac is translated from Hebrew. In this case, the Syriac reflects the original Hebrew word order, and the Greek translator messed up with the genitives.
Ken M. Penner
St. Francis Xavier University
Ken M. Penner
 
Posts: 623
Joined: May 12th, 2011, 7:50 am
Location: Antigonish, NS, Canada

Re: Reversed genitives

Postby Evan Blackmore » October 30th, 2012, 5:19 pm

Thanks, Ken. Your mind and mine have been running along similar lines.

It has usually been argued that the Syriac of the Psalms of Solomon is a translation from the Greek, which is translated from Hebrew. In this view, the Syriac often tries to improve the phrases that are difficult in the Greek. So there's an explanation for why the Syriac matches what "would seem intuitively logical". But Trafton (1981) concluded that the Syriac is translated from Hebrew. In this case, the Syriac reflects the original Hebrew word order, and the Greek translator messed up with the genitives.


Yes, the relation between the Syriac and the Greek has been much debated. Of the two Eng-language scholars most active in the field, Kenneth Atkinson remains (as far as I know) adamant that the Syriac is merely a derivative of the Greek, whereas Robert B. Wright has become convinced that it derives independently from the lost Hebrew.

I don't want to derail the thread too much into that issue, since my main concern is trying to understand the Greek per se. Still, considering both possibilities:

1) If the Syriac was translated from the Greek and "often tries to improve the phrases that are difficult in the Greek," that still doesn't explain why the Greek is the way it is.

2) If the Syriac accurately reflects the original, it's certainly possible that "the Greek translator messed up with the genitives." I've wondered about that myself. But I can't convince myself that it's very likely. Did any other incompetent translators in ancient times repeatedly reverse Hebrew genitives (construct chains)? If not, why would this one have done so? (Besides, nothing else in his translation suggests that he was so incompetent. After all, repeatedly getting Hebrew construct chains the wrong way round is a blunder that it's difficult to imagine even a novice committing!)
Evan Blackmore
 
Posts: 41
Joined: October 29th, 2012, 8:44 pm

Re: Reversed genitives

Postby Scott Lawson » October 30th, 2012, 5:55 pm

Evan Blackmore wrote:Thanks for your help, Scott.


Evan, I'm happy to help by asking dumb questions! I don't mind being wrong so that I can get it right!

Thank you for your graciousness,

Scotty
Scott Lawson
Scott Lawson
 
Posts: 314
Joined: June 9th, 2011, 6:36 pm

Re: Reversed genitives

Postby Evan Blackmore » October 30th, 2012, 6:42 pm

Scott Lawson wrote:
Evan Blackmore wrote:Thanks for your help, Scott.


Evan, I'm happy to help by asking dumb questions! I don't mind being wrong so that I can get it right!

Thank you for your graciousness,

Scotty


Not dumb at all, Scotty. Your question has helped to clarify exactly what I'm asking.

Seems to me that solving a grammatical puzzle is always a process of questions and answers (even when it all happens internally, inside one's own head). "Could it be X?" "Yes, but if so...." "Then what about Y?" "Yes, but that then leads us to..." Each successive question helps to clear away some of the undergrowth, until (ideally!) the correct path is fully exposed.
Evan Blackmore
 
Posts: 41
Joined: October 29th, 2012, 8:44 pm

Re: Reversed genitives

Postby Evan Blackmore » October 31st, 2012, 6:54 pm

Through the kindness of another forum member, I believe this puzzle has now been unraveled.

The standard discussion of the inverted genitive is Alfons Schulz, “Der status constructus in der Geschichte der Exegese,” Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 54 (1936): 270–77. Curiously, nobody earlier than Schulz seems to have noticed it.

1) Inversion of a construct state sometimes occurs in the Hebrew OT: my hmbwl “waters of the flood” (Gen. 7:7) but hmbwl mym “the flood of waters” (Gen. 6:17); ksp mšnh “silver of repetition” (Gen. 43:12) but mšnh ksp “repetition of silver” (Gen. 43:15); ṣwr hḥlmyš “rock of flint” (Deut 8.15) but ḥlmyš ṣwr “flint of rock” (Deut 32.13); lhbwt ʾš “flames of fire” (Ps. 29:7) but ʾš lhbwt “fire of flames” (Ps. 105:32).

2) In addition, sometimes a Hebrew construct state was inverted during translation into Greek: ʿt qṣ “time of the end” (Dan. 8:17; 11:35; 12:9, MT) but καιρου περας “end of time” (Theodotion); blbt ʾš “in a flame of fire” (Exod. 3:2, MT; Sir. 8:10, Heb.; Sir. 45:19, Heb.) ≡ εν φλογι πυρος (Exod. 3:2, A; likewise Acts 7:30,א B; 2 Thess. 1:8, B) but εν πυρι φλογος “in a fire of flame” (Exod. 3:2, B; Sir. 8:10, LXX; Sir. 45:19, LXX; likewise PsSol. 12:4; Acts 7:30, A; 2 Thess. 1:8, א A).

3) As a result of such inversions, in both Hebrew and Greek a word denoting material can appear as the nomen regens, in a way that would not be idiomatic in English: “flint of rock,” “fire of flame,” “corruption of sleep,” etc. In these cases, BDF §165 explains the genitive as a “genitive of quality” supplying “an attributive which would ordinarily be provided by an adjective” (like ο μαμωνας της αδικιας, Luke 16:9 ≡ ο αδικος μαμωνας, Luke 16:11). Thus “fire of flame” would be equivalent to “flaming fire,” “menstruation of blood” to “blood-y menstruation,” “corruption of sleep” to “sleeping corruption,” “anger of his beauty” to “his beautiful anger” (cf. “throne of his glory” ≡ “his glorious throne”), “thigh of flesh” to “fleshy thigh.”

Since this is predominantly a phenomenon of translation Greek, it isn’t usually mentioned in standard grammars of either Classical Greek (KG, Schwyzer, Smyth) or NT Greek (Robertson, MHT). There’s a tangential reference to it in BDF, near the end of §165. But in cases like this, we do suffer from the lack of a proper full-length LXX grammar (or at least syntax).

Thanks to everyone who has helped in the solution of this riddle!
Evan Blackmore
 
Posts: 41
Joined: October 29th, 2012, 8:44 pm


Return to Septuagint and Pseudepigrapha

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron