1tim5:9

How do I work out the meaning of a Greek text? How can I best understand the forms and vocabulary in this particular text?
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1tim5:9

Postby riddickmd » August 7th, 2013, 10:02 am

Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή,

first of all, I am not a greek scholar, just a lay individual working with a friend trying to interpret this verse.

the word in question is gegonuia γεγονυῖα.

from what I can gather, this participle is in the perfect active sense defining the state of being a "one man woman".

my friend thinks this refers to a past tense (aortist?), whereas I would interpret it to mean that due to the fact it is in the perfect active tense, gegonuai means "has become" rather than "has been". i suggested that the state of becoming a "one man wife" widow in the past is still the current state of being a "one man woman" in the present perfect active state.

as such, should the proper translation be:

a. "having been" of one man wife?, or
b. "having become" of one man wife?

your thoughts anyone?

thanks much!!
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 7th, 2013, 2:36 pm

If you did take that verb together with ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή and you were wanting to decide between a present or a past "tense" sense for γεγονυῖα, you could perhaps consider the meaning of Χήρα (Χ is right near the back of the dictionary, and Χήρα will be about the 50th word listed there).

Other people may take that γεγονυῖα together with μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα. That is why the comma is where it is. You don't have to agree with that, because now you are working with the sword of the Spirit - the Word of God - unsheathed. You could follow what others have done before you and accept the punctuation, you could question it or (if you have a good reason based in the language) you could ammend it.

The ἐτῶν is in the genitive because it is with ἔλαττον, and here it doesn't mean "of years", but rather than years. ἑξήκοντα could be thought of as like ἑξή-κοντα (six-ty). The μή is next to the ἔλαττον, but you may like to look in your grammar books to see if it actually it goes together with the word that you are interested in γεγονυῖα, because that is a possibility too.

You will find the -υῖα ending in your textbook's grammar tables probably right down the bottom in the righthand corner.
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby riddickmd » August 7th, 2013, 3:14 pm

stephen, thanks for taking me by the hand and walking me through all the possibilities. i do appreciate what you mean by the "sword of the spirit....unsheathed". i like that. but i must first claim ignorance as i am not a greek student. would you be willing to provide me your best rendering based on your good scholarship?
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 13th, 2013, 2:02 am

I've just moved house these last few days, I'm sorry about the delay in replying to your question.

riddickmd wrote:would you be willing to provide me your best rendering based on your good scholarship?

I appreciate your polite and kind words, but I'm not a Greek scholar, I'm an amateur (not a professional). I am a jack of a few trades (in Greek), and a master of a different trade altogether (Egyptology). In Greek, I can just do a few party tricks to make people ooh and aah (like write in passable Greek and read quickly), the real scholars usually attach a signature at the bottom of their posts to let you know that what they say is credible. In most cases, the number of posts that a person has made is an indication that they have something worth saying (and by implication worth reading) - I have a big number because I have a mundane life and noone else to talk to.

riddickmd wrote:best rendering

The first thing I would like to say is that there are many good renderings of this passage already available in various translations. Just consider, the individuals and committees that made those translations have dedicated their lives to a study of both Greek and theology. Committee members are often approved by their various Church bodies as being someone who can be trusted to make the best efforts possible in the best possible spirit to bring the Bible to the people of God. In this post, I will pay attention to seeing how such great scholars have rendered the Greek into English.

Making a "best rendering" is not such an easy thing. We need to onsider both the Greek and the social context that the people who wrote and read the text lived and what assumptions they had about life and society. Let's start by looking at the text. I want to take the word you are asking about in the context of the verse it is in (verse 9) and the following verse.

The main points we will look at are; "Where is the comma?" and how does that affect the rendering, and adverbs. For the social considerations, we will discuss the idea of "marital faithfulness" in some general terms.

1Tim5:9 (as you quoted) wrote:Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή,

Putting the comma in that position groups the word γεγονυῖα ("Ye-ghon-wee-a") together with μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα "not less (than) 60 years". The sense is rendered by Darby as.

1Tim5:9 (Darby) wrote:Let a widow be put upon the list, being of not less than sixty years, [having been] wife of one man, borne witness to in good works, if she have brought up children, if she have exercised hospitality, if she have washed saints' feet, if she have imparted relief to the distressed, if she have diligently followed every good work.


If we put the comma on the other side of the word you are interested in (γεγονυῖα) then we get;

1Tim.5:9-10 (Byzantine textform punctuation) wrote:Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα, γεγονυῖα ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή, ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς μαρτυρουμένη, εἰ ἐτεκνοτρόφησεν, εἰ ἐξενοδόχησεν, εἰ ἁγίων πόδας ἔνιψεν, εἰ θλιβομένοις ἐπήρκεσεν, εἰ παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ ἐπηκολούθησεν.


The sense of that can be seen in the Authorised version (KJV) rendering:
1Tim.5:9 (KJV) wrote:Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.


The word μαρτυρουμένη ("mar-tu-roo-MEN-ay") means something like "as evidenced by some things" then there is a list, with each thing starting with a "εἰ" ("ee"). Those are the things that are consdered as good works. When you read that list, be a bit discerning and thoughtful - Greek words, like words in any language are not on/off switches. For example the word ἐτεκνοτρόφησεν ("e-tek-no-TRO-fey-sen") comes from the word τεκνοτροφεῖν ("tek-no-tro-FIN"). The meaning of that word has been rendered as "bring up children" - and it is composed of two parts τεκνο- ("TEK-no") meaning child/ offspring and τροφ ("trof") which means "feed" or "train", plus a verbal ending -ε ("eh").

In my opinion, the list is an indication of what type of thing to look for in a person's life, not a checklist of all the thing that she must have done. In some cases, one widow may have done more than another in a certain thing or other. "Lodged strangers" / "exercised hospitality" may at the very least be something heartfelt and small like a smile or some shade and at the very most something like open a homeless shelter, or anything in between. When reading the Greek, the language is important, but so is the Spirit of Christ that we read it in.

riddickmd wrote: i suggested that the state of becoming a "one man wife" widow in the past is still the current state of being a "one man woman" in the present perfect active state.

as such, should the proper translation be:

a. "having been" of one man wife?, or
b. "having become" of one man wife?

You are taking the word you want to consider γεγονυῖα with ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή. ("eh-NOS an-DROSS you-NEY") Let's look at another possibility for that:

The word you are interested in γεγονυῖα which for simplicity's sake is acting like an adverb - explaining under what circumstances the verb "enrol" works. It comes from γίνεσθαι ("Yi-nes-te"), and in my experience, that means to "be" or "become" something that she was not before, or which we didn't know about before in the story, that is to say that the widow has such and so a characteristic - here μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα while not changing something else ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή. That is to take γεγονυῖα to mean that the what she is has not changed, but the circumstances have changed and she hasn't. That is not the usual usage of γίνεσθαι ("yi-nes-te"), but what else could have been used? There is a change over time - she has gotten older, but there is also something that hasn't changed - she didn't remarry. "If when she has reach 60 (having gotten to an age not less than 60), and she is still "faithful" to her former husband, let her be enrolled onto the Church care for widows list".

As a side note, in one of my other better known languages, Middle Egyptian (the language of the Pharaohs), there are only about 5 adverbs, and most adverbial elements in the sentence are expressed by other verbal phrases in much the same way that we see here with other verbs around a central verb. But, now back to the Greek...

Some versions have rendered the meaning as "faithful"
1Timothy 5:9 (Contemporary English Version) wrote:For a widow to be put on the list of widows, she must be at least sixty years old, and she must have been faithful in marriage.
That seems to mean that while she was married she didn't cheat on her husband, but I think that that would have been better rendered in the Greek by a word οὖσα ("OO-sa") which is from a word which means "be" or "am", in the sense that some thing doesn't change. I think it would be a bit clumsy, but we could write Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς [οὖσα] γυνή, or we could use a word διαμένουσα ("dee-a MEN-oo-sa") which means "remaining" Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς [διαμένουσα] γυνή. The apostle says in 1 Corinthians 7:39 that widows are free to marry, (but the implication is that they are not required to).

Looking at that socially, she has remained "faithful" to her now dead husband, in that she has refused to marry anyone else, and has dedicated her life unselfishly to others. That kind of woman has been considered by some in the early Christian centuries as a form of "consecration" to the Lord, like a virgin consecrating herself to the Lord to seek the eternal kingdom, rather than persuing the things that most people work for in life - house, car, fame, power, progeny. I guess from this church institution (and assuming that there was not another way for such a widowed to be cared for) that a woman's freedom not to marry was a socially revolutionary thing.

Another way to mark scholarship on this or any other forum is brevity. Those who really know there stuff can write succinctly. :D
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby Barry Hofstetter » August 14th, 2013, 8:03 am

Considering the position of γεγονυῖα in the text, I think it could govern both what precedes and what follows. The use of the perfect here is, I think, stative, i.e., these are to be the current conditions for the women to be admitted as a widow to be supported by the church. εἰμί of course lacks a perfect and that is often supplied by γίνομαι (and a few other verbs in the broader Greek literature). As for the social conditions, the commentaries are full of it... :o
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 15th, 2013, 12:42 am

Let me explain some of the big words and concepts that Barry is using:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:the position of γεγονυῖα in the text, I think it could govern both what precedes and what follows.
He means that it is between two different parts of the sentence so it could go either either way. That is it could be either μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα "She has come to be not less than 60 years old" or γεγονυῖα ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή "she has been a one man woman".

Barry Hofstetter wrote:The use of the perfect here is, I think, stative, i.e., these are to be the current conditions

A Greek verb can hold a lot more meaning inside itself than an English one can, but to do that the verb has to have a way to carry the information. The verb here γεγονυῖα has a few parts that can easily be recognised. Let me write it as; γε-γον-υῖα. The γε is a sort of a stutter that appears on the front of verbs when they want to say that action is over and really done well, in Greek it is only put at the beginning of a word, but in English, children might reply to the question, "Was the hamburger big?", by saying, "It wasn't just big, it was bi-i-i-i-ig", and then there is no denying or debating it, and you should pay attention to it, but in English, some children might say, "B-b-b-b-b-ig" or say "Big-g-g-g-g-g". Since it is in children's language it is more free. In Chinese, this type of thing is restricted to adjectives (and if it is doubled, the whole adjective is doubled) for example, (nine chinese characters follow) 她是一个安静的女孩 (ta shi yi ge anjingde nuhai) “She is a quiet girl" is fine, but if you want to make the point that no one can deny, then you can say (eleven Chinese characters follow) 她是一个安安静静的女孩, (ta shi yi ge ananjingjingde nuhai) "She is a quiet girl".

The word "Perfect" that Barry used is a technical term. It is one of the names traditionally used to describe a verb when it has a form in this category, it doesn't mean perfect ("really great", or "without fault"). By the way, the γον in the middle of the verb is the "same same but different" from the 3-letter root γεν "become".

"Stative" means that there is no change, so in effect, the "become" is taken as "be" (is). The most common use for the verb γίνεσθαι is where one thing becomes something else, as in Matthew 4:3 εἰπὲ (give the word) ἵνα (so that) οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι (these stones) ἄρτοι (loaves) γένωνται (might become). Or γενηθήτω (may it come into being/ happen) τὸ θέλημά σου (your will), and can be used to show that a feature of something has changed as in Matthew 13:22 [The person who heard the Word] ... ἄκαρπος (unfruitful) γίνεται (becomes).

One possible indication that the verb γεγονυῖα (<γίνεσθαι) is stative is because it is used with an adverb (or adverbial phrase) in this case μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα. This is like what is found in Matthew 19:8 ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς δὲ οὐ γέγονεν οὕτως (it hasn't been like this since the beginning). It is also possible that the adverbial phrase could also go with the verb καταλεγέσθω "let them be enrolled in the support list", then the γεγονυῖα would be with what follows it γεγονυῖα ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή "she has been a one man woman (perhaps with the implication for a long time / since her widowhood)" .

I hope that you can continue to look at the Greek of the New Testament when you have questions. Sometimes you will find the answers to your questions, but most often, you will be able to formulate and ask better questions.
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby Barry Hofstetter » August 15th, 2013, 7:29 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Let me explain some of the big words and concepts that Barry is using:

He means that it is between two different parts of the sentence so it could go either either way. That is it could be either μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα "She has come to be not less than 60 years old" or γεγονυῖα ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή "she has been a one man woman".


Actually, I meant that it is most likely understood with both.

I hope that you can continue to look at the Greek of the New Testament when you have questions. Sometimes you will find the answers to your questions, but most often, you will be able to formulate and ask better questions.


Very good observation.
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby cwconrad » August 15th, 2013, 9:32 am

I guess that I just don't understand the notion of taking the participle γεγονυῖα as construed ἀπὸ κοινοῦ with what precedes and with what follows it. I'd always thought that we are dealing with an idiomatic expression here, γεγονώς with a numeral + ἔτη = "x years old", comparable to Latin XLVII annos natus = "47 years old." LSJ s.v. γίγνομαι cites that meaning right in the opening section on absolute usage.

I don't understand why there's any need to understand γεγονυῖα with ἑνὸς ᾶνδρὸς γυνή. This too has a standard Latin equivalent, the feminine adjective univira, which we find commonly enough in epitaphs.
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby RandallButh » August 15th, 2013, 12:02 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote: As for the social conditions, the commentaries are full of it... :o

are we talking πλήρεις ἐξηγήσεως ἢ χέσματος;
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Re: 1tim5:9

Postby Stephen Hughes » August 15th, 2013, 12:35 pm

:P γελῶ ἐν ἐμαυτῷ.
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