"Holies" (Saints), 1 Peter 1:16 (and Leviticus LXX)

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"Holies" (Saints), 1 Peter 1:16 (and Leviticus LXX)

Post by yddYH » February 14th, 2016, 3:02 pm

I am allowing this post through in order for you to get a response. Remember that it is B-Greek policy that real names be used as part of your signature file and/or screen name. Contact me or another moderator so that we can so change it. -- Barry


(Note: I am skipping any distinction of the roots, "Saint" from Latin, "Holy" from German, as well as "Agios" of Greek and "QDSh" of Hebrew. For this post, my assumption is that they are synonyms -- instead the question is one of part of speech)

1 Peter 1:16 quotes "Ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἅγιος", which is almost verbatim from the Septuagint: Leviticus 11:44-45; Leviticus 19:2; Leviticus 20:7.

Every English translation seems to go with "Be ye holy, for I am holy." That is, an attribute to be attained, yet my (admittedly feeble) Koine understanding would yield something very different: "Be ye saints, for I am a Saint." As in, a nature to be. The difference between the two is slight, but possibly profound. Like the difference between being honest, vs. being an honest person.

Here are the key parts:
ἅγιοι everywhere else is translated "saints", so why the adjective, here?
ἔσεσθε is simple enough, "to be" conjugated as verb 2nd pl fut ind mid.
ἅγιος - which seems split between noun/adjective in the KJV usage (here is the Liddell and LSJ)

Now, when we go back to the Hebrew of Leviticus, it is קדשים ("QDShYM"), which certainly could be a plural noun.

So, why the homogeneity of translations?

Does anyone else feel like the noun version is both viable and profoundly different?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: "Holies" (Saints), 1 Peter 1:16 (and Leviticus LXX)

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 16th, 2016, 5:45 pm

As a quick response, no. Your meaning would require the definite article to make the adjectives substantive. As it is, predicate adjectives make much better sense.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: "Holies" (Saints), 1 Peter 1:16 (and Leviticus LXX)

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 18th, 2016, 1:39 am

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Stephen Hughes
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Re: "Holies" (Saints), 1 Peter 1:16 (and Leviticus LXX)

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 18th, 2016, 10:04 am

1 Peter 1:16 wrote:Ἅγιοι ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἐγὼ ἅγιός εἰμι.
I've added the second verb to be to that quote.
yddYH wrote:Every English translation seems to go with "Be ye holy, for I am holy." That is, an attribute to be attained, yet my (admittedly feeble) Koine understanding would yield something very different: "Be ye saints, for I am a Saint." As in, a nature to be. The difference between the two is slight, but possibly profound. Like the difference between being honest, vs. being an honest person.
I think you have hit the nail on the head by saying "Every English translation". I don't think that Greek makes as big of a difference between an adjective and a substantive as English does. Rendering into English requires us to make a pretty definite choice - some usages in Greek would be written as a substantive in English and others as an adjective. That affects the categories that we label the Greek grammar with. Let me talk about some of my thinking about the concept of definiteness.

There is a bit of an ambiguity in the verb "to be" (as there is with the verbs "to feel", "to seem", "to look" and "to be" in English). There are two parts to the verb. The ἐσ- is the verb "to be" and the -εσθε is the pronominal ending. If the pronominal ending -εσθε is the only way to refer the people (ὑμεῖς) then ἅγιοι would be as you see in English translations as an adjective, talking about attributes of people that are being (basically) defined by the -εσθε. That is to say that the ἅγιοι belongs with the ἐσ-. If the pronominal ending is in a sort of apposition with pronominal ending -εσθε, then it would be more like you are suggesting. I think there are contextually dependent degrees of association of the pronominal subject with the complement of the verb "to be".

If we said something like ξυλουργοὶ ἔσεσθε, ὅτι ἐγὼ ξυλουργός, then in English we have a preformed model for meaning for a "carpenter", so we would say that ξυλουργός is a substantive (as it is in English), and I believe that that is true of Greek too. For something like Matthew 5:28 Ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι, ὥσπερ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς τέλειός ἐστιν. The -εσθε, the pronominal part of the verb is in apposition to the ὑμεῖς, making it clear that τέλειοι is an attribute of the -εσθε ... ὑμεῖς. In other words that it is to be taken with the ἐσ-, as ἐσ- ... τέλειοι. As Barry alluded to that if this τέλειοι was to be included in what would be in apposition with the pronominal prefix part of the verb, it would have the article, and that usage in Greek more or less parallels where in English usage, we would use a substantive (rather than an article).

Is there a preformed model for someone who is "holy" to be called a "saint". Some people have that concept in their (English) language according to various models, so having an English substantive, makes it easier to read the Greek as a substantive, while others don't, making it more difficult or unnatural to render it as a substantive, so the adjective is more suitable.

As for the phrase ἐγὼ ξυλουργός, if we were to change that to the 3rd person of someone we knew, say ὁ ναύτης ξυλουργός, meaning that he could not only sail one, but also fix it too. We knew him as the sailor and now we know something about him in addition. So, for ἐγὼ ξυλουργός, ξυλουργός is a type of person who has a model in our minds, and so it not just an attribute to be added to the person somehow changing a feature, but retaining the original form ("the car is yellow" doesn't make it a bus), it is rather a new model that has to be applied to the person whom we knew as the person who identified himself as ἐγώ.

In the verse that you have brought up for discussion, do we take on a new set of behaviours as a result of the command (or prediction), or does the addition of ἅγιος slightly change the original person? At the one extreme (the substantive) that you have suggested, the ἅγιοι would be in apposition to something else that is definite (or at least definable). At the other extreme, ἅγιος would just be a characteristic of someone or something. That obviously raises the issue of how well defined the group that Peter is talking to - the group of people listening, those defined by the -εσθε. I at least would naturally assume that they were a diverse group of people. The question then is whether Peter is encouraging them to all become who they can be in God, or to become what Christ is? How does Peter see the -εσθε as referring to people? I don't think those things can be decided from just the Greek. There is reference to Christ as ἅγιος and I think that becomes a model for the others and it is a definite model not dependent on the subject of the -εσθε (seen in either diversity or homogenuity), so in effect ἅγιοι is used in a construction meaning something like "like Christ is" (because it uses the same adjective to describe the people in the pronominal suffix -εσθε and to describe Christ), and the thing that defines Christ and which the others should be is "holiness".

Whether it is taken as "you all should be similar to Christ in holiness" or "you should each be saint like Christ is", or something similar to that is probably as much to do with the flow of the argument as it is to do with the Greek that is used in writing it.

That is the system of reasoning I am using, and within that, I would say that the group of -εσθε is seen as a cohesive whole (from a diversity of backgrounds), ἅγιος (as an individual) and ἅγιοι (as as a group or individuals) are both quite well defined models (types of persons who would be recognised by the writer and his audience), and could in some way fit to the word "saint" in English, if saint is understood to mean a person who conforms with Christ in holiness (a circular definition). I terms of what I said earlier the ἅγιοι is in apposition to the -εσθε, being a model of what they should become (be) in the future (in effect a command). The ἅγιος may well be a concept that was understood from before they heard the message (or at least have been familiar to them,cf. Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34).

Another way to think about it is perspective. If ἅγιος is an attribute it is a characteristic that is knowable inside the person "possessed of holiness", and if ἅγιος is a person among others then that is knowable in distinction to others - "saint". The internal and external ways of looking at it.

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