Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγεῖν

Robert Crowe
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Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγεῖν

Post by Robert Crowe » February 16th, 2016, 7:41 pm

That the full force of the infinitive λεγεῖν is not generally appreciated here, is evident from some of the stilted translations.

e.g. Grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness
[NRSV]

But what exactly is being requested? Is it an opportunity to speak, or an ability to speak?

I hereby submit that the Greek infinitive can encompass the implied idea of ability. The following example shows that this use was long established.

μήτ‘ Ὀρφέως κάλλιον ὑμνῆσαι μέλος,
[Medea 543]

Jason is here telling Medea that what she did for him was solely owing to Cupid, but it was owing to him that she now enjoys the benefits of civilisation. 'Would that there be neither gold in my house nor an ability to sing a melody better than Orpheus, he swears, 'if my achievement is not remarkable!'

So, unless we accept this possible nuance of the infinitive, we don't always hear it exactly like the way the audience did.

{Of course, we don't hear at all what the audience was shouting at Jason: ἔκφυγε, ἔκφυγε, ‘Run away from her!'}
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 17th, 2016, 9:21 am

Robert Crowe wrote:But what exactly is being requested? Is it an opportunity to speak, or an ability to speak?

I hereby submit that the Greek infinitive can encompass the implied idea of ability.
Sure it can, but it can also carry many other meanings, which can depend on the context and the verb. Here, I think the context gives us a a pretty good clue:
καὶ τὰ νῦν, κύριε, ἔπιδε ἐπὶ τὰς ἀπειλὰς αὐτῶν καὶ δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλεῖν τὸν λόγον σου
So it is not just an ability to speak, but an ability to speak μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης in spite of αἱ ἀπειλαὶ αὐτῶν. I think μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλεῖν needs to be taken as a whole. I don't want to get into translations too much, but "to speak your word with all boldness" seems to convey that, perhaps "continue to speak your word with all boldness" is also implied.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 17th, 2016, 11:26 am

Robert Crowe wrote:That the full force of the infinitive λεγεῖν is not generally appreciated here, is evident from some of the stilted translations.

e.g. Grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness
[NRSV]

But what exactly is being requested? Is it an opportunity to speak, or an ability to speak?

I hereby submit that the Greek infinitive can encompass the implied idea of ability. The following example shows that this use was long established.

μήτ‘ Ὀρφέως κάλλιον ὑμνῆσαι μέλος,
[Medea 543]

Jason is here telling Medea that what she did for him was solely owing to Cupid, but it was owing to him that she now enjoys the benefits of civilisation. 'Would that there be neither gold in my house nor an ability to sing a melody better than Orpheus, he swears, 'if my achievement is not remarkable!'

So, unless we accept this possible nuance of the infinitive, we don't always hear it exactly like the way the audience did.

{Of course, we don't hear at all what the audience was shouting at Jason: ἔκφυγε, ἔκφυγε, ‘Run away from her!'}
Yeah, this stimulated some thinking, but I don't think it's a necessary part of the usage in either context. Usually "ability" would be something stated or implied by the main verb. I know that Kovac's translation has "power to sing" but if we take the infinitive as the subject of the verb, then Jason is simply stating that he wants neither gold nor singing (better than Orpheus) without proper heroic type fame and fortune. If ability is there, I think it would be by pragmatic extension. In Acts 4:29, ability to speak may be presupposed, but what they are asking for is to speak in the face of threats.
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Robert Crowe
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Robert Crowe » February 17th, 2016, 10:00 pm

Just a few points to clarify where I'm coming from on this.

You may have noticed that I haven't quoted any grammatical references in support of my view. I own to the habit of adding my own notes in grammar books, and by and by come to think of them as part of the solid text, rather like the way ancient glosses have made their way into the body of manuscripts. Little wonder that I occasionally find myself boxing with my own shadow. For all that, your sober comments are all the more welcome.

What you have said has made me think about the nature of 'ability' and 'action' and their relationship. Obviously, if someone is doing something he or she must have an implicit degree of ability at it. This degree only really comes into focus when it is in question, though even here it may or may not be stated explicitly. This goes for both Greek and what I would call 'Colloquial' English.

Thus, οἱ δούλοι σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλοῦσιν = Your servants continue speaking with full boldness [Ability not in focus]

δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλεῖν = Grant your servants to continue speaking with full boldness. {'Colloquial' English}
or Grant your servants the ability to continue speaking with full boldness. {More Formal English}
[Ability in focus because requested]

'Colloquial' is here in quotation marks because it may be a matter of opinion. The point really is, how it is written in English is a matter of personal preference.

My apologies if this all sounds painfully pedantic.

Its not easy for us poets.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 17th, 2016, 10:08 pm

Robert Crowe wrote:What you have said has made me think about the nature of 'ability' and 'action' and their relationship. Obviously, if someone is doing something he or she must have an implicit degree of ability at it. This degree only really comes into focus when it is in question,, I though even here it may or may not be stated explicitly. This goes for both Greek and what I would call 'Colloquial' English.
Yes, I think that's the issue.
Robert Crowe wrote:Thus, οἱ δούλοι σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλοῦσιν = Your servants continue speaking with full boldness [Ability not in focus]

δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λαλεῖν = Grant your servants to continue speaking with full boldness. {'Colloquial' English}
or Grant your servants the ability to continue speaking with full boldness. {More Formal English}
[Ability in focus because requested]
The focus seems to be more on having the courage and perhaps the opportunity, since their persecutors are trying to stop them from doing this. I don't like inserting "ability" here. You could imagine, for instance, someone who is perfectly capable of speaking boldly but loses courage - does that person have the ability or not? The infinitive does not raise this question, adding the word "ability" does, and I think it muddies the waters.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 17th, 2016, 10:22 pm

How is speaking with boldness an ability? Boldness is a disposition.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 18th, 2016, 10:24 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:How is speaking with boldness an ability? Boldness is a disposition.
Good observation. I also resist the idea that "ability" is somehow a regular usage of the infinitive. I think it has to be made explicit by the use of a main verb or otherwise from context.
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Robert Crowe
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Robert Crowe » February 18th, 2016, 1:02 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:How is speaking with boldness an ability? Boldness is a disposition.
Surely boldness and ability need each other. I won't bore you with my life-story and its many bold pitfalls and lost opportunities. But many bold people have gone skiing only to break their several necks. I don't think the meaning here is just 'speaking boldly'; any fool can do that. I think it means to speak boldly to preach the gospel. I've never been a preacher, but going by the innumerable seminaries, we can assume it requires the acquisition of some skill.

The point is made clearer in Eph 6.19
καὶ ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ, ἵνα μοι δοθῇ λόγος ἐν ἀνοίξει τοῦ στόματός μοῦ, ἐν παρρησίᾳ γνωρίσαι τὸ μυστήριον εὐαγγελίου.
(Pray) also for me, that utterance should be given me to boldly make known the mystery of the gospel.
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Robert Crowe
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Robert Crowe » February 18th, 2016, 4:42 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:I think it has to be made explicit by the use of a main verb or otherwise from context.
The following quote from Herbert W. Smyth supports this use of the infinitive
2007 The infinitive, with or without ὥστε or ὥς, may be used with ἤ than after comparatives, depending on an (implied) idea of ability or inability.

τὸ γάρ νόσημα μεῖζον ἤ φέρειν for the disease is too great to great to be borne S.O.T
βραχύτερα ἤ ὡς ἐξικνεῖσθαι to short to reach X.A. 3.3.7
True, this only refers to one kind of structure, whereas I have suggested it applies generally. But if the implicit use is established only once as semantically encoded in the verb, it follows that it must apply to all cases, since a semantic property is uncancellable.

I do, however, appreciate that the idea is more often stated explicitly by a lexeme such as δύναμαι, during and especially subsequent to the classical era.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Acts 4:29 δὸς τοῖς δούλοις σου μετὰ παρρησίας πάσης λεγ

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 18th, 2016, 5:37 pm

Robert Crowe wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:I think it has to be made explicit by the use of a main verb or otherwise from context.
The following quote from Herbert W. Smyth supports this use of the infinitive
2007 The infinitive, with or without ὥστε or ὥς, may be used with ἤ than after comparatives, depending on an (implied) idea of ability or inability.

τὸ γάρ νόσημα μεῖζον ἤ φέρειν for the disease is too great to great to be borne S.O.T
βραχύτερα ἤ ὡς ἐξικνεῖσθαι to short to reach X.A. 3.3.7
True, this only refers to one kind of structure, whereas I have suggested it applies generally. But if the implicit use is established only once as semantically encoded in the verb, it follows that it must apply to all cases, since a semantic property is uncancellable.

I do, however, appreciate that the idea is more often stated explicitly by a lexeme such as δύναμαι, during and especially subsequent to the classical era.
Sophocles , Oedipus tyrannus 1293

τὸ γὰρ νόσημα μεῖζον ἢ φέρειν.

It is the semantic domain of φέρειν with τὸ ... νόσημα μεῖζον which contributes the notion of "ability" not the fact that it is an infinitive. The infinitive in the abstract doesn't supply meaning of the sort you are looking for as Barry and Jonathan have already pointed out.
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