Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

How do I work out the meaning of a Greek text? How can I best understand the forms and vocabulary in this particular text?
Forum rules
This is a beginner's forum - see the Koine Greek forum for more advanced discussion of Greek texts. 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.

When answering questions in this forum, keep it simple, and aim your responses to the level of the person asking the question.
jeremyers1
Posts: 4
Joined: May 3rd, 2018, 3:53 pm

Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by jeremyers1 » May 3rd, 2018, 4:10 pm

εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον τὸ ἡτοιμασμένον τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ.

Is it possible that the dative is "Dative of Means" or "Dative of Agency"?

Yes, I know that the devil and his angels are not "creative." They pervert, twist, and destroy. But could it be that the everlasting fire was not prepared "by" God "for" the devil and his angels, but "by means of" the rebellion by the devil and his angels?
0 x



Stirling Bartholomew
Posts: 791
Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » May 3rd, 2018, 8:38 pm

jeremyers1 wrote:
May 3rd, 2018, 4:10 pm
εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον τὸ ἡτοιμασμένον τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ.

Is it possible that the dative is "Dative of Means" or "Dative of Agency"?

Yes, I know that the devil and his angels are not "creative." They pervert, twist, and destroy. But could it be that the everlasting fire was not prepared "by" God "for" the devil and his angels, but "by means of" the rebellion by the devil and his angels?
One way of reading your question is entirely theological in nature. Passing over that, since it's off-topic, let's address the semantics of the dative case.

First of all, "Dative of Means" and "Dative of Agency" are not really entities, just like the Septuagint is not an entity (see Peter J. Williams, Why I don't believe in the Septuagint on YouTube). While we're talking about nonentities we might as well mention another one, the divine passive[1] ἡτοιμασμένον + dative "having been prepared for" where the dative marks those on behalf of whom the action is taken. I prefer to avoid attaching labels to nonentities. For that reason I'm not going to bother attaching a meta-language label. There is a significant danger involved in talking about nonentities as if they were something. Peter J. Williams convinced me of this.

The short answer to your question is NO.

[1] The passive participle is a means of avoiding the question of agency. In other words, agency is not salient. τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον stands ready, prepared, how it got that way isn't a question being addressed.
0 x
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Stirling Bartholomew
Posts: 791
Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » May 3rd, 2018, 9:10 pm

I realize, I didn't really answer that question that was asked. Someone else can to do that. I'm simply affirming the conclusions reflected in the translations I have on hand. These translations probably reflect exegetical and theological reasoning.

Probably the easiest answer is a lack of preposition before the dative makes agent improbable, Lk 23;15.

Luke 23:15 ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲ Ἡρῴδης, ἀνέπεμψεν γὰρ αὐτὸν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, καὶ ἰδοὺ οὐδὲν ἄξιον θανάτου ἐστὶν πεπραγμένον αὐτῷ·
0 x
C. Stirling Bartholomew

jeremyers1
Posts: 4
Joined: May 3rd, 2018, 3:53 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by jeremyers1 » May 3rd, 2018, 11:39 pm

Most of all, I am interested in potentially valid translations, regardless of what labels they might or might not carry.

So I am wondering if the dative could reasonably be translated as "by the devil and his angels" or "by means of the devil and his angels."

And yes, I am primarily interested in the theology of the translation, because frankly, the "for" of traditional translations doesn't make a whole lot of sense theologically when you begin to think about it.
0 x

Tony Pope
Posts: 111
Joined: July 14th, 2011, 6:20 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by Tony Pope » May 4th, 2018, 3:37 am

The dative in Matt 25.41 parallels the dative in Matt 25.34 and is reasonably understood in a corresponding way.

25.34 τὴν ἡτοιμασμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου
the kingdom kept in readiness for you since the foundation of the world

I suppose this is what the grammarians call Dative of Advantage (dativus commodi) or Dative of Disadvantage (dativus incommodi) according to whether the effect is viewed as positive or negative.
0 x

jeremyers1
Posts: 4
Joined: May 3rd, 2018, 3:53 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by jeremyers1 » May 4th, 2018, 11:00 am

Ah yes, excellent! The parallels between the two "kingdoms" are obvious as well. Thank you.
0 x

Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 1304
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by Barry Hofstetter » May 4th, 2018, 12:00 pm

Tony Pope wrote:
May 4th, 2018, 3:37 am
The dative in Matt 25.41 parallels the dative in Matt 25.34 and is reasonably understood in a corresponding way.

25.34 τὴν ἡτοιμασμένην ὑμῖν βασιλείαν ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου
the kingdom kept in readiness for you since the foundation of the world

I suppose this is what the grammarians call Dative of Advantage (dativus commodi) or Dative of Disadvantage (dativus incommodi) according to whether the effect is viewed as positive or negative.
Tony, good call and good parallel. It is also sometimes called the "ethical dative."

While Stirling has a point about metalanguage, Jeremy, practically every grammar textbook will talk about the uses of the dative you have mentioned. Let me suggest that allowing a theological system to determine syntax and grammar is always going to be an ultimately failed methodology, and it's one of the reasons we don't discuss theology on this list, but grammar, syntax and related issues. Speaking of which, looking at how ἐτοιμάζω is used might be a tad helpful:

ⓐ of things that are being put in readiness τὶ someth.: prepare a way Mt 3:3; Mk 1:3; Lk 3:4 (all three Is 40:3; cp. J 1:23 εὐθύνω [q.v.]; 1:76; Rv 16:12; a pyre MPol 13:2; a meal (Gen 43:16; EpArist 181; TestAbr B 4 p. 108, 14f [Stone p. 64]; JosAs 3:6) Mt 22:4; Lk 17:8; cp. 1 Cl 39:9; τὸ πάσχα (q.v.) Mt 26:19; Mk 14:16; Lk 22:13; cp. GEb 308, 31.—Mk 15:1 v.l.; Lk 23:56; 24:1. ἃ ἡτοίμασας what you have prepared 12:20. Of possessions Hs 1:1, 2, 4.—τινί τι someth. for someone Hs 1:6. θηρίων τῶν ἐμοὶ ἡτοιμασμένων the beast held in readiness for me IRo 5:2. Of the preparations for receiving and entertaining someone (PTebt 592 … σοῦ ταχὺ ἐρχομένου … ἡτοιμάκειν σοι πάντα; POxy 1299, 9; 1490, 7; TestAbr A 4 p. 80, 19 and 28 [Stone p. 8]) ἑτοίμαζέ μοι ξενίαν Phlm 22. ἑ. τινὶ τόπον J 14:2, 3 (cp. Appian, Bell. Civ. 2, 53 §219 of those who go before, who ἀσφαλῆ τὰ ἐκεῖ προετοιμάσαι=prepare a safe place there [for those who follow]; 1 Ch 15:1). So also without an object acc. ἑ. τινί make preparations for someone Lk 9:52. In a different sense prepare (a meal) Mk 14:15. Abs. (1 Esdr 1:4; Jer 26:14; Job 28:27) Lk 12:47; 22:9, 12. ὁλοκαύτωμα δεκτὸν τῷ θεῷ ἡτοιμασμένον MPol 14:1. τινί w. inf. foll. Mt 26:17. W. ἵνα foll. Mk 14:12. τινί τι w. ἵνα foll. Lk 22:8.—ἡτοιμασμένος ready, prepared εἴς τι for someth. (3 Macc 6:31) of a vessel 2 Ti 2:21; of horses εἰς πόλεμον Rv 9:7 (cp. Pr 21:31 ἵππος ἑτοιμάζεται εἰς ἡμέραν πολέμου, also 1 Macc 13:22; 12:27; TestLevi 3:2 v.l.; fig. of building stones IEph 9:1.).—S. also pass. in b end, beg. w. Mk 10:40.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 400). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Let me highlight τινί τι someth. for someone... so that the thing prepared is prepared "for" someone.

Another highlight from the BDAG entry So also without an object acc. ἑ. τινί make preparations for someone Lk 9:52... ὡς ἑτοιμάσαι αὐτῷ. Note also the parallel example from the Martrydom of Polycarp 14:1 (also mentioned in the BDAG entry ὁλοκαύτωμα δεκτὸν τῷ Θεῷ ἡτοιμασμένον.

Food for thought: who prepares the jail, the inmates or the authorities?
0 x
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

jeremyers1
Posts: 4
Joined: May 3rd, 2018, 3:53 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by jeremyers1 » May 4th, 2018, 12:40 pm

Thanks for the tip on discussing theology here ... I'm new to this forum and wasn't aware, but it makes perfect sense.

It's interesting you mention jail there at the end ... I work in a jail, and while it wasn't prepared for the prisoners ... they certainly run it after they're in it ... but that's getting into theology again. ;)
0 x

Stirling Bartholomew
Posts: 791
Joined: August 9th, 2012, 4:19 pm

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » May 4th, 2018, 1:38 pm

jeremyers1 wrote:
May 3rd, 2018, 11:39 pm
Most of all, I am interested in potentially valid translations, regardless of what labels they might or might not carry.

So I am wondering if the dative could reasonably be translated as "by the devil and his angels" or "by means of the devil and his angels."

And yes, I am primarily interested in the theology of the translation, because frankly, the "for" of traditional translations doesn't make a whole lot of sense theologically when you begin to think about it.
Let's take a tour of the grammars and see what we find.

Matthew 25:41
εἰς τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον τὸ ἡτοιμασμένον τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ.

I'm assuming your (on-topic) question amounts to: Is it grammatically possible for τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ to signify persons responsible for the action indicated in ἡτοιμασμένον.
Moulton-Howard p459 "perfectly good Greek"

A. T. Robertson p534 “some doubt remains”

Nigel Turner p240 paraphrased: In New Testament there are very few examples of dative with passive equal to ὑπὸ with genitive.

H.W. Smyth §1488 “The notion of agency does not belong to the dative, but it is a natural inference that the person interested is the agent.”

Guy Cooper, Attic Greek Prose Syntax, v1 p322, §48.15.3
“the dative is used with passives ... as an expression of the agency ... practical equivalent ... ὑπὸ with genitive.” Cooper's nuancing: “When the dative is personal ... It is felt as a dative of interest ...”
... Is it grammatically possible ?

It would appear to remain a doubtful question in New Testament Greek. Cooper and Smyth indirectly (certainly unintentionally) support my claim that the of the dative of agency is a nonentity. Agency is an indirect inference, it is contextually determined. “Agency does not belong to the dative.” Cooper and Smyth retreat to a “dative of interest” which is vague enough to accommodate almost anything. This move raises the question: what is a “dative of interest” which illustrates where we're headed with this methodology.

Focusing on the semantics of the dative case is IMO is a exegetical false move. This is bottom-up exegesis, very old school.[1] The answer you're looking for isn't going to be found in the semantics of the dative case. Grammatically the notion of agency in Matthew 25:41 cannot be ruled out. However, it is highly improbable for reasons that have nothing to do with grammar

[1] I'm talking to people currently studying hermeneutics and exegesis in graduate school, the methodology has changed. Yancy Smith posted on that topic in this forum a few years ago.
0 x
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Stephen Carlson
Posts: 2727
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne
Contact:

Re: Use of the dative τῷ διαβόλῳ in Matthew 25:41

Post by Stephen Carlson » May 4th, 2018, 10:37 pm

In my opinion the dative of agent is indeed a nonentity, except when used with a perfect passive, which is what we happen to have here.
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
May 4th, 2018, 1:38 pm
I'm assuming your (on-topic) question amounts to: Is it grammatically possible for τῷ διαβόλῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ to signify persons responsible for the action indicated in ἡτοιμασμένον.
I read the OP's question the same and I have to balk at the notion about asking whether an interpretation of a particular text is "grammatically possible" because the question is asking about what the text could mean in isolation, but the text does not occur in isolation but in context. As a general matter, lots of interpretations are "grammatical possible," even weird ones, as long as there is contextual support for it.

In this case here, the contextual support for disambiguating the dative is almost entirely theological: how first-century Jews understood who prepared the eternal fire. The text is not teaching new concepts about the eternal fire but presupposing them. Answering the interpretative question as a result cannot avoid the (first-century) theology.
0 x
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

Post Reply