The Syntax of Participles

On the whole, I’ve noticed that the better Hellenistic Greek writers, such as the author of 4 Maccabees work significantly harder to keep their participle usage clear.

We all learn the categories for types of adverbial participles:

  • Time
  • Manner
  • Means
  • Cause
  • Condition
  • Concession
  • Purpose
  • Result

And most of the time through the New Testament its guess work as to the particular nuance of a given participle – to the extent that its often more helpful simply to view the participle as describing some sort of circumstance related to the noun with which the participle agrees in case, gender, and number.

But in 4 Maccabees, the author regularly uses other adverbs and particles to make clear his meaning. For example, he often introduces participle clauses with ὥσπερ and sometimes even ὅτι. The former generally marking manner and the latter, of course, cause. In retrospect, I wish I had documented examples, but that will have to wait for another time.

Either way, its interesting.

7 thoughts on “The Syntax of Participles

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    1. I haven’t looked at the other three, but from what I understand, 4 Macc is of higher quality than most – more like Hebrews.

      And thanks. I didn’t understand why I dropped off last month – last month was my best ever according to wordpress stats.

  1. Fascinating, Mike. Do you yourself think “the author of 4 Maccabees” is translating (or even “paraphrasing” Hebrew to Greek) some other text, no longer extant? Or do you think the “author” is composing the work into “original” Greek? What’s motivating “the better Hellenistic Greek writers” to “work significantly harder to keep their participle usage clear”? If the texts are merely “pseudepigrapha,” then have the writers (as would-be ghost translators but in-fact as fakes), by their clarity, given themselves away?

    1. As far as I know the book was originally written in Greek. Other than that, I don’t know if I can answer your questions.

      Though I would say that 4 Macc is only pseudepigrapha in a techncial sense. Scholars call it that, but its truly just an anonymous work.

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