Book Review: Verbs of Transference by Paul Danove – Part II

Danove, Paul. A Grammatical and Exegetical Study of New Testament Verbs of Transference. Library of New Testament Studies 329. Studies in New Testament Greek 13. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2009.

Part I can be accessed HERE.

A complete PDF can be downloaded HERE.

Many thanks for Continuum/T & T Clark for a review copy – and for the benefit of full disclosure, the link above is through the Amazon Associates program.

In preparing to write part II, I have struggled to find the best way of accurately & helpfully summarizing the contents of the main body of the book. First I considered simply choosing a couple verbs and surveying Danove’s description of their usages. Then I thought it might be best to simply survey the rest of the chapters and provide a brief summary of one chapter from the main body. Further reflection convinced me that this would not be possible while still keeping this review to an acceptable length. In the end, I have decided to simply survey the rest of the chapters emphasizing exactly what Danove has done here and its significance and then draw some conclusions about the book as a whole. This, unfortunately, results is far less actual interaction with Danove’s book than I would have preferred, but will hopefully make this second part of the review accessible to a broader audience.

The following chapters of Danove’s book, specifically chapters 3-6, focus on semantically similar usages & verbs. The central emphasis in these chapters is the fact that verbs of motion and transference can fundamentally be treated as a semantic system where each verb and its senses can be differentiated from others based on its semantic features (described previously HERE). Thus, chapter 3 examines usages that specifically denote transference verbs in the Active voice which require three constituents. Danove divides these transference verbs into nine distinct usages each of which varies in its semantic features. These include  usages which involve transference explicitly to a goal, from a source, or terminate in a locative constituent. These are then divided up based on other semantic features such as impetus (again, see HERE).

In the same vein, chapter 4 examines those same usages for the Middle voice and Chapter 5 for the Passive voice. But chapter 5 is also unique in that passive voice usages are not all inherently transference, since the passive voice lends itself to creating motion semantics rather than transference. Passive transference verbs as well as passive motion verbs, according to Danove, maintain a close enough semantic relationship that they can be treated together.

Chapter 6 focuses on active voice motion and relative motion usages. The verbs include προάγω, ἄγω, ἐπιβάλλω, αἴρω, βάλλω, and παραδίδωμι (to get a sense of what kind of verbs fit in this category). They are unified by two central features: First, all of these verbs are semantically marked for the Theme (that which is moved/transferred) also functioning as the Agent (that which moves/transfers) Secondly, these verbs consistently reflect the perspective that the Theme is also functionally the Source. Other semantic & usage features such as impetus & focus vary for these verbs. Such features make it possible to distinguish them from one another.

Chapters 7 examines verbs which grammaticalize an event/situation which Danove terms effect. Effect usage verbs are verbs which in their more basis sense express transference, but by the exclusion of both Source and Goal participant/entities have gramamticalized a situation where, “the conceptualization of the event highlights the effect of the Agent’s action on the Theme; and the Theme functions as an internally affected Patient (Θ –> P)” (124-25). A good example of an effect verbal usage is the secondary sense of δίδωμι: to produce. For example in Mark 4:8, “Others fall onto the good ground and produced fruit…” (33) In the basic sense of  δίδωμι, the verb requires an Agent/Source (who gives), a Theme (which is given) and Goal/Recipient (which receives). In this derived sense of the verb, the Source &the Goal are removed from the equation. Danove’s central argument here is that for transference/motion verbs which have secondary non-transference/motion senses, those secondary senses are:

  1. derived from the transference senses, but also
  2. adopt the very same semantic & event features as typical transference verbs.

The total result of this claim is this: Danove holds that both the basic transference/motion usages and also the derived usages can be explained as functioning as part of the exact same semantic system. And if I may say so, the results are quite impressive.

Chapter 8 takes a look at eight transference verbs which also have secondary derived usages which he terms: delegation (e.g. δίδωμι, ‘to appoint’), addition (e.g. προστίθημι, ‘to add’), disposition (e.g. δίδωμι, ‘to make/dispose one to’ [ethical benefaction]), commission (e.g. ἀποστέλλω, ‘to send +inf’), and decision (e.g. τίθημι, ‘to decide’). Likewise, the same theoretical claims mentioned above for chapter 7 apply equally here.

Chapter 9 presents some implications, applications & conclusions. Danove’s major suggested implication with regard to his proposed usage features is that the model could potentially be used to describe any group of verbs, provided that they, “grammaticalize the same events” (164). Perhaps just as significant is Danove’s proposed implication for the semantic feature Animacy with relation to Goal & Locative: all +animate Goal complements take πρός and all +animate Locative complements take εἰς. Likewise all –animate Goal complements take εἰς and all –animate Locative complements take πρός. Danove argues this distribution holds with Hebrew 5.7 as the only exception in his corpus. More investigation of the benefit of the semantic feature of Animacy in relation to prepositional usage would prove to be a highly beneficial procedure.

But of chapter 9, probably the most interesting discussion for NT scholars is Danove’s critique of BAGD’s[1] lexical descriptions and division of senses, using δίδωμι as representative. The following chart is adapted from Danove, 168 & his own lexical entry on page 185ff.:[2]

Danove’s Proposed Usages for δίδωμι BAGD’s Divisions in relation to Danove’s Proposals
  1. (a) Transference, Active, Ditransitive (Agent, Theme, Goal+dat), give
    (b) Transference, Active, Ditransitive (Agent, Theme, Locative+P), give/put
  2. Effect, Active, Transitive (Agent, Patient), give forth, produce
  3. Delegation, Active, ditransitive (Agent, Event+ἵνα, Goal) give, delegate
  4. Disposition, Active, Ditransitive (Agent, Patient, Event) make, dispose
  1. a. Danove’s Sense #1a.
    b. Danove’s Sense #2 (give forth in the sense of bestow, impart, grant)
  2. Danove’s Sense #1a.
  3. Danove’s Sense #1a.
  4. Danove’s Sense #2 (give forth in the sense of give back, yield, produce).
  5. Danove’s Sense #1b.
  6. Danove’s Sense #2 +Benefactive Adjunct (give up/sacrifice)
  7. Usage #45 [sic, see below] (Decision, Middle, Continuous Impetus).

As it can easily be seen, BDAG’s divisions are significantly varied compared to Danove’s, who is worth quoting at length on this issue:

The entry from Bauer, Lexicon, separates the discussion of the usages of transference to a Goal (#1 [Sense 1a) and effect (#31 [Sense 2]) into three segments, offers no comment on the usage of delegation (#39 [Sense 3]), and considers only the difficult occurrence of the usage of disposition (#42 [Sense 4]) in Lk. 23.58 (ἐργασίαν δίδωμι: see chapter 8, section 5d).

Danove, 168.

It appears that BAGD’s sense #7, which Danove lists as Usage #45 is a typo that should be Usage #42 (Active, Continuous Impetus). With that in mind, for a sense that BAGD & BDAG consider a Latinism, Danove proposes that the semantic-syntactic structure of the clause actually fits better the licensing of δίδωμι in the sense of make, dispose rather than the Latin idiom typically followed.

This discussion of Danove’s case frame lexicon also functions as a helpful summary of chapter 10, which consists of the Case Frame Lexicon & Parsing Guide. Danove’s lexical entries are more concise, convey the very same information in a manner that better fits the semantic-syntactic properties of Greek verbs, and provides a greater wealth of grammatical information about each verb than either BAGD or BDAG. The only current limits of Danove’s work are the lack of extra-biblical material and a comprehensive study of all Greek verbs.

To conclude this review, then, Danove’s new book examining Greek verbs of transference & motion in the New Testament is a revolutionary volume that deserves to have a major impact on Greek lexicography, syntax, & translation. His framework is rigorous and thorough in a manner that previous lexicons & discussions of verbs, cases, & prepositions are not. Danove has quite successfully distinguished the meaning and usages of his 104 verb sample. As far as his own discussion shows, all the verbs are distinguished in meaning and function from the others — including near synonyms.

Unfortunately, this level of accuracy has come at the price of simplicity. While granting that examining the interface between syntax & semantics is never simple, I fear that the majority of Danove’s work will never be fully appreciated because of the amount of mental effort required to work through this highly complex system.

Until we are provided with a basic, more accessible introduction to case frame analysis and argument structure, there will be no advance in the application of what I consider to be a very beneficial methodology for understanding Greek verbs and their clauses. While this is a very successful system & method, which excels at understanding Greek verbs on their own terms rather than on English, it is not a system that can currently be helpfully or easily conveyed to students, whether beginning or advanced. In fact, even most scholars themselves will struggle with its complexities before fully comprehending its full usefulness. For Danove’s work here to be implemented on a large scale by Greek scholars & students, either the teaching of Greek grammar will need to be drastically changed or his model will need to be simplified. Or perhaps both will need to happen. This is not, as a whole, a criticism of Danove’s work. Indeed, the detailed and rigorous work ought to be done as a grounding & basis before more accessible follows. I hope that such an introduction will be forthcoming from Danove’s pen, so that a larger audience will be able to enjoy the richness of his methodology & work in Greek syntax.

In any case, for those who are willing to put in the effort to work through this book, they will not be able to help but be impressed with the level of detailed analysis provided here, which deserves to be read widely.

[1] It is not entirely clear why the 2nd edition (BAGD, 1979) is used rather than the 3rd edition (BDAG, 2000).  BDAG does not even appear in the bibliography or abbreviations list. With that said, BDAG’s entry for δίδωμι is expanded from 7 senses to 17, which in of itself is suspect. This might be the reason behind this odd choice: dealing with the 17 s0-called “senses” proposed by BDAG compared to the 7 of BAGD could have very well been a much more frustrating endeavor. It would be a beneficial procedure to compare Danove‘s syntactic-semantic claims about δίδωμι to the current edition of Bauer to see how its significantly multiplied senses compare.

[2] In order to make the significance of the chart more clear in this review, I have expanded the simple list of usages provided in both columns in such a way that the different senses of δίδωμι are more recognizable.