Types of ἐκ and ἀπό constructions: Time

We are continuing our series of notes of usages of ἐκ and ἀπό. SOURCE expressions were first. Then we looked at ORIGIN expressions. Yesterday, we had PARTITIVES. And now today we’re looking at temporal expressions. The Greek Prepositions Workshop is next week.

Temporal constructions shift the landmark and the trajector source expressions out of the physical plane and reconceptualize them as events. The trajector is an event conceived as moving away from the landmark viewed as a temporal reference point. Fundamental to temporal expressions with ἐκ and ἀπό are distance and separation, which are then applied to the temporal plane.

  • ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μετʼ ἐμοῦ ἐστε
    You have been with me from the beginning (John 15:27)

Origins and partitives demonstrate a consistent preference for ἐκ in our data, but with temporal expressions, we find a clear shift in the other direction with ἀπό being the preferred preposition, especially in contexts similar to the one above. The preference for ἀπό comes naturally from its less specified semantics. Most temporal expressions do not involve a temporal starting point with a boundary that can be crossed (a la the container schema). Rather the temporal starting point undifferentiated with the temporal path. This is a natural fit for ἀπό and its diachronically increasing dominance in the temporal domain is a logical result, though there are a few places where we find ἐκ even though we would expect ἀπό.

  • οἱ πρεσβευταὶ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἦλθαν πρὸς ἡμᾶς φίλοι ἡμῶν καὶ σύμμαχοι, ἀνανεούμενοι τὴν ἐξ ἀρχῆς φιλίαν καὶ συμμαχίαν
    The ambassadors of the Jews came to us as our friends and allies, renewing their ancient (=from the beginning) friendship and alliance (1 Macc 15:17).

While this type of temporal expression is significantly more common with ἀπό, there are still a handful of instances with ἐκ. Given that Luraghi (2003) describes as the preferred prepositions for temporal expressions and that Bortone (2010) describes Medieval Greek usage as reviving ἐκ for literary effect as a formal and archaic usage, it is possible that already in the Koine we are seeing a preference for ἐκ in high register usage.*

*There is also an idiomatic expression that prefers ἐκ where we might otherwise expect ἀπό: ἡμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας (‘day after day’).

Despite ἀπό’s dominance, we also find that the two prepositions are mostly in complimentary distribution when taking into account the types of temporal constructions in the data. The great majority of the ἐκ data in temporal expressions continue to evoke the container schema, such as when event quantification is involved.

  • προσηύξατο ἐκ τρίτου
    He prayed for a third time (Matt 26:44).
  • καὶ προσέθετο τὸν Βακχίδην καὶ τὸν Ἄλκιμον ἐκ δευτέρου ἀποστεῖλαι εἰς γῆν Ἰούδα
    And he repeated sending Bacchides and Alcimus for a second time to the land of Judah (1 Macc 9:1)

In temporal expressions involving event quantification, such as these, ἐκ is invariably used. The same is true when bounded time period is specified.

  • εὗρεν δὲ ἐκεῖ ἄνθρωπόν τινα ὀνόματι Αἰνέαν ἐξ ἐτῶν ὀκτὼ κατακείμενον ἐπὶ κραβάττου, ὃς ἦν παραλελυμένος
    He found a man there whose name was Aeneas, who had been lying on a mat for eight years and was paralyzed (Acts 9:33).

Here the temporal expression fits a highly schematized version of a container, with clear boundaries to the beginning and end of the man’s position on the mat.

Temporal usages with ἀπό on the other hand, are either open ended such as our first example above or they involve a continuous span of time and apply the source-path-goal schema to the temporal plane with non-specific reference points.

  • ἴδετε τὴν γῆν καὶ διανοήθητε περὶ τῶν ἔργων τῶν ἐν αὐτῇ γινομένων ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς μέχρι τελειώσεως
    See the earth and be reminded of the works that continue in her from the beginning until completion (Enoch 2:2).
  • καὶπάντεςδὲοἱπροφῆταιἀπὸΣαμουὴλκαὶτῶνκαθεξῆςὅσοιἐλάλησανκαὶκατήγγειλαντὰςἡμέραςταύτας

Such usages prefer ἀπό because of the lack distinguishability between the initial starting point and the path. Because there is only a point of initiation rather than some boundary to cross (which would invoke the container schema), ἀπό becomes the natural choice—just as we see in spatial source constructions. Effectively, both ἐκ and ἀπό demonstrate a rather simple mapping from the physical domain of source to the temporal domain.

Other situations where ἐκ is used and their metaphoric extensions:

  • Wombs are containers
    τις ἀνὴρ χωλὸς ἐκ κοιλίας μητρὸς αὐτοῦ
    A certain man lame from his mother’s womb (Acts 3:2).
  • Ancestry is temporal
    Μωϋσῆς γὰρ ἐκ γενεῶν ἀρχαίων κατὰ πόλιν τοὺς κηρύσσοντας αὐτὸν ἔχει
    In each city, Moses, from generations past, has those who proclaim him.(Acts 15:21).
  • Life stages are containers
    Ἰούδας ὁ Μακκαβαῖος αὐτός, ἰσχυρὸς ἐν δυνάμει αὐτὸς ἐκ νεότητος αὐτοῦ
    Judas Maccabaeus himself, he was strong from his youth (1 Macc 2:66).

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