Verb ranking in Koine imperativals

Statement of Responsibility:
Hoopert, Daniel A
Series Issue:
SIL International
Publisher Place:
Dallas, Texas
Part Of Series:
Journal of Translation 3(1)
pages 1-8

This article proposes a cline of Greek imperativals, that is, a progressive ordering of Greek imperativals from a totally unmitigated command to a highly mitigated exhortation. It grows from a study of 1 Cor. 10:6–10. In this passage, the Apostle Paul shifts from a first person form of the verbal construction to a second person form, then to two first person forms, and finally back to a second person form. I did not find the explanations in the commentaries for these usages to be satisfactory. I accordingly propose that the use of the different persons is to be seen as part of an increase in marked prominence.

Along with the change in persons in the imperatival forms, there is a change in the imperativals themselves, going from a purpose clause to the imperative γíνεσθε ‘be’ used with a substantive, to two uses of the hortatory subjunctive, followed by a second person imperative form of the verb. This, along with an increase in marked prominence in this passage, suggests a cline of mitigation for Greek imperativals. In the passage in 1 Corinthians, the imperativals proceed up the cline from a highly mitigated exhortation to a totally unmitigated command.

I followed material written by Neva Miller on imperativals in Romans 12, work done by Robert Longacre on 1 John, on Biblical Hebrew and on discourse in general, and work done by Ernst Wendland on 1 Peter. This article also examines an increase in marked prominence in the text in 1 Corinthians, and uses this to support the thesis of a perceived decrease in mitigation in the imperatival forms.

Included in this article in particular is the proposal that the imperative of γíνομαι ‘be’ plus a substantive occupies a place in a cline of imperativals below (more mitigated than) hortatory subjunctives. It also proposes that the switch from a first person form to a second person form, back to first person forms, and then to a second person form, is to be understood as a part of an increase in marked prominence. Thus, all of the imperativals in this passage can be perceived as exhortations directed to the Corinthians.

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