Monday, May 13, 2024

Ἐξίσταντο: how do we get from 'I stand' to 'I am amazed'

ἐξίσταντο δὲ καὶ ἐθαύμαζον λέγοντες Οὐχὶ ἰδοὺ πάντες οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ λαλοῦντες Γαλιλαῖοι;

they were all amazed and wondered, asking"All of these people who are speaking are Galileans, aren't they?

Acts 2:7 begins with the verb form ξίσταντο, which is parsed as the 3-P imperfect middle/passive indicative of ἐξίστημι.

I say 'middle/passive' because the imperfect, as part of the present system, has identical forms in the middle and passive; but by sense, ἐξίσταντο is a middle.

Ἐξίστημι is a compound verb, formed from the prepositional prefix ἐκ- / ἐξ- ('from, out from') and the root verb ἵστημι.

Ἵστημι is a difficult verb, with a basic meanings of 'stand (something) up', and 'stand (yourself) up, be standing'.  It is used over 150 times in the New Testament, in a large variety of forms. 

Consider the following: 

(1)  καὶ ἔστησεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ

and he set /  stood him on the pinnacle of the temple  (Matthew 4:5)

The form of ἵστημι here is ἔστησεν; an aorist active indicative.  It is transitive, meaning that the subject ('he' - the devil) performed an action ('set / stood') affecting someone or something else as a direct object ('him' - Jesus).

The direct object of a transitive verb is generally in the accusative case, as it is here: αὐτόν.

Now compare that use to this:

(2)  καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἑστὼς παρὰ τὴν λίμνην Γεννησαρέτ

and he (Jesus) was standing by the lake of Gennesaret   (Luke 5:1)

Here, ἑστὼς is a perfect active participle (masculine singular nominative) of ἵστημι. In the perfect this verb is intransitive and refers to a completed action with ongoing consequences; i.e., at some point Jesus stood up, and he is now standing. 

 * * * * * 

So what about ἐξίσταντο in Acts 2:7?  The usual translations for most of the seventeen uses of this verb in the New Testament are some version of 'to be amazed, to be astonished', etc.

How does 'amazed' relate to 'stand'?

The prefix ἐξ- seems to indicate that you are standing 'outside' of yourself in some way.  English has a similar idiom: 'I am beside myself'.  Although it doesn't correspond exactly to 'I am astonished', you get the basic idea, which also explains the middle voice.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Acts 2:7-8, by phrase, with a few comments on finding subjects

A crowd has just heard the disciples speaking in different dialects or languages.

7  Ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες . . . . They were amazed all

καὶ ἐθαύμαζον, . . . . and they marveled

λέγοντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους, . . . .  saying to each other

Οὐκ ἰδοὺ πάντες . . . .  look, not all  (word-by-word: not look all)

οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ λαλοῦντες . . . . these are the ones speaking

Γαλιλαῖοι; . . . . Galileans?

8  Καὶ πῶς ἡμεῖς ἀκούομεν ἕκαστος . . . and how we we hear each

τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ ἡμῶν . . . . in the same / our own dialect of us 

ἐν ᾗ ἐγεννήθημεν; . . . . in which we were born?

Stunned and amazed all, they asked, 

"All of these people who are speaking are Galileans, aren't they?

And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?

Let me emphasize: one key to reading the New Testament in koine Greek is to find the subject of each phrase.  To find the subject, we usually look for nouns, pronouns, substantive adjectives, etc., in the nominative case.

As an example, in verse 7 we start with a verb: Ἐξίσταντο, 'they were amazed'.

Who was amazed?  The closest nominative plural is πάντες  ('all'), followed eventually by the participle λέγοντες ('saying').  

So all the listeners were amazed and they were all saying (something).

But then we have another πάντες.  And another verb, εἰσιν, which is immediately followed by οἱ λαλοῦντες and Γαλιλαῖοι.

Πάντες, οἱ λαλοῦντες, and Γαλιλαῖοι are all in the nominative plural, and must be the subject of something, which is here clearly the verb εἰσιν.  So the preceding phrase,

"οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ λαλοῦντες" . . . . 'these are the ones speaking'

refers to the disciples, not the amazed listeners, with the disciples identified as Galileans.

In the next post, the verb form ἐξίσταντο.

New conjugation table available

I've been slow to add these, but there is a new conjugation table available: the present tense of the alpha-contract verb τιμάω.

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Link for sound files

For those of you who are interested in the sound files from my New Testament Greek Workbooks, here is a general link:

You can scroll through to find all of the sound files currently available.

Note that all readings are done using a modern Greek pronunciation.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Acts 2:5 - 2:6: What is an ἔθνος?

  In Acts 2:5 we read this:

ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς ἀπὸ παντὸς ἔθνους 

τῶν ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν 

devout men from every nation under the heaven

Note that, (1) this form of ἔθνος, τό is neuter singular genitive, although the ending looks like it could be masculine plural accusative,

(2) this word is, indeed, related to the English 'ethnic',

(3) almost every English translation that I have seen translates 'ἔθνους' as 'nation' in this verse, but

(4) another common translation is 'Gentiles', i.e., people who are not Jewish. 

Indeed, 'nation' might be misleading in the New Testament, as the modern conception of this word is something like 'the entity called France, or India, or Canada', and so on.  'Nations' have borders, their own governments, possibly their own language/s and monetary system, and so on. 

The usage in the New Testament does not seem to be 'nation' as in 'France', but 'nation' as in 'an established group of people, bound by ties of language and/or tradition, sometimes living together'.  The term often suggests a contrast between Jewish and non-Jewish groups.

There is a trace of this meaning in the term that was often (although not always) used for the head of state when Greek was a monarchy: the 'King of the Hellenes' - i.e., of a group of people - as opposed to the 'King of Greece' - i.e., of a nation.

'Τὸ ἔθνος' is known from Homer down, and it did not necessarily even refer to human beings:

τῶν δ᾽ ὥς τ᾽ ὀρνίθων πετεηνῶν ἔθνεα πολλὰ

χηνν γεράνων κύκνων δουλιχοδείρων

as many flocks of birds in flight,

cormorants or geese or swans, with necks outstretched . . .   (Iliad, 2: 459)

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Vocabulary notes on Acts 2:5-6; What is a dialect?

In Acts 2:6 we have the phrase

ἤκουον εἷς ἕκαστος τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ λαλούντων αὐτῶν

they were hearing one each the own language being spoken of them

each one of them heard their own language being spoken 

The Greek ἡ διάλεκτος (note the feminine) is related to the English 'dialect'.  What exactly does it mean?

In English, a 'dialect' is commonly understood to be a sub-type of some language, but American linguistics professor John McWhorter says:

"The difference between a language and a dialect is mostly meaningless and entirely political."

Do my own slight oddities in English pronunciation and word choice - relics of a Minnesota childhood - constitute a dialect?  Probably not.  What about Norwegian and Swedish?  Some consider them dialects of 'modern Norse', but I'm not sure what Norwegians and Swedes think about that.

And what about Greek?  Most of the English translations of the phrase τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ use 'in his own language', but some use 'tongue', and a few 'dialect'.  

Without native speakers of koine at hand, it's difficult to know exactly how the phrase would have been understood.  I refer the reader to some of the commentary on this verse, here.

Note that ἡ διάλεκτος is related to the koine verb διαλέγομαι, which is translated in a variety of ways, including 'I converse, discuss, reason, ponder' and so on.  Διαλέγομαι itself is a compound verb, with the preposition διά and the root verb λέγω.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Acts 2:5- Acts 2:6, translated by phrase

Remember that in the beginning of Acts 2, the disciples were in one place and they heard a sound like a strong wind.

Ἦσαν δὲ εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ . . . there were in Jerusalem

κατοικοῦντες Ἰουδαῖοι, . . . . dwelling / inhabitant Judaeans

ἄνδρες εὐλαβεῖς . . . .  men devout

ἀπὸ παντὸς ἔθνους . . . . from every nation 

τῶν ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν· . . . . of [those] under the heaven

6  γενομένης δὲ τῆς φωνῆς ταύτης . . . . having happened the sound this

συνῆλθεν τὸ πλῆθος . . . .  they gathered the crowd

καὶ συνεχύθη,  . . . . and they were confused

ὅτι ἤκουον εἷς ἕκαστος . . . . because they were hearing one each

τῇ ἰδίᾳ διαλέκτῳ . . . . their own language

λαλούντων αὐτῶν. . . . being spoken of them

5  Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.

6  When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.