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9.59 Impersonal Dative of Means

In section 58, Croy emphasized that the agent expressed with ὑπο and the genitive is the "personal" agent. In other words, the agent is a person (or a personified thing) which is the agent of the action expressed by the passive verb. Now in section 59, Croy discusses the dative of means, which is used when there is an impersonal object or force that plays a part in the verb action.

What is important to understand here is that the dative of means is not limited to passive verbs! You can find the dative of means used with active, passive, and middle voice. Here are some examples:

διδασκόμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.
Passive: We are being instructed by God's authority.

λύουσι τὸν οἶκον τοὺτον λίθοις.
Active: They are destroying that house with stones.

ἀποκρίνομαι αὐτῇ τοῖς λόγοις τῆς ἀληθείας.
Middle: I answer her with the words of truth.

Notice that sometimes the English preposition "by" is used to express the dative of means, and sometimes the English preposition "with" is used to express this same idea. It is very important that you understand the difference between the English word "with" meaning the means with which something is done, as opposed to the English "with" meaning "together with." Although English uses the same word here, these are two distinct ideas which are expressed quite differently in Greek. The sense of "with" as the means with which something is done is expressed by the dative in Greek, without a preposition as you see here. The sense of "together with" is expressed in Greek by the preposition σύν .

σὺν τοῖς δούλοις αὐτῶν οἱ πονηροὶ κύριοι λύουσι τὸν οἶκον τοὺτον λίθοις.
With their slaves, the wicked masters are destroying that house with stones.

The process of translating from English into Greek can never be a simple mechanical process, since the same English word can be rendered in different ways in Greek, depending upon the precise English meaning. So when you see the word "with" in English, you have to decide for yourself whether it is equivalent to the Greek dative of means, or to the Greek preposition σύν.

Biblical Greek Online. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. Page last updated: April 9, 2005 8:06 PM

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