Are the last two clauses predicate or attributive adjectives?:

Westcott and Hort / [NA27 variants] 2 Cor 6:6 ἐν ἁγνότητι, ἐν γνώσει, ἐν μακροθυμίᾳ, ἐν χρηστότητι, ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἀνυποκρίτῳ,

Based on the following link, I would take them as predicates since there are no articles before the adjectives:


Yet it seems all of the English translations seem to take them as attributive (and also add a definite article to "holy"):


Shouldn't it read "spirit/breath that is holy, love that is sincere"?

Or am I misunderstanding the link, which states:

"...In the predicate position of the adjective, the adjective itself is actually making the statement about the noun (i.e. it is in the predicate part of the sentence or clause). The noun and the adjective could by themselves be the complete simple sentence. (But note that the adjective used attributively could not form a complete sentence.) When the adjective is in the predicate position, a form of the verb "to be" may or not be explicitly present in Greek, but will always be in the English translation of the phrase. When the adjective is in the predicate position, it will not follow the definite article connected to the noun (whether the noun is articular or anarthrous).

For example: Jesus said in Mark 10:18, "No one is good except One, that is, God." The phrase "No one is good" is only two words in Greek. The first word means 'no one' and the second word means 'good'. Thus there is a noun and an adjective with no intervening definite article. This is the predicate position of the adjective (since there is no definite article before the adjective). In translation, you must insert the appropriate form of the word "to be" to capture the sense of the predicate position. Therefore these two words by themselves could form a complete simple sentence in Greek..."

1 Answer 1



Are the last two clauses predicate or attributive adjectives?.... I would take them as predicates since there are no articles before the adjectives.

They are attributive. The major problem with the way you're thinking through this is that each phrase (they are not, in fact, clauses) is a prepositional phrase. Because each noun and adjective pair are inflected together in the dative case and follow a preposition, they must be attributive. There is no such thing as a verbless clause (i.e. a predicative relationship) couched within in a prepositional phrase except in the form of a relative clause. The English translation you offer

[in] spirit/breath that is holy, [in] love that is sincere

is actually adding relative clauses to the text. Although various languages have various rules about when unmarked relative clauses are permissible, in Greek the relative pronoun or (more commonly) the article are needed to form this construction. In any case, adding the relative clauses, although an incorrect and pleonastic translation, really does little to change the meaning. A true predicative relationship would say:

Spirit is holy; love is sincere.

As you can see, the preposition ἐν ("in") and the case markings of the both nouns and both adjectives (i.e. the syntactical marking of every word in the Greek text) must be disregarded in order to produce this.

Regarding your concern about the lack of articles: they are frequently omitted even with definite nouns in prepositional phrases.1 The word order noun-adjective (sans article) is also a commonly (though not always) attributive construction.

When it has been determined from the context that an adjective in a noun-adjective construction expresses an attributive relation to the noun, such a construction is in the fourth attributive position. The reason for this is that both the second and third attributive positions involve an adjective following a noun. Thus to say that an adjective is in the fourth attributive position is to say that the article does not occur in the construction at all (e.g., βασιλεὺς ἀγαθός = a good king). This usage is quite common.2

The "context" that cues us to the attributive relationship in this case is primarily the syntactical context; these are prepositional phrases.

Note: I suspect that you would also be interested in considering translating ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ as "in a holy breath/spirit" or some such anarthrous (i.e. no article) construction. This is more plausible, as it is true that there is no article in the Greek text. However, as noted above, anarthrous definite nouns are very common in Greek prepositional phrases. This could be the topic of another question

1. See Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 247: "There is no need for the article to be used to make the object of a preposition definite."

2. ibid, p. 310.

  • that's a beautiful answer, suitable for framing. Regarding your note at the end, I would not be inclined to add an indefinite article. However, I think adding the definite article is special pleading since with a definite article added it is inconsistent with the context and meaningless. This is a laundry list and "the Holy Spirit" isn't laundry. These are all apples, not oranges.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 6, 2017 at 12:58
  • @susan You pointed out that ..."They are attributive....that each phrase (they are not, in fact, clauses) is a prepositional phrase" ... which surprised me, because that was how I'd been reading this verse. I'm prone to mistakes, so perhaps I got this one right?..." 6:6 in with~a~pureness, in with~a~knowledge, in with~a~long-temperament, in with~an~obliging, in with~a~sanctified spirit, in with~an~unhypocritical love,"
    – robin
    Dec 19, 2017 at 8:19

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