0

Could the Genitive at Ps 136/7:6 both partitive and of subordination within rules of grammar?

In Psalm 137:6 we find the Greek αρχή rendered from the Hebrew reshit. It is the head noun the genitive “joy.”

(LXX-APP-Parsed) 6 κολληθείη ἡ γλῶσσά μου τῷ λάρυγγί μου, ἐὰν μή σου μνησθῶ, ἐὰν μὴ προανατάξωμαι τὴν Ιερουσαλημ ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς εὐφροσύνης μου.

The NETS of the LXX renders this as “beginning of my gladness” making it the start of and this part of the joy and thus partitive genitive.

Psalm 136:6 May my tongue stick in my throat if I do not remember you, if I do not set Ierousalem at the beginning of my gladness. (NETS LXX)

The Brenton LXX renders it “chief of my joy.”

Psalm 136:6 my tongue cleave to my throat, if I do not remember thee; if I do not prefer Jerusalem as the chief of my joy. (Brenton LXX)

The KJV renders it “above my chief joy.” It appears here that the rebuilding of Jerusalem has superseded what was formerly the greatest joy of the Psalmist and yet remains in the same general category, albeit at the top of the list.

Psalm 137:6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy (King James Version)

In all of these, Jerusalem is considered part of the joy of the Psalmist.

Should this be classified as a partitive genitive? Some might see this as genitive of subordination as well.

Does this example demonstrate that partitive genitive and genitive of subordination are not mutually exclusive?

  • I don't know if it should, but I know that it could. Several months back, you have made an extraordinary claim, namely, that whenever the Greek word arche is followed by a noun in the genitive, it always, without exception, carries the connotation of first or foremost (its allegedly biblical meaning), rather than cause or source (its allegedly pagan significance). Apparently, you've come to this realization many years ago, when doing a thorough research on this highly specific topic, with the aid of a very respectable bible software, equipped with a very versatile Greek dictionary. – Lucian Jun 6 at 2:05
  • 1
    Which one is supposed to be a (group of) person(s) ? The head noun, or the one in the genitive ? – Lucian Jun 6 at 2:33
  • @Lucian arche is perhaps a broader concept than might be realised. The sheet which Peter saw let down from heaven was 'knit at the four corners - arche'. The angels which left their 'first estate arche'. I see arche prototokos as 'original first token' (perhaps). – Nigel J Jun 6 at 2:35
4

What once was the chief joy of the Psalmist now takes second place.

Jerusalem is now the chief joy.

Jerusalem is, indeed, a part of the joy of the Psalmist. Jerusalem is the highest point of his joy, the pinnacle.

And the erstwhile leader now takes second place and is subordinate.


Daniel B Wallace makes it clear that the subordinate genitive is a matter of opinion.

On Page 103 of his book 'Beyond the Basics' he states :

For the most part this genitive [the subordinate genitive] is a subset of the objective genitive but not always.

Footnote relating to this : 83 : For this reason, most likely, such a category is not to be found in most grammars.

If such an authority as Daniel B Wallace specifies that 'not always' is the subordinate a subset of objective (without giving us any rule by which to determine when it is and when it is not) and also states that this category is not to be found in 'standard' grammars his reason being only known as 'most likely' but not to any definition : then I strongly suggest that this is all a matter of opinion.

We would need to know Wallace's opinion on the specific text above in order to categorically state how he sees it.

And in any case, he expresses the subordinate genitive as conveying the concept of 'over' see again his page 103.

But the 'chief of joy' is not a master in charge of joy. It is not 'over' all other joy. It is the primary joy.

Therefore it is a moot point what we call this construction. Partitive ? Subordinate ? Both at once ?

It remains a matter of opinion what we call it.

It also remains a matter of opinion as to whether the LXX, in this place, has adequately expressed the Psalmist's intentions.

Thus to take this place and use it elsewhere as a proof of anything would simply be a wrong thing to do.

There is too much opinion involved in the naming of a genitive this way or that, when what is involved is the translation of Hebrew into Greek and then into English.

What we do know in this place is that the Psalmist would rather be rendered dumb, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, unable to speak a word to another human being, rather than let any other thing than Jerusalem, the foundation place of God's holy dwelling, be a source of more joy to him.

God's house, God's people and God's glory are to be his chief joy : none other shall compete.

| improve this answer | |
  • @ThomasPearne The chief joy or primary joy does not specify the first joy or the source of the joy. I cannot see the connection, myself. Nor is the word arche necessarily the best word to apply in this case. The LXX is not inspired and is not infallible therefore cannot be taken as a template for the Greek scripture. – Nigel J Jun 6 at 1:28
  • @NigelJ: The Septuagint is (obviously) Scripture, and, as such, inspired, at least according to Saint Paul, who employed it quite frequently. – Lucian Jun 6 at 13:23
  • @Lucian There is no proof that Paul quotes from the LXX. It may be so, for it is certainly a useful Greek translation of the Hebrew. But Paul may have simply been translating for himself and arrived at the same wording. It cannot be proved. Peter approves Paul's words and calls them 'scripture'. Neither he nor Paul nor any other apostle does the same for LXX. – Nigel J Jun 6 at 15:00
  • @NigelJ: The Old Testament, contained in the Septuagint, is certainly scripture, and at no point does Paul mention any linguistic criteria, nor does he (along with other NT writers) ever shy away from quoting it, even when it follows a completely different reading from the Hebrew. – Lucian Jun 6 at 16:24
  • @Lucian Could you quote an example of this, please ? – Nigel J Jun 6 at 20:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy