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This question is primarily asking for a technical explanation of the initial Greek phrase in Heb 11:11.

In studying the case for the King James translations of Heb 11:11, I noticed there are 2 words in the accusative case as highlighted below in the first phrase of the scripture: (Note: I couldn't find how to make the accents in this pasted phrase align correctly)

BYZ Heb. 11:11 Πίστει καὶ αὐτὴ Σάρρα δύναμιν εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος ἔλαβεν

NKJ Heb. 11:11 By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed

My specific question is how do we know which noun is the noun that these accusative words apply to? I take it on confidence that word for word translations like the King James versions are accurate applying these words to Sarah, I just would like to understand the technical textual breakdown of this particular phrase.

Arguments have been made that Heb 11:11 is applying to Abraham and not Sarah. This was argued on this exchange at this post: Whose faith is the subject of Hebrews 11:11?. The first posted answer seems quite powerful and well-referenced.

There is a reference in the question of the post noted above to this bible.org article: Lesson 36 Nitty Gritty Faith Hebrews 11:8-12. Bible.org discusses the NIV (thought for thought) suggesting Abraham as the subject of Heb 11:11, but actually admitting that "There is a difficult interpretive issue in our text". Overall, the NIV case seems quite weak.

While the idea Abraham is the subject of Heb 11:11 seems unreasonable to me, it also seems to me Sarah as the subject would be reinforced if each of the accusative words marked above are technically referring back to Sarah as the subject of this first phrase.

Could one of Greek scholars who might read this post conclusively comment on how the multiple accusative case words are managed in this phrase?

As a partially related question, is the second occurrence of the Greek connector kai a definitive separation of phrases in Heb 11:11? I ask this to understand if there is any technical way the words in the phrase before that kai and after that kai can somehow be intermingled? Many of the thought for thought translations seem to freely associate any or all of the Greek words in this verse, especially related to the accusative case words I'm asking about. it seems to me that the second kai should eliminate mixing the words before and after.

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    Young's Literal Translation reads By faith also Sarah herself did receive power to conceive seed. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 19:18
  • @NigelJ. I had noted that as well, so thanks for that. But your comment here seems at odds with your comments below under the marked answer. I'm probably just misunderstanding your comment below.
    – Alan
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 23:19
  • I don't go with the modern versions 'dynamic equivalence . . . .etc etc' : I understand that 'Sarah herself' means . . . . . . Sarah. How anyone can make it mean Abraham is beyond me. Kata//bole ('conception') means, in Greek - literally - 'down-casting'. There is another word for conception sullambano a 'gathering together' which describes another part of the process.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 23:23

1 Answer 1

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Sarah is the subject of the verb ἔλαβεν (acquired, got, received).

That verb takes an object in the accusative, that is, "get something", the something in Greek would be in the accusative, that is δύναμιν, power and even powerful deed, miracle.

The second accusative καταβολήν is in the accusative because it is governed by the preposition εἰς which takes the accusative. So καταβολήν is in the accusative because it is constructed with the preposition. In Greek it mean (often) "to". In this case it can be translated "resulting in", "resulting in foundation, establishment (conception)"

I hope that helps. Give a me a poke otherwise.

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  • Yes! That absolutely does help, confirming Sarah the subject & the verb is 'lambano' (no idea how to type Greek here). Also, thanks for confirming the accusative 'dunamis' is applied to Sarah through the verb. But I especially appreciated your highlighting 'eis' as accusative. I thought that but couldn't confirm it in my text. But it begs another question, so 'poking' here. If 'katabole' is accusative to 'eis', what is 'eis' accusative to? I presume the phrase 'eis katabole' is ultimately accusative to Sarah. Is that true, or not being a Greek scholar, are all my 'wires' crossed?
    – Alan
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 18:54
  • I suggest 'unto' for eis: power unto 'down-casting' of seed received . . . . . (See Englishman's Greek New Testament - interlinear, literal translation).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 19:22
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    @Alan sorry. "eis" is not accusative. It is a preposition that takes the accusative, that is, when the preposition "eis" is constructed with a noun, that noun will always be in the accusative. It is difficult to illustrate in English, but we have a preposition "for", constructed with a pronoun like "I", we do not say "for I", but "for me". The preposition requires an inflected form of the pronoun "I". "eis" introduces a "purpose" or "result" of the "dunamis" (power). Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 19:26
  • Excellent illustration of prepositional case : your mention of 'for me' (not 'for I').
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 20:11
  • Good answer - saved me the trouble. +1.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 6, 2022 at 20:41

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