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Mark 6:52

"for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened". ESV. [were hardened/peporomene].

In this question, I want to focus on peporomene being passive/middle.

Why and to what effect is peporomene passive/middle?

Does peporomene indicate whether their hearts hardened themselves or whether this hardening was inflicted on their hearts?

From Romans 11:7-8

7 "The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor,".

In Ro 11:7 eporothesan is passive, "God gave them..". Edit: Did they receive passively in Mark 6:52?

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    Re: the last sentence of your post, ἐπωρώθησαν “eporothesan” means “were blinded”. It is not related to the verb “give”. ἔδωκεν “edoken” means “gave”. Jul 12, 2023 at 17:20
  • @Der Ubermensch Thanks. I have edited. Is my question clear now please?
    – C. Stroud
    Jul 12, 2023 at 17:45
  • How are you defining the word "passive"? Jul 12, 2023 at 19:15
  • @M. Wm. Ferguson peporomene Verb partic' nom fem' perf' passive middle.
    – C. Stroud
    Jul 12, 2023 at 19:28
  • Bagster's Analytical Greek Lexicon gives πεπωρωμένη as 'passive'. {Not 'middle'.) I don't know where the idea comes from of 'ambiguity'. (Well, I do, actually, but - academically - I don't.)
    – Nigel J
    Jul 13, 2023 at 22:22

3 Answers 3

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Because perfect middle and passive participles share the same form, the perfect participle peporomene (póroó, Strong’s 4456) in Mark 6:52 is coded as being either middle or passive (Lesson 9: Perfect (Stative) Participles, equip.biblearc.com). That said, Thayer’s specifically notes it’s use in Mk 6:52 as passive:

passive, to grow hard or callous, become dull, lose the power of understanding: Romans 11:7; τά νοήματα, 2 Corinthians 3:14; ἡ καρδία, Mark 6:52; Mark 8:17 - Thayer's

Where the forms are the same, context and lexical meaning are used to determine whether a verb is middle or passive. In the case of the verb póroó, the word origin and lexical meaning support a passive parsing. Originating from a word meaning marble, HELPS associates the meaning of "póroó” with being dull or “unperceptive as a rock.”

4456 pōróō (from pōros, a kind of marble) – properly, made of stone; (figuratively) insensible; dull, unperceptive as a rock; calloused (hardened); i.e. unresponsive (dense), completely lacking sensitivity or spiritual perception. – HELPS word-studies

In my opinion, this nuance of meaning lends itself to a passive parsing of peporomene. In Mk 5:62, it implies that an external agent had acted upon the heart to make it dull or unperceptive. The verb póroó occurs five times in the NT. The way it is used in the other occurrences lend support to a passive parsing of Mk 5:62. In particular, note the passive voice of póroó in Rom 11:7 and 2 Cor 3:14.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened. – Rom 11:7

But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. – 2 Cor 3:14

And in the one instance where póroó appears in the active voice, it is God who is the subject/agent of the action.

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” – Jn 12:40 ESV

Beyond the grammar, is the heart ever said to be hardened by men themselves or some other means? Yes, but a different word is used instead. The word sklérunó (Strong’s 4645) in Heb 3:8 also means to harden but has a slightly different nuance. While póroó has the sense of making dull, sklérunó means to make “obstinate, stubborn.”

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear His voice, 8do not harden your hearts, as you did in the rebellion, in the day of testing in the wilderness – Heb 3:7-8

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In Mark 6:52, the verb πεπωρωμένη (pepōrōmenē) is a perfect participle (middle or passive voice), nominative masculine singular form of the verb πωρόω meaning to "harden, render callous, petrify" (Strongs).

More precisely, the verb means, according to BDAG:

primarily 'harden, petrify'; in the NT used only figuratively, to cause someone to have difficulty in understanding, or comprehending, harden, petrify, mostly of hearts, ... close the mind, John 12:40, Mark 6:52, 8:17, 2 Cor 3:14. Of persons of themselves Rom 11:7.

[Note the word only occurs five times in the NT all listed above.]

In Mark 6:52 the form of the word is either middle voice or passive, meaning that the disciples either hardened their own hearts, or had them hardened.

Now, this question is highly contentious - did God really harden their hearts (as in the case of Pharaoh and Saul) or did they do that themselves as a result of not being fully open to God's revelation of the divine principles of the kingdom of God. The answer to this depend upon one's theology and thus beyond the scope of this site.

Good (theological) cases can and have been made for both understandings. The text in Mark is ambiguous, as documented above and thus cannot be decided on the basis of the verse alone.

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The mood of πεπωρωμένη is not middle but only passive. It may have been ascribed as middle/passive due to theological differences (BSB morphological codes). The Robinson's Morphological codes lists it as Passive. This does not mean God arbitrarily hardens the hearts of people, and they have no freewill. There is an old question asking similarity between the Romans 1 and Pharaoh's heart's hardening (Both means the same thing, and the answer of this question is the same as all other questions on the Pharaoh's heart). The objection to this type of language is caused by inability to understand the ancient Hebrew idioms. The hardening happens by the sovereign God, it is indeed he who hardens hearts and blinds the eyes of unbelievers, John 12:40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them". Of course, the disobedient man is only responsible for his stiff neck for not bowing down and submitting to God.

It is an idiomatic expression that uses active verbs (causing, giving the hardening or blindness to others) to describe allowing those things to happen. See from Bullinger's book on Figure of Speech:

  1. Active verbs were used by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do. Thus:

Genesis 31:7.-Jacob says to Laban: "God did not give him to do me evil": i.e., as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] , God suffered him not, etc.

Exodus 4:21.-"I will harden his heart (i.e., I will permit or suffer his heart to be hardened), that he shall not let the people go." So in all the passages which speak of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. As is clear from the common use of the same Idiom in the following passages.

Exodus 5:22.-"Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people?" i.e., suffered them to be so evil entreated.

Psalms 16:10.-"Thou wilt not give thine Holy One (i.e., suffer Him) to see corruption." So the A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.]

Jeremiah 4:10.-"Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people": i.e., thou hast suffered this People to be greatly deceived, by the false prophets, saying: Ye shall have peace, etc.

Ezekiel 14:9.-"If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet": i.e., I have permitted him to deceive himself.

Matthew 6:13.-"Lead us not (i.e., suffer us not to be led) into temptation."

Matthew 11:25.-"I thank thee, O Father … because thou hast hid (i.e., not revealed) these things," etc.

Matthew 13:11.-"It is given to know unto you," etc. (i.e., ye are permitted to know … but they are not permitted to know them.

Acts 13:29.-"When they (i.e., the rulers, verse 27) had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre": i.e., they permitted Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to do so.

Romans 9:18.-"Whom he will he hardeneth": i.e., he suffereth to be hardened. Not that this in any way weakens the absolute sovereignty of God.

Romans 11:7.-"The rest were hardened": i.e., were suffered to become blind (as in A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] marg. [Note: arg. Margin.] ).

Romans 11:8.-"God hath given them the spirit of slumber": i.e., hath suffered them to fall asleep.

2 Thessalonians 2:11.-"For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie": i.e., God will leave them and suffer them to be deceived by the great Lie which will come on all the world.

  1. Active verbs are used to express, not the doing of a thing, but the occasion of a thing’s being done

Genesis 42:38.-"If mischief befall him by the way … then shall ye bring down (i.e., ye shall be the occasion of bringing down) my gray hairs," etc.

1 Kings 14:16.-Jeroboam "made Israel to sin": i.e., was the cause of Israel’s sin by setting up the two calves in Bethel and Dan.

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  • why would they not be responsible for their stiff neck? It means the same thing to be stiff or hard for God's word.
    – Michael16
    Jul 13, 2023 at 14:28
  • ok, maybe a comma or conjunction is fine in that sentence but the grammar languagetool org didnt show any error.
    – Michael16
    Jul 13, 2023 at 14:38

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