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Chapter 9
Adjectives
Exeget ical Insight
Adjectives have a theological importance that is hard to rival. They can modify
a noun (attributive), assert something about a noun (predicate), or stand in the
place of a noun (substantival). Sometimes it is difcult to tell exactly which role
a particular adjective is in.
Take the adjective acvcu (evil) in Matthew 6:13, for example. The King James
Version (as well as more than one modern translation) translates this as but
deliver us from evil. But the adjective has an article modifying it (tcu ), indicat-
ing that it is to be taken substantivally: the evil one.
And there is no little theological difference between the two. The Father does not
always keep his children out of danger, disasters, or the ugliness of the world. In
short, he does not always deliver us from evil. But he does deliver us from the
evil one. The text is not teaching that God will make our life a rose garden, but
that he will protect us from the evil one, the devil himself (cf. John 10:28-30;
17:15).
Daniel B. Wallace
Overview
In this chapter you will learn that adjectives:
are used three different ways;
agree with the nouns they modify, just like the article;
can be in any of the three genders, just like the article.
64 Chapter 9: Adjectives
English
9.1 An adjective is a word that modies a noun or pronoun. Adjectives can
perform three functions.
9.2 An attributive adjective gives a qualityan attributeto the word it is
modifying. This is the normal use of the adjective.
He learned modern Greek.
The tall woman plays basketball
The term it modies is called the head term (e.g., The tall woman
plays basketball).
9.3 A substantival adjective functions as if it were a noun.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are all welcome here.
Out with the old and in with the new.
In this case the adjective does not modify anything.
9.4 A predicate adjective asserts something about the subject, and the verb
to be (e.g., am, are) is usually stated or implied.
The students are good.
God is true.
Greek
9.5 Greek adjectives function much like their English counterparts.
9.6 Form. The adjectives in this chapter all use the same case endings we
have learned for nouns. Notice that adjectives can occur in all three gen-
ders; we will nd out why later. a,a0c, is an adjective meaning good.
Its feminine follows the rst declension, and the masculine and neuter
follow the second declension.
2 1 2
masc fem neut
nom sg a,a0c, a,a0 a,a0cv
gen sg a,a0cu a,a0, a,a0cu
dat sg a,a0m a,a0 a,a0m
acc sg a,a0cv a,a0v a,a0cv
nom pl a,a0ct a,a0at a,a0a
gen pl a,a0mv a,a0mv a,a0mv
dat pl a,a0ct, a,a0at, a,a0ct,
acc pl a,a0cu, a,a0a, a,a0a
Chapter 9: Adjectives 65
Notice the many similarities among these endings and those already
learned for nouns and the article.
9.7 Lexical form. The lexical form of any word that can appear in more than
one gender is the nominative singular masculine (as we have already
seen with the article). For example, the lexical form of the feminine
inected form a,a0at, is a,a0c,, not a,a0 .
Funct ions of t he Adject ive
9.8 Attributive. When an adjective functions as an attributive, it agrees with
the word it modies in case, number, and gender. This is the most common
use of the adjective in Greek.
c a,a0c, c,c, sottv ...
The good word is ...
It is essential to memorize the gender of all nouns. It will help you
determine which noun the adjective is modifying. For example, the
adjective a,a0 could not be modifying the noun av0mac,, because
a,a0 is feminine and av0mac, is masculine.
Because nouns can be in three different genders, and because an
attributive adjective must agree with the noun it modies in case
and number as well as gender, an adjective must be able to be mas-
culine, feminine, or neuter.
1
9.10 Substantival. When an adjective functions as a substantive, its case is
determined by its function as is true of any noun. For example, if the adjec-
tive is functioning as the subject of the sentence, it will be in the nomina-
tive case.
c a,a0c, sottv ...
The good (person) is ...
Its gender and number are determined by what it stands for. For example, if it
stands for a single entity, and that entity is masculine, then the adjective
would be masculine singular (as above).
You must use your common sense to translate a substantival adjective.
Ask these questions of the text in order to translate the adjective.
1
Whether an adjective has a feminmine stem ending in eta (a,a0 ) or alpha (vska ) is
determined not by the noun but by the adjective itself. All that an adjective must do is
agree in case, number, and gender. How it does it, and what form it uses, is a function
of the adjective. Thus the adjective may have an , in the genitive even though the
noun that it modies has a, (e.g., t, a,a0, ma,).
66 Chapter 9: Adjectives
What case is it?
If, for example, the adjective is in the nominative case, it must be
either the subject or the predicate nominative.
What gender and number is it?
Often you can follow natural gender in deciding how to translate.
Notice how you can add an extra word (man, woman, thing,
person, one) to make sense of the construction in English.
Of course, a,a0c, could be simply translated good if that meets
the needs of the sentence.
9.11 Predicate. When an adjective functions as a predicate, it does not modify
another word but rather assertspredicatessomething about the sub-
ject. The verb stat is usually explicit or implied.
c av0mac, a,a0c,
The man is good.
Recognit ion of t he Adject ive
9.12 The question then becomes, how can you identify which function an
adjective is performing? It all depends on whether the denite article is
present or not.
Anarthrous means there is no article; articular means there is an
article.
9.13 Presence of the article. If the article occurs immediately before the
adjective, then you have either an attributive or substantival adjective.
Attributive. If there is a noun to modify, then the adjective is attribu-
tive. The adjective can come before or after the noun; there is no dif-
ference in meaning. However, the adjective must be preceded by the
article.
inected parsing translation
a,a0c, masculine singular a good man
a good person
a,a0at feminine plural good women
a,a0cv neuter singular a good thing
ct a,a0ct masculine as generic the good ones
the good people
Chapter 9: Adjectives 67
First attributive position: c a,a0c, av0mac,
The good man.
Second attributive position: c av0mac, c a,a0c,
The good man.
You will never nd c a,a0c, c av0mac,.
2
Substantival. However, if there is no noun for the adjective to modify,
then it may be functioning substantivally.
c a,a0c, the good (man; person)
tv atotv the faithful (woman)
Predicate. If the article is present with the noun but the adjective is
not preceded by another article, then the adjective is functioning as
a predicate adjective. In this case you will supply the verb is to
show the predicating nature of the adjective.
c av0mac, a,a0c,
The man is good.
a,a0c, c av0mac,
The man is good.
9.14 Absence of the article. If there is no article before either the noun or the
adjective, context becomes the guide to translation. You must decide
whether the adjective is giving an attribute to a noun or is asserting
something about the verb. If the verb stat is not explicitly present, it is
implied and you can supply it in your transaltion if English requires it.
a,a0c, av0mac,
A good man or A man is good.
av0mac, a,a0c,
A good man or A man is good.
Be sure not to supply the article in your translation unless English
demands it.
It is possible for an anarthrous adjective to function substantivally, but it
is unusual.
Translat ion Procedure
9.15 As you divide your sentences into the different parts, be sure to keep the
adjective with the noun it is modifying. They form a unit.
c a,a0c, av0mac, / ,acst / tc }t}tcv.
The good man writes the book.
2
There is a third attributive position. See Advanced Information.
68 Chapter 9: Adjectives
Summary
1. Adjectives can function as an attributive, substantive, or a predicate.
2. If the article precedes the adjective and the adjective modies another word,
then it is an attributive adjective. The adjective agrees with the noun it mod-
ies in case, number, and gender
2. If the article precedes the adjective and the adjective does not modify
another word, then it is a substantival adjective. The case of this adjective is
determined by its function, its gender and number by what it stands for.
4. If an anarthrous adjective occurs with an articular noun, the adjective is a
predicate and you may need to supply the verb is.
5. If there is no article before either the adjective or the word it is modifying, let
context be your guide.
Are you getting frustrated with all there is to learn? Go back to chapters 6 and 7,
reread them, and see how easy they are now. But remember how difcult they
may have been when you rst learned them? The fog has just moved from chap-
ter 6 to chapter 9. Keep working, and the fog will continue to move. Ask your
teacher to remind you again why you are learning biblical Greek.
Vocabulary
The endings following the lexical form of an adjective (e.g., . cv) show the
feminine and neuter forms of the word. The feminine of a,a0c, is a,a0 and its
neuter is a,a0cv. The roots of adjectives are listed with the nal stem vowels for
both the masculine and the feminine (e.g., *a,a0c/ ).
Be especially sure to read the footnotes on atmvtc,.
a,a0c,. . cv good, useful (102; *a,a0c/ )
3
a,aatc,. . cv beloved (61; *a,aatc/ )
4
atmvtc,. cv
5
eternal (71; *atmvtc)
6
amv
7
one another (100; *ac)
8
3
Agatha is a womans name.
4
This is the cognate adjective of the noun a,aa.
5
atmvtc, illustrates another kind of adjective. atmvtc, can be either masculine or fem-
inine. Context will show if a specic form is masculine or feminine. atmvtcv is neuter.
It is a 2 - 2 pattern because the masculine and feminine follow the second declen-
sion; the neuter also follows the second declension but with some variation. In our
nomenclature, these adjectives are classied as a-3, specically a-3b(1). See MBG for
the full paradigm.
6
Aeonian means, eternal.
Chapter 9: Adjectives 69
aaskt0 he/ she/ it answered
9
ecuc,. cu. c slave, servant (124; *ecuc)
sav if, when (351), introduces a dependent clause
10
sac,. sa. sacv my, mine (76; *sac/ )
11
svtc. ,. commandment (67; *svtc)
ka0m, as, even as (182)
kakc,. . cv bad, evil (50; *kakc/ )
12
acu sacu| my
13

vskc,. a. cv adjective: dead (128; *vskc/ a)
14
noun: dead body, corpse
atotc,. . cv faithful, believing (67; *atotc/ )
acvc,. a. cv evil, bad (78; *acvc/ a)
15
amtc,. . cv rst, earlier (155; *amtc/ )
16
tttc,. . cv third (56; *tttc/ )
17
Total word count in the New Testament: 138,162
Number of words learned to date: 87
Number of word occurrences in this chapter: 1,668
Number of word occurrences to date: 72,792
7
This is an unusual word because it never occurs in the nominative or in the singular.
Its lexical form is therefore genitive plural.
8
Parallel lines (aaac,) are lines that are beside (aaa ) one another.
9
This is a common form of a common verb, occurring 82 times in the New Testament.
It takes its direct object in the dative, and therefore you do not use the key word with
its direct object. aaskt0 autm means, He answered him, not He answered to
him.
10
sav is a crasis of st and av. Crasis occurs when two words are pushed together to
make one.
When sav appears after a relative pronoun (c,), it has the effect of appending -ever
to the end of the pronoun, just like av. c, sav ... means whoever ...
11
This adjective always means my regardless of its case. If it is used substantivally, it
always means mine.
12
Caco is a very common combining form. A cacophony is a harsh or bad sound.
Cacoepy is poor pronunciation. Cacography is poor writing skill.
13
This is the genitive singular of s,m. Unlike sac,, acu only means my when it is in the
genitive case. It can also be written with an initial epsilon and an accent: sacu . This
word is discussed in detail in chapter 11.
14
Necrophobia is an abnormal fear of death.
15
Ponera is a genus of stinging ants.
16
A prototype is the rst of its kind, a model, a pattern.
17
A triangle has three sides.
70 Chapter 9: Adjectives
Percent of total word count in the New Testament: 52.69%
Previous Words
These are adjectives and other words that can occur in more than one gender.
You need to learn their feminine and neuter forms.
ac,. . c
18
other, another
autc,. . c he/ she/ it, they
soatc,. . cv last
cutc,. aut. tcutc
19
this; these
Advanced Informat ion
9.17 Genitive or accusative? If the next to the last letter in the stem of an
adjective is a rho or a vowel, the feminine stem ends in alpha (e.g., vska )
and the ending a, can indicate either the genitive singular or accusative
plural.
nom sg a,ta nom pl a,tat
gen sg a,ta, gen pl a,tmv
dat sg a,ta dat pl a,tat,
acc sg a,tav acc pl a,ta,
If the next to the last last letter in the stem is any letter other than a rho
or a vowel (e.g., a,a0|, the feminine stem will end in eta and the ending
a, can only be accusative plural.
The nal stem vowel in the plural will always be alpha, since in the plu-
ral all feminine nouns have alpha as the nal stem vowel.
Can vska, be genitive singular?
9.18 Third attributive position. There is a third attributive position:
av0mac, c a,a0c,. It is rare in the New Testament when the modier is
an adjective, but more common when the modier is a phrase.
18
There are a few words such as ac,. autc,. and cutc, that do not use a case ending
for the nominative and accusative singular neuter, and therefore the bare stem stands
alone (cf. the article). They are a-1a(2b) adjectives; their full paradigm is in the Appen-
dix.
19
The stem of this word changes quite signicantly. It is fully explained in chapter 13. It
is an a-1a(2b) adjective; its full paradigm is in the Appendix.