Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Basal significance of time? ... Wha ...

Kar Yong has reminded me about the genitive of time. I told him I have a faint memory of it either having discussed over it during bible study some years back or more likely during Greek class back in 2004, because had it been during the bible study, I would have remembered it quite well since the bible study I attended previously was serious business and at times we'd have it run pass 11.00pm!

I have just given myself a revision as to what genitive of time is, in Daniel B. Wallace's Greek Beyond the Basics (Zondervan, 1996, p.122-124). According to Wallace, "the genitive substantive indicates the kind of time, or time within which the word to which it stands related takes place." It is to "relate the genitive back to its basal significance," - of quality, attribute, description, or kind.

In the next 3 chapters, he basically repeats what he just said. I have no idea why he did that.

Let me try to understand this:

John 3:2 reads, 'this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.''' (NASB)

If it had not been a genitive, John would have meant that Nicodemus came in the night at such and such a time to see Jesus: it is more like "by the way, he came at night." It would not have made a difference if John hadn't mentioned that he came in the night, what matters was that Nicodemus came.

But because it is a genitive, it emphasize the kind of time that Nicodemus came, and the kind of time here happens to be at night, not morning or afternoon or evening, but in the dark of night. Not only did Nicodemus came, he specifically came in the night.

Interesting, Greek.



  1. Bingo! You've nailed it.

    It's amazing how a little knowledge of Greek can go so far in understanding and unpacking the text.

    It is unfortunate that this insight would be missed if one is to read the English translations.

  2. English speaking people are less complicated! but less richer as a result. How was it translated in Chinese? And how would a more dynamic translation sound then?

    this man came to Jesus deliberately in night?

  3. In the name of Jesus, yes, we are believing Oksana is home for good!!! Thanks for asking :o) God answers prayer!

  4. yup, or something like this...the fact that it was night that this man came to see Jesus.

    Not so sure about chinese know my chinese lah...

  5. What does it mean that I am 12 hours away from you?

  6. Kar Yong,
    you know my chinese lah...

    errr ... I don't lar ... Haven't heard you speaking it at all ... this weekend, if I see you, we must communicate in Mandarin then! With my 10% efficiency, that is.

  7. Julia,
    Then the Greek will be not be a genitive one, unless I specifically stayed into the night so that I can catch you while you are up :) - then I'll use the genitive night in my case and genitive day in yours! Coz it goes to the kind of time.

  8. Susan,
    I am so happy for you all! Marc would certainly be more than delighted.