New Testament Greek Syntax
The Genitive Case
The genitive primarily functions adjectivally to limit (restrict, see Louw Linguistic Theory) a substantive by describing, defining or qualifying / modifying it. The genitive also sometimes functions to express the idea of separation, point of departure, source, origin (ie. the ablative use).
In the NT the adjectival use of the genitive is dominant since it is common to Hebrew construction.
1. Adjectival Genitive
A substantive genitive functioning as an emphatic adjective limiting a connecting substantive by describing, defining or qualifying it.
This is the primary, if not essential, function of the genitive in NT Greek
In general terms the genitive serves to limit the substantive by describing it.
a) Attributive (Quality, Hebrew)
Functioning as an attributive adjective reflecting the Semitic use of the genitive
Supplying a specific attribute, or innate quality, present in the substantive it seeks to limit
The UNJUST steward
oJ oikonomoV thV adikiaV
A reversal of the usual attributive function of the genitive - possibly not so rare
The lead noun, rather than the genitive noun, functions as the attributive adjective
Often used for emphasis
we should walk in newness OF LIFE
we should walk in new LIFE
hJmeiV en kainothti zwhV peripathswmen
Objective genitives are sometimes better treated as an attributed genitive
oJ emplokh tricwn
the braiding OF HAIR - objective genitive
braided HAIR - attributed genitive
c) Idiomatic (aporetic)
This classification of the descriptive genitive covers the many idiomatic uses of the adjectival genitive.
The more easily defined are as follows:
etoimasate thn oJdon kuriou
prepare the way OF LORD
prepare the way FOR THE LORD TO TRAVEL
Describing where the substantive is heading - destination, direction, purpose
Translate: supply (often) "destined for"
we were children OF (destined for) WRATH
hmeqa tekna fusei orghV
Describing subordination of the genitive to the substantive
Translate: replace "of" with "over"
the ruler OF [over] DEMONS
tw/ arconti twn damioniwn
Describing the material out of which the substantive is made
Translate: "made out of / consisting of"
a herd (consisting) OF SWINE
Describing the content of the substantive
Translate: "full of / containing"
to diktuon twn icquwn
The net (full) OF FISH
Identifying a location
apo Kana thV GalilaiaV
from Cana OF (which is located in) GALILEE
Defining the name or title of something, or someplace
Translate: "which is called / known as / in the region of"
to Zarepath (which is in the region) OF SIDON
eiV Sarepata thV SidwniaV
paths OF (which lead to) LIFE
Producer / Product
to leloV thV pistewV
the end / outcome (which is the product) OF FAITH
wnhsato Abraam timhV arguriou
Abraham bought OF (for a certain) AMOUNT OF SILVER
With a word of time the genitive tends to explain what occurred at that time
you did not know the time OF VISITATION
you did not know the time when God VISITED you
ouk egnwV ton kairon thV episkophV
A genitive of definition serves to limit a substantive by defining, or explaining it.
Sometimes classified as either appositional, or epexegetic, the differences of which are somewhat blurred.
With this genitive the connecting substantive is limited by either:
defining it (appositional),
or explaining, specifying or clarifying it (epexegetic).
Translation: = "namely, that is, which is, consisting of, ..."
The sign OF CIRCUMCISION
The sign namely / that is / which is CIRCUMCISION
he is the head of the body OF THE CHURCH
he is the head of the body which is / consists of THE CHURCH
autoV estin hJ kefalh tou swmatoV, thV ekklhsiaV
iii] Qualifying / Modifying
Here the genitive serves to qualify / modify and thus limit the substantive
Identifying possession of
a dependent status or
a derivative characteristic - characterized by
all things are YOURS
panta uJmwn estin
Describing some marital, genital or social relationship with the substantive
The person doing the relating must be supplied
Simon (son) OF JOHN
c) Partitive / Wholative
Identifying the whole of which the substantive is a part of, or all of
Often found after verbs "to taste / touch / partake" as only part of the object is acted on by the verb
ek + gen. produces a similar partitive translation
Often following tiV, ekastoV
the poor OF THE SAINTS
the poor forming a particular part of the saints
touV ptwcouV twn aJgiwn
Two words in a vague general genitive relationship
Best translated with a hyphen
from WORKS OF LAW = from LAW-WORKS
ex ergwn nomou
2. Ablative Genitive**
Indicating separation, either static or movement from, or comparison with
Koine Greek was in the process of replacing this use by the addition of a preposition + gen.
Identifying separation of the genitive substantive from a verb or noun
Translate: supply "out of, away from, from"
Koine replacement: apo, ek, pro + gen.
he has ceased FROM [doing] SIN
Identifying comparison, by drawing a comparison with something else
Usually after a comparative adjective
Translate: supply "than"
you are of more value THAN MANY SPARROWS
pollwn strouqiwn diaferete
iii] Source (Origin / Author, Agent)
Identifying the source from which the noun originates
Translate: supply "out of, derived from, dependent on"
Koine replacement: apo, ek, kata, para + gen.
you are a letter FROM CHRIST
este epistolh Cristou
The righteousness OF FAITH (that springs from faith?)
3. Verbal Genitive
The genitive substantive may sometimes function as the subject or object of a noun of action (a verbal noun).
This construction now has its critics such that weight should be given to an adjectival / limiting use of the genitive.
Some important interpretations rest on this classification, particularly when the classification is objective, eg.:
dia pistewV Ihsou Cristou, Gal.2:16
Objective genitive = a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith IN JESUS CHRIST
Adjectival genitive = a person is justified not by works of the law but by the faithfulness OF JESUS CHRIST
Examples of verbal nouns: orgh, agaph, dehsiV....
i] Subjective genitive (Active genitive)
Where the genitive substantive produces the action implied by the verbal noun
Often this genitive can be classified as adjectival, possessive.
ton plaion anqrwpon sun taiV praxesin autou
you have put off the old self with ITS practices / the practices OF IT
Possessive: you have put off the old self with the practices THAT CHARACTERIZED IT
Subjective: you have put off the old self with the practices THAT EXPRESSED IT
ii] Objective genitive
Where the genitive substantive receives the action implied by the verbal noun
Usually expressed by about / for / concerning / toward placed before the genitive
the report OF HIM
the report CONCERNING / ABOUT HIM
hJ akoh autou
Consider attributed or source/origin instead
because of the fear OF THE JEWS (stemming from the activities of the Jews)
dia ton fobon twn Ioudaiwn
* Sometimes both ideas are present = Plenary or Full Genitive.
Moulton argues that the interpretation of these genitives is more a matter of exegesis than grammar, the final arbiter being the context
the love OF CHRIST constrains us
hJ gar agaph Cristou suecei hJmaV
Subjective: Christ produces the action of the verbal noun "love"
the love which Christ feels for us, cf. Gal.2:20
Objective: Christ receives the action of the verbal noun "love"
the love which we feel for Christ
An adjectival genitive, possessive / relational, may better explain the verse
The love which belongs to / characterizes the person of Christ constrains us
4. Adverbial Genitive
A genitive substantive that functions in the same way as an adverb, as such it modifies a verb rather than a substantive
Expressing the kind of time within which an action takes place, or one kind of time as opposed to another.
Translate: supply "during, at, within"
Ablative form, therefore being replaced by dia, epi, acri, eJwV + gen.
I fast twice DURING THE WEEK
nhsteuw diV tou sabbatou
ii] Measure (Quantity, Value or Price)
Expressing how much or how far. Rare
Translate: supply "for"
you were bought FOR A PRICE
iii] Space (Place)
Expressing the kind of place, one place as opposed to another place, rather than just locative (dative). Rare
Translate: supply "in, at, through"
Redundant, being replaced by dia, epi, kata + numerous adverbial prepositions
He was about to pass THROUGH THAT WAY
ekeinhV hmellen diercesqai
iv] Means (Instrumental)
Expressing the means by which an action is accomplished. Rare
Translate: supply "by, by means of"
death BY [means of] A CROSS
qanatou de staurou
Identifying the person (agent) by whom the action is accomplished. Rare
Translate: supply "by"
they shall all be taught BY GOD
esontai panteV didaktoi qeou
vi] Reference (Respect)
Defining the frame of reference of an adjective or substantive
Translate: supply "with reference to, with respect to, about, concerning"
Prepositions replacing this form: peri, uJper
The dative of reference is a more common form
a heart of evil WITH REFERENCE TO UNBELIEF
kardia ponhra apistiaV
Identifying with whom the noun associates
Translate: supply "with"
Preposition replacing this form: meta
The Instrumental Dative is a more common form, esp. sun + dat.
you are fellow-citizens WITH THE SAINTS
este sumpolitai twn aJgiwn
cf. BDF 166.
5. A genitive after certain verbs and adjectives
Genitives that don't properly fit the above categories, known as "genitives after certain words"
i] A genitive direct object after certain verbs
Verbs that take a genitive direct object instead of an accusative:
a) Partitive, separation; where the object is viewed in part, or separate from:
touch, share, seize, hold, take from, taste, eat ("partake") ...
he touched his TONGUE
hJyato thV glwsshV autou
b) Full, or filling, full of
c) Perception, sensation: hearing, smelling
For example, the verb akouw will often take a genitive of direct object.
hearing THE VOICE but seeing no one
akounteV men thV fwnhV mhdena de qewrounteV
d) A verb of want - emotion, volition: desire, bear with, reach, attain, obtain
he desires A NOBLE WORK
kalou ergou epiqumei
e) Ruling, excelling, suppressing, accusing
the kings of the Gentiles lord it OVER THEM
oiJ basileiV twn eqnwn kurieuousin autwn
f) Remember, forget
ii] A genitive complement after certain adjectives, nouns and adverbs
Adjectives, sometimes nouns and adverbs, take a genitive:
a) Fullness or want, worthiness or unworthiness, participation
full OF GRACE and TRUTH
plyrhV caritoV kai alhqeiaV
you will see greater things THAN THESE
meizw toutwn oyh/
6. Genitive Absolute
Genitive noun or pronoun + anarthrous gen. part. standing by themselves at the beginning of a sentence
Usually translated as a temporal clause but sometimes other adverbial clauses will suit
Dative and accusative forms. Rare
WHILE THEY WERE SPEAKING these things
touta de autwn lalountwn
** Included under the 5 Case system where the case is defined by form rather than function, as in the 8 Case system
*A less than common usage*
For Greek font requirements see Syntax Notes
A Commentary on the Greek New Testament Exegetical Notes