Beatitudines aliae, section 2

In the comments to my last post it was pointed out that the syntax of the sentence of Beatitudines aliae capita xx is poetic, rather than prose; and the word order is accordingly weird.

The first two “chapters” – or rather sentences – are both in a similar form.  The first clause consists of:

  1. Μακάριος ὃς (“Blessed is he who”), then:
  2. A verb in participle form, meaning “having been/done/hated/whatever”.  This expects an object, but the object is displaced to the end of the clause.  Instead:
  3. A verb or two in the simple indicative, past or present – I am avoiding too much jargin here – meaning “he does/feels/whatever”.
  4. The object.

So in section 1, we had “Blessed is he who, having hated | the human life, abandoned [it]”.  But “the human life” was at the end of the clause.

Section 2 is as follows.

β’. Μακάριος ὃς μισήσας βδελύσσεται τν κακίστην μαρτίαν, Θεν μόνον γαπήσας τν γαθν κα φιλάνθρωπον.

Modern Greek translation, printed by Phrantzolas:

2. Μακάριος αυτός πού μίσησε καί άποστρέφεται την απαίσια αμαρτία, επειδή αγάπησε μόνο τόν αγαθό καί φιλάνθρωπο Θεό.

Traversari’s Latin translation, printed by Assemani:

Beatus, qui odit ac detestatur pessimum peccatum, Deumque solum bonum atque hominum amatorem diligit.

This as before gives a general sense rather than an accurate one.

A kind correspondent pointed out last time that the syntax  of the first clause is in a poetic order, so needs to be rearranged for translation purposes.  We have

Μακάριος, ὃς | μισήσας βδελύσσεται | τν κακίστην μαρτίαν,

Blessed is he, who | having hated the worst sin | loathes [it].

Where βδελύσσεται (normal meaning = loathe) is the active verb (3rd person present indicative middle/passive), and the object is “τν κακίστην μαρτίαν”  (= the worst sin), which we must pull forward after the participle, μισήσας.

A mistake I made last time was in not checking Lampe’s Lexicon of Patristic Greek.  This pays dividends again, for on p.294 I find βδελλύσσομαι given as “abhor”, which is better than loathe.

So far so good.  Now the rest of the clause, which I read as:

Θεν μόνον | γαπήσας | τν γαθν κα φιλάνθρωπον

having loved | only God | [who is] good and loves mankind.

Here I move the aorist active singular masculine participle γαπήσας (“having loved”) to the front, as all the rest are in agreement with “God”.

But this is still not right, I think.  Clearly there is something about the syntax of the second clause that I don’t know, about that aorist participle.  It feels wrong.

Googling I find that an aorist participle should mean a past event, except where the main verb is also aorist, when it can mean a contemporary event.  (It can even mean a subsequent event, rarely! Aargh!)[1]  In our context, that does make sense.

Traversari cheerfully changes the participle into an indicative, and the aorist into the present tense.  He treats it as meaning “loves / values / esteems / aspires to”, which seems about right.  But even here “loving only God…” would be closer.

Putting it together, we get:

2. Blessed is he, who having hated the worst sin, abhors [it], loving only God [who is] good and loves mankind.

Is that right?  Criticisms welcomed below!

  1. [1]See Daniel B. Wallace, here: “The aorist participle, for example, usually denotes antecedent time to that of the controlling verb.[1] But if the main verb is also aorist, this participle may indicate contemporaneous time.[2]” References: “[1]  We are speaking here principally with reference to adverbial (or circumstantial) participles. [2]  Cf. Robertson, Grammar, 1112-13. From my cursory examination of the data, the aorist participle is more frequently contemporaneous in the epistles than in narrative literature. There is also such a thing as an aorist participle of subsequent action, though quite rare.”

8 thoughts on “Beatitudines aliae, section 2

  1. I like what you have done here, and the way you spell out your thinking step by step. These Beatitudes seem to be very carefully balanced – the negative renunciation leading to positive action.
    And such irony to begin with “Blessed … hated”- not what the ear expects.
    I work on translating Byzantine hymnody, so am used to poetic shifts of word order, and Lampe lies open on a separate desk….

  2. The hymnody is sung to one of the 8 Tones, so making the words fit the given tone is the primary determinant of word order. But I presume these Beatitudes are read, spoken, or chanted rather than sung, so it will be the emphases of the intended meaning that control word order – with the preference always for ending on a positive rather than negative note.

  3. Instead of “hated” it, I believe “committed” it makes sense. This fits with the “done” translation and gives the sense of repentance. Thus:

    2. Blessed is he, who having committed the worst sin, abhors [it], loving only God [who is] good and loves mankind.

  4. I don’t know Greek, but from your research the word can mean done or does. To me “did” the sin ie: committed it.
    “A verb in participle form, meaning “having been/done/hated/whatever”. This expects an object, but the object is displaced to the end of the clause. Instead:
    A verb or two in the simple indicative, past or present – I am avoiding too much jargin here – meaning “he does/feels/whatever”.”

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