Beatitudines aliae, part 5


ϛʹ. Μακάριος ὁ | ἔχων | ἐν νῷ | τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν μέλλουσαν τὴν φοβερὰν | καὶ σπουδάσας ἰάσασθαι | ἐν δάκρυσι τὰ τραύματα τῆς ψυχῆς αὑτοῦ. (VI.  Beatus, qui mente versat formidabilem illam futuri judicii diem, & qui lacrymis vulnera animae suae curare studet.)

A slight change at the front: ὁ rather than ὃς, reflecting the fact that it is followed by a vowel.  But we still have “Blessed [is he] who” plus verb plus something it does.  We’re back to a participle, tho – “having” or better “keeping” – and then “ἐν νῷ”, “in mind”.

Then a bunch of accusatives with the definite article in between, as normal. The noun “τὴν ἡμέραν” = “the day”, its adjective “φοβερὰν” = “fearful”, and a present active participle in the same tense, number and gender, μέλλουσαν which might be given as “forthcoming”.  So: “Blessed [is he] who, keeping in mind the dreadful forthcoming day [of judgement]”?

Then into the main clause.  The word order that follows is the same as for English.  First a verb plus an infinitive: σπουδάσας is an aorist participle, active, masculine, nominative singular, “having been earnest”.  ἰάσασθαι is an aorist infinitive – presumably aorist in order to agree with σπουδάσας –  which means “to heal”. So: “and having been in earnest to heal”.

Then “ἐν δάκρυσι” the latter dative plural, so meaning “in tears”; “τὰ τραύματα”, accusative, so the object of the verbs, meaning “the wounds”.  Which wounds? Three words in the genetive singular follow: “τῆς ψυχῆς αὑτοῦ”, “of his soul”, understanding “psyche” as “soul”, as Traversari does.

But we have a problem.  There is actually no main verb.  Both clauses have an aorist participle as their verb.  This we would usually translate with an English simple past, but the aorist is not that simple. As one writer offers: “But when the aorist participle is related to an aorist main verb, the participle will often be contemporaneous (or simultaneous) to the action of the main verb” (but if the main verb is a present, the aorist will be a past tense).[1]

Traversari wimps out and renders both verbs as active present – “Blessed is he who keeps in mind … and is in earnest…”.  But that won’t do.

Morwood  tells us that the aorist is really about a single event, rather than about time.  Something happened.  The aorist indicative and its participles may place that event in the past, but even that is not always the case.[2]

I am not clear how to resolve this, so perhaps there is not alternative but to bodge it.  Doing so produces interesting effects.  If we try to insert a main verb somewhere, like “is”, it has to go in the first clause, and then the second clause must go into the present also: “Blessed is he who is keeping in mind xxx and has been in earnest to yyy”.  In fact I find that the second clause must be modified to an indicative, do what you will.  So perhaps this?

Blessed [is he] who has kept in mind the dreadful forthcoming day [of judgement], and has been in earnest to heal in tears the wounds of his soul.

Let me finish with a postscript.  While looking vainly for help on the two aorists, I encountered a most interesting looking book on sentence analysis, by none other than the excellent Eleanor Dickey, author of an essential book on Greek scholarship and scholia.  It is An Introduction to the Composition and Analysis of Greek Prose, Cambridge 2016.  There is a preview here.  Sadly the book is neither online, nor sold at a price that a man can afford.  Which is a pity.  Worth a look, if you can access it.

  1. [1]Daniel B. Wallace, The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar, Preview, or here, p.624.  The phrase is quoted by other writers, so clearly struck a chord.
  2. [2]Morwood, Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek, p.61.  Forms other than the aorist indicative and its participles convey no information on the time of the event.

7 thoughts on “Beatitudines aliae, part 5

  1. Actually there is no problem with the verb, because ὁ is not the relative pronoun but the masculine article, accompanying the participles: ὁ ἔχων = ὃς ἔχει, meaning “Blessed is he-who-has…”. See Morwood pp. 123 and 138 on the use of participles with articles; or compare Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν.

  2. Again the sentiment and vocabulary is frequent in the hymnody. ἰάσασθαι is from ιαομαι which in the aorist seems always to have a passive meaning. σπουδαζω often means to hurry or hasten, or be eager to do something. So I would translate: Blessed is the one who keeps the coming fearful day (of judgement) in mind, and with tears has been eager that the wounds of his soul be healed, i.e. ready with his tears to hasten the healing …..
    (Apologies for the lack of diacritics.)

  3. Further comment from a kind correspondent:

    ϛʹ. Μακάριος ὁ | ἔχων | ἐν νῷ | τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν μέλλουσαν τὴν φοβερὰν | καὶ σπουδάσας ἰάσασθαι | ἐν δάκρυσι τὰ τραύματα τῆς ψυχῆς αὑτοῦ.

    ϛʹ. Μακάριος – ὁ ἔχων ἐν νῷ – τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν μέλλουσαν τὴν φοβερὰν – καὶ (ὁ) σπουδάσας ἰάσασθαι – τὰ τραύματα τῆς ψυχῆς αὑτοῦ ἐν δάκρυσι

    Blessed (is) – he who has/keeps in mind – the terrible future day – and who hastens to heal – the wounds of his soul in tears.


    ὁ = article, masculine “the”

    ὃς = masculine = “he who” —-> the abbreviated/suppressed form of “αυτός ὁ οποίος”

    the word “σπουδάσας” is also masculine, confirming the masculine “ἔχων” and the “της ψυχῆς αὑτοῦ”

    If the sentence pertained to a woman, the respective words would be :

    “Μακαρία η έχουσα εν νω τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν μέλλουσαν τὴν φοβερὰν και η σπουδάσασα ιάσασθαι τα τραύματα της ψυχής αυτής εν δάκρυσι.

    Why the preference to “hastens” and not “studies” ?

    Well, a person who wants to heal the wounds of his soul in tears – not knowing when the coming, terrible day of judgment day will be upon us – is more likely to hasten rather than leisurely study how to heal those “wounds of his soul” (=sins)

  4. Do please bear in mind that thinking that the aorist (except in the indicative) must be a past tense is a classic exegetical fallacy.

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