Byzantine Greek: ἀλλὰ τῷ ὕψει τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν σου

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metaphrastes

Senior Member
Portuguese - Portugal
Dear friends:

to give more context, the full sentence is "ἀλλὰ τῷ ὕψει τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν σου, συντήρησον Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός, πρεσβείαις τῆς Θεοτόκου, καὶ ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς", and it is part of the Hypakoe for the Feast of the Theophany as it appears in the Greek Menaion for January 6.


  • [li]For more context, the full hymn is as follows: Ὅτε τῇ Ἐπιφανείᾳ σου ἐφώτισας τὰ σύμπαντα, τότε ἡ ἁλμυρὰ τῆς ἀπιστίας θάλασσα ἔφυγε, καὶ ὁ Ἰορδάνης κάτω ῥέων ἐστράφη, πρὸς οὐρανὸν ἀνυψῶν ἡμᾶς, ἀλλὰ τῷ ὕψει τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν σου, συντήρησον Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός, πρεσβείαις τῆς Θεοτόκου, καὶ ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς.[/li]
    [li][/li]

My doubt is about the power of the dative in τῷ ὕψει τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν σου, and that depends from the meaning attributed to the postponed Imperative verb συντηρέω (συντήρησον). It seems me that the object of the verb is ἡμᾶς, right at the end of the hymn, due to the parallelism: both ἐλέησον and συντήρησον are in exactly the same tense and mood, Aorist Imperative, Active voice, 2nd person, singular.

There are, broadly speaking, two sense of συντηρέω that might be considered: 1. keeping, preserving, maintaining, watching over, protecting (us); or 2. observing strictly (the divine commandments, mentioned elsewhere).

Syntactically, only the first broad meaning seems to make sense, if I did not loose any relevant possibility.

Now (as regards the power of the dative), translating "protect/keep/watch us to Thy divine commandments" doesn't make sense, logically.

The instrumental sense of dative makes some more sense: "protect/keep/watch us by, by means of Thy divine commandments". However, logically, it does not hold too much water, for the divine commandments are to be actively followed and practiced by men in order to acquire grace from God, and are not active means by which God saves us, once they are already revealed to us.

That brings the question whether this dative might be understood in a (metaphorical) locative sense, like "keep/preserve us in Thy divine commandments". This last one seems me to make more sense, logically, but I am not sure how much the text grammar might support this interpretation.

Thank you for any insight, and please have a blessed and happy new year of 2021.
 
  • metaphrastes

    Senior Member
    Portuguese - Portugal
    Could it mean ''by virtue of your divine orders/powers''? I think that the ''10 commandments'' wouldn't make sense here. In any case, please wait for natives' opinions.
    Bearded, thank you for the insight.

    A few translations I have consulted understand them as commandments, and they might well be understood in a broad sense regarding Christ's commandments in the New Covenant, as taught in the Mountain Sermon (Matthew 5 and 6), or His new commandment of love ("that you love one another"), or His two main commandments which synthesize all law (love of God and of neighbor).

    (interestingly enough, they don't have a clear solution for συντερέω + dative, even omitting the verb at all in two cases)

    In any case, the logical difficulty lies that in the Christian ethos the law or the commandments and ordinances are not ends in themselves, but are instrumental towards a higher end. The complex structure of the long sentence makes hard to know what is the force of the dative and to what does it refer.
     
    My doubt is about the power of the dative in τῷ ὕψει τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν σου
    Happy new year.

    τῷ ὕψει=local dative (metaphorically, an attribute to θείων ἐντολῶν)

    Places= σύμπαντα (universe; up and down), θάλασσα (sea), Ἰορδάνης (Iordanes; down) vs οὐρανόν (heaven; up)
    Verbs= ἐφώτισας (you illuminated); ἔφυγε (metaphorically, went away); ἐστράφη (turned to); ἀνυψῶν (elevating)

    Meaning:
    When with your epiphany you illuminated the universe (so we were able to see, understand, perceive)
    the salty sea of faithlessness went away (the immensity of unbelief);
    Iordanes which flows downwards (into which we have chosen to be baptised),
    turned towards heaven (upwards)
    elevating us (raising us high above);
    and from then on with your divine commandments of the highest status
    Christos god preserve us
    through the intercession of theotokos,
    and have mercy on us (since we, strengthened by your power, live with them).

    In short:
    Christos Iesus has revealed to us clearly what we could not see, and we made our free choice. Stay downwards or go upwards.
    For whom made the later applies:
    I recommend you before god .. to keep the commandment spotless and blameless until the epiphany of our Lord Iesus Christos. (1Tim 6:13-14).
    The first epiphany guarantees the next to come.
     
    Last edited:

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Hi,
    ἐλέησον and συντήρησον are in exactly the same tense and mood, Aorist Imperative
    Imperative in the form, but expressing a plea in fact.

    Please, have in mind that:

    The religious texts-psalms (written, of course, in the Hellenistic Koine, even before the Byzantine Times, and intended to be sung) have many times been handed down with a number of misspellings and a large number of commas which unjustifiably split the sentences and in normal writing wouldn’t have any place within these texts.

    In the phrase in question, the dative ὕψει, because of the preceding article τῷ could not be considered as denoting “place”, according to the classical syntax, unless the preposition ἐν was placed before it, i.e. ἐν τῷ ὕψει. In this case, a possible translation would be: Κeep us, Thou Christ our God, at the level (height) of Thy divine commandments (i.e. make us capable of observing Thy divine commandments), (and) by the intercession of Theotokos (=our Lady), save us.

    Otherwise, τῷ ὕψει should be considered as dative denoting “the means”, by which something can be attained. In this case, the word ὕψος might be considered as having the metaphorical meaning of “highest importance” and another, literal, translation would be: by the highest importance of Thy divine commandments (or else, by Thy divine commandments of highest importance), Thou Christ Our God, protect us, (and) by the intercession of Theotokos (=our Lady), save us.

    Most versions of the text have σῶσον (=save) as the final verb, while others have ἐλέησον (=have mercy on).

    Happy New Year!
     
    unless the preposition ἐν was placed before it, i.e. ἐν τῷ ὕψει.
    τῷ ὕψει=local dative (metaphorically, an attribute to θείων ἐντολῶν)
    Hi.

    No ἐν:
    καὶ εὐλόγησε τὸν Ἄβραμ καὶ εἶπεν· εὐλογημένος Ἄβραμ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ, ὃς ἔκτισε τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν. (Gen. 14,19.)
    • τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ (=an attribute), i.e τὸν ὕψιστο θεό (the highest god, no ἐν here.)

    With ἐν:
    εὐλογημένη ἡ ἐρχομένη βασιλεία ἐν ὀνόματι Κυρίου τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Δαυΐδ· ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις. (Ev. Marc. 11,10)
    • ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις (=an attribute to god), i.e. στὸν ὕψιστο (to the highest or the higest, ἐν here)
    • ὡσαννὰ (hōsanná) ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις, Glory to the highest or Long live the highest.

    Nevertheless the meaning in any case is that his commandments deserve our submissiveness, and we need Christos and his revelation to adhere to them.
     

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Hi,
    τῷ ὕψει=local dative (metaphorically, an attribute to θείων ἐντολῶν)
    τῷ ὕψει, as written without ἐν, I‘m afraid is not a dative “of place” and is not an attribute to θείων ἐντολῶν. On the contrary, speaking according to Greek syntax τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν is a modifier in genitive to the noun τῷ ὕψει.

    I guess that by quoting the excerpt phrases from Genesis and the Gospel of Mark, you wanted to show when the preposition ἐν is needed and when it is not. But, please, give a better look at the following and probably you will agree: In εὐλογημένος Ἄβραμ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ (=blessed Abraham by the Highest God) the adjective τῷ ὑψίστῳ is clearly an attributive (in dative) to the noun τῷ Θεῷ, which is in dative as agentive of the participle εὐλογημένος (alternatively, τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ could have been written as “ὑπό τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου”. Consequently, the preposition ἐν hasn’t anything to do here with the adjective τῷ ὑψίστῳ and nobody claimed it does.

    In ὡσαννὰ ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις the phrase ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις is not an attribute/attributive to the noun Θεός (besides, it couldn’t be, as τοῖς ὑψίστοις is dative plural), but to the implicit noun οὐρανοῖς (dative plural). Therefore, the preposition ἐν is needed here, because here we have an adverbial “of place”, i.e. ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις οὐρανοῖς, the whole phrase implicitly being “ὡσαννὰ (τῷ Θεῷ, τῷ) ἐν τοῖς ὑψίστοις (οὐρανοῖς)”, that is “Glory to God in the highest (skies)” (See also L. Gloria in excelsis [coelis] Deo / F. Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des cieux / G. Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe / I. Gloria a Dio nell' alto dei cieli)

    Regarding the meaning of the whole hymn above, you described sufficiently what the Christians are expected to do in regard with the divine commandments.
     
    Last edited:

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    Was that a normal feature in Byzantine Greek?
    Byzantine Greek isn't homogeneous, of course, but the agent of a passive verb in the perfect tenses was often expressed by a bare dative, a construction that was standard in the classical language, e.g., ‹ὡς καὶ πρότερόν μοι δεδήλωται› ‘as has earlier been shown by me’, rather than the otherwise more common ὑπό + gen. This applies likewise to participles, whence εὐλογημένος τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ.
     
    The instrumental sense of dative makes some more sense: "protect/keep/watch us by, by means of Thy divine commandments". However, logically, it does not hold too much water, for the divine commandments are to be actively followed and practiced by men in order to acquire grace from God, and are not active means by which God saves us, once they are already revealed to us.
    That brings the question whether this dative might be understood in a (metaphorical) locative sense, like "keep/preserve us in Thy divine commandments". This last one seems me to make more sense, logically, but I am not sure how much the text grammar might support this interpretation.
    Hello again.

    Looking up the word συντηρέω¹ (=to preserve together; Middle Liddell,) it seems to me to be the key answer to your question about what proposition should be used before thy divine commandments.

    Based on my previous post in this thread, a translation of this clause could be:
    .. and from then on² with your divine commandments of the highest status³, Christos god preserve us together...

    In preserving us together he ensures the unity among the believers, and their bond with Christos; please consider that without keeping his divine commandments there is no unity between them i.e. the body of Christos. This is common sense even for earthly societies.

    Consequently, the instrumental dative with (by, by means of) your divine commandments makes sense because his divine commandments are 'instruments' of unity among his believers who live by σπουδάζοντες τηρεῖν τὴν ἑνότητα τοῦ Πνεύματος ἐν τῷ συνδέσμῳ τῆς εἰρήνης.(=being earnest in keeping the unity of the spirit with the bond of piece; Ep. Eph. 4,3.)

    Nevertheless, his divine commandments, in the light of his preservation and mercy, may keep us τῷ ὕψει³ on the highest status that Christos has made worthy of. Please note that the angels, in Ep. Jude 6, who hadn't kept their status, but deserted their proper place, he (Christos) is keeping them under darkness by everlasting bonds for the judgement of the great day.

    How is it that so few words can be so rich in meaning?!
    ___________
    ¹ συν+τηρέω; like συν+οικῶ (=live together.)
    ² from then on; the after "πρὸς οὐρανὸν ἀνυψῶν(=elevating) ἡμᾶς" time component of the local dative τῷ ὕψει.
    ³ τῷ ὕψει; this highest status is metaphorically the place component of the local dative. In modern Greek there is an expression which conveys exactly the same meaning: Νά σταθεῖς στὸ ὕψος σου (literally, Stand at your height. i.e. Do not compromise your standards.)

    Thank you for your thread.
     

    bearded

    Senior Member
    Radagasty and Perseas (#9+10), thank you for your replies.
    I was/am aware of the usage of dative as 'agent' of a passive verb in Classical Greek. My question only concerned the issue, whether also in Byzantine Greek it could be used in the same way (as 'agent' of a passive verb). Based on your replies, I would conclude that it could.
    The border between 'instrumental dative' (neszar) and 'dative of agent' (radagasty) is a very thin/subtle one. The English preposition ''by'' can express both.
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    My question only concerned the issue, whether also in Byzantine Greek it could be used in the same way (as 'agent' of a passive verb).
    This is always a tricky question, because, as I noted earlier, the ‘Byzantine’ language is far from uniform. And because of a pervasive Atticising proclivity among certain authors, almost any classical usage could be licit in Byzantine Greek. Nevertheless, certain tendencies can be distinguished with respect the dative of agent with passives in the perfect tenses, and it seems fairly clear that its use becomes more restricted over the course of time.

    It has been suggested that the perfect tenses arose in PIE originally as statives and therefore not admitting properly of an agent, and that the so-called ‘dative of agent’ was no more than an ethic dative. By classical times, however, dynamic perfects had developed, whose agent is the passive were expressed either by a bare dative, now properly a ‘dative of agent’ or indeed, even the normal ὑπό + gen. construction, which was altogether excluded when the perfects were stative.

    The general tendency is for the dative to be used when the agent is inanimate or a pronoun, and it is rarely used with participles, a tendency which gets more pronounced, IMHO, as we move through the Hellenistic period into the Byzantine, as the use of the dative of agent becomes more restricted. It must be noted here that a concomitant growth in the use of perfect active of transitive verbs, rarer in the classical language, which encroaches on the domain of the perfect passive with an agent. Instead of the classical ‹μοι δεδήλωται›, the simpler ‹δεδήλωκα› becomes more common, doing away with the need for the dative of agent.

    Turning now to the specific example at hand—εὐλογημένος Ἄβραμ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ—I would say that this is only an apparent example of the classical Greek dative of agent with a verb in the perfect passive. Yes, εὐλογημένος is a perfect passive, and yes, τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ does express the agent in the dative case, but, as I noted above, the dative of agent tends be used when the agent is a inanimate or a pronoun—here it is neither—and is moreover rare with a participle, as is the case here. «Εὐλογημένος Ἄβραμ ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ὑψίστου» would be much more natural.

    IMHO, the dative ‹τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ› is better explained as a calque-translation of the Hebrew original, which reads «בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון», whereby Hebrew syntax is mechanically transferred into the Greek, even at the expense of Greek idiom, which, in the Septuagint, is the rule rather than the exception. Thus, the passive participle בָּרוּךְ is rendered by its Greek equivalent εὐλογημένος, and ‹אֵל עֶלְיֹון›, which in Hebrew is governed by the preposition לְ ‘to’, is rendered simply as a bare dative, which is a standard transformation in the LXX. In other words, the dative ‹τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ› reflects the Hebrew prepositional phrase ‹לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון›, and only coïncidentally looks like a dative of agent.
     

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    IMHO, the dative ‹τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ› is better explained as a calque-translation of the Hebrew original, which reads «בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון», whereby Hebrew syntax is mechanically transferred into the Greek, even at the expense of Greek idiom, which, in the Septuagint, is the rule rather than the exception. Thus, the passive participle בָּרוּךְ is rendered by its Greek equivalent εὐλογημένος, and ‹אֵל עֶלְיֹון›, which in Hebrew is governed by the preposition לְ ‘to’, is rendered simply as a bare dative, which is a standard transformation in the LXX. In other words, the dative ‹τῷ Θεῷ τῷ ὑψίστῳ› reflects the Hebrew prepositional phrase ‹לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון›, and only coïncidentally looks like a dative of agent.
    Very, very interesting information. As the Google translator can’t, of course, give a reliable translation, I wonder whether you, if a Hebrew language expert, could provide a more accurate (or even literal) translation of the whole Hebrew phrase «בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון»,; by which “preposition” or "means" is the agent God in this Hebrew phrase expressed, taking into account that the Hebrew preposition לְ means ‘to’ and not ‘by’, while the English translations (based on the Septuagint directly or through the Latin translation) have either 'of' (e.g. King James Version [Blessed be Abram of the most high God]) or 'by' (e.g. the English Standard Version [Blessed be Abram by God Most High])? Or can of function as ‘by’ as in the K.J.V.?

    Thank you.
     
    τῷ ὕψει, as written without ἐν, I‘m afraid is not a dative “of place” and is not an attribute to θείων ἐντολῶν. On the contrary, speaking according to Greek syntax τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν is a modifier in genitive to the noun τῷ ὕψει.
    Εὐτυχισμένο καὶ μὲ λιγότερες δοκιμασίες τὸ νέο ἔτος.

    ".. ἀλλὰ τῷ ὕψει θείων ἐντολῶν σου.."

    ἀλλὰ= but; is used to connect ideas that contrast (dictionary.cambridge.org); i.e. opposite ideas expressing op-position (from ob+ponere,) within the former and the latter state in this context.

    τῶν θείων= adjective in plural because the ἐντολῶν(=commandments) is in plural; i.e coming from god or divine, and definitely not "from many gods" because is in plural as many novices would suggest.

    τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν= ablative case; i.e. the case from which something starts; hence it is a modifier indeed, but to the previous state in which obedience was toward human commandments, and from now on toward the divine ones.

    Accounting for the loosen grammatical structure nature of hymns and for the better understanding of this clause, i am suggesting to invert the words: ἀλλὰ τῶν θείων ἐντολῶν σου τῷ ὕψει.

    For the rest, please consider of looking at my previous posts in this thread through the prism of the present one.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify my answer furthermore.

    PS: I would suggest to anyone first to take in consideration a particular text in context within its section for better concept impression, and then engage oneself in its interpretation. After that, translation’s accuracy would be profited the uttermost.
    The section of this hymn is the Christian feast of theophany and its historical origin.
     

    radagasty

    Senior Member
    Australia, Cantonese
    I wonder whether you, if a Hebrew language expert, could provide a more accurate (or even literal) translation of the whole Hebrew phrase «בָּרוּךְ אַבְרָם לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון»,; by which “preposition” or "means" is the agent God in this Hebrew phrase expressed, taking into account that the Hebrew preposition לְ means ‘to’ and not ‘by’, while the English translations (based on the Septuagint directly or through the Latin translation) have either 'of' (e.g. King James Version [Blessed be Abram of the most high God]) or 'by' (e.g. the English Standard Version [Blessed be Abram by God Most High])? Or can of function as ‘by’ as in the K.J.V.?
    By no means do I claim to be an expert on the Hebrew language, but this sentence is simple enough, with just four words:
    בָּרוּךְ passive participle from √ברך masc. sing. ‘blessed’
    אַבְרָם proper noun ‘Abram’
    לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון preposition לְ ‘to’ + noun אֵל status constructus ‘god of’ + noun עֶלְיֹון ‘most high’

    It is a nominal sentence, with the subject אַבְרָם and the predicate בָּרוּךְ ... לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון. The copula ‘to be’ היה must be supplied, its mood to be inferred from the context. Given that the verse began with «וַֽיְבָרְכֵ֖הוּ וַיֹּאמַ֑ר» “And he blessed him, and said:”, it seems quite clear that it should be jussive: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High”.

    The tricky part of this is what to make of לְ in the prepositional phrase ‹לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון›. This preposition has the basic meaning ‘to’, and has a wide variety of uses, overlapping considerably with the dative case in Indo-European languages, so much so that the Septuagint often blindly renders it as a dative, regardless of whether that is the best translation in Greek. Inter alia, לְ in Hebrew indicates the indirect object, the direction/destination with verbs of motion, benefit/harm (dativus in/commodi), possession (dativus possessivus), and most vaguely, relation.

    It is this last use of the preposition that is found in ‹לְאֵל עֶלְיֹון›, at least according to the standard explanation. Joüon-Muraoka [§132f], for instance, states: “ל of relation (in relation to) is used with a passive verb to indicate to whom, as its author, the action relates: e.g., in the common phrase בָּרוּךְ ליהוה blessed (by an act which relates) to YHWH = blessed by Y.” The problem is that this is a rather ad hoc explanation, because ל is not commonly used in Hebrew to indicate the agent of a passive verb—indeed, the passive voice is usually only used in Hebrew when the agent is not named—and, apart from its use with בָּרוּךְ ‘blessed’, there are few examples thereof.

    IMHO, “Blessed be Abram to God Most High.” is a translation at least as valid as “Blessed be Abram by God Most High.”, but the latter is standard, hingeing on this vaguely-defined use of ל to indicate ‘relation’. The KJV’s “Blessed of God” seems no less valid, either, since ‘of’ in English can indicate a variety of relationships, even one of possession, ‘belonging to God’, which is another of the uses of the preposition ל in Hebrew.
     
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