Gamma Rho Kappa

Ancient Greek Honor Society



The Anatomy of a Research Paper: One Man’s Venture into a Comparative Study of Mark and Matthew – Jerry Breen

In this blog I would like to discuss my adventures of writing a research paper for an Advanced Greek class. Although this will detail a particular study concerning New Testament Greek, the basic pattern presented here may be experienced while writing any style of research paper, especially those that study original languages.

Stage 1: The Topic

            Every good research paper begins with a solid topic. That sounds easy enough: find a good topic and all will go swimmingly. The issues arise when you find a compelling question but you have no idea whether there has been any dialogue concerning the question you have discovered. For Advanced Greek, I had the good fortune of discussing my topic with the professor ahead of time. I wanted to do a comparative study of Mark and Matthew and he suggested that I study the verbs, infinitives, and participles in Mark 8:27–10:52 and their corresponding sections in Matthew. Easy enough.

Stage 2: A Deeper Analysis of the Topic

There are 385 verbs, participles, and infinitives in this section of Mark. Did I really tell the professor that I would do this paper?

Stage 3: Gathering Data

            Research papers built around study of original languages generally require a great deal of personal study with the original text (as opposed to primarily gathering other people’s opinions about the topic). This particular paper required that I identify all of the verbs, participles, and infinitives in Mark 8:27–10:52 and then compare them to corresponding passages in Matthew. Some passages did not have any corresponding passage and others appeared to have more than one. I had to decide whether certain passages in Matthew mirrored Mark enough to suit the study. I placed my information in a spreadsheet, and after 15-20 hours of analysis and 479 lines comparing verbs, participles, and infinitives, I had culled the data necessary to proceed. In addition to this study of the primary source, I also researched articles and books with relevant information that could assist my analysis of Greek verbs, participles, and infinitives.

Stage 4: Reassessing the Data

As I pored over passages again and again, I found verbs, participles, or infinitives that I had missed. My OCD kicked in and I found myself feverishly working through the data to ensure I had an exact analysis. Each foray into the passages, however, revealed slightly different results. I could feel my hair turning grey. Regardless, I formulated calculations based on the data and recorded percentages of various categories.

Stage 5: Panic

In addition to the realization that I probably would not arrive at perfection concerning the data, I experienced the sudden dread that now that I had invested nearly 20 hours into this topic and had no idea if this study would reveal any exegetically relevant findings. At this stage I was beyond the point of return. There was not enough time to choose a new topic (that would require planning that surpasses my particular skills). And so I pressed on and attempted find something, anything that might pass as original and plausible. This is where we as students become extremely close to God. We pray fervently and diligently that He will enlighten us with profound insights that will amaze our professors.

Stage 6: Hope

As I stared desperately at the calculations I had compiled from the data, I began to see patterns emerge. My analysis was not in vain; I discovered insights that I did not previously know. Is it possible that these are original insights?

Stage 7: Inclusion of Secondary Sources

            After consulting secondary sources I discovered that many of my findings were indeed original, or at least little mentioned. Would the professor deem my findings compelling? Will he read the paper? Either way, I knew I at least had enough information to write an acceptable paper. All was well.

Stage 8: Coherence

            In addition to finding original and (to me) compelling information, I was able to ask a key question (and provide a corresponding answer) for each type of analysis of the data that had been suggested by the professor.

My questions were:

  1. Lexical Question: If Matthew is drawing directly from Mark’s text, why does the author deviate from Mark’s choice of words so frequently?

Simple Answer: The two had different rhetorical goals.

  1. Modal Question: Why would Matthew convert these aorist subjunctives to future indicatives?

Simple Answer: Matthew followed the LXX and Mark followed conventional uses of his day, choosing aorist subjunctives (over present imperatives) to emphasize the simple event.

  1. Aspectual Question: Why would Matthew favor the more external, static aorist tense over the internal, dynamic action inherent in the imperfect tense?

Simple Answer: Matthew chose the aorist tense over both the present and imperfect for its static portrayal of events. In contrast to Mark’s longer, dynamic narratives, Matthew moved quickly through narratives and instead favored long discourses.

  1. Time Question: Why would Matthew reverse his own pattern of converting the present tense to aorist by converting the aorist tense to present?

Simple Answer: Who knows for sure? But they function to disrupt the discourse, perhaps to emphasize a new character, scene, or signal a turn in the conversation.

These questions became the basis for the paper and allowed me to present the statistics from the many hours of work I had enacted.

Stage 9: Victory

With my own work and the assistance of helpful secondary sources, the paper came together well. The inclusion of a title paper, colorful charts, and a bibliography put the finishing touches on a successful paper. I knew that I may not receive the paper back, but I had accomplished what I had set out to do: I had asked compelling questions and found somewhat plausible answers. And sometimes in this field of study, that is enough.

Prominence and Marked Constructions in Romans 1:16–Fredrick J. Long

Recently, I had the opportunity to teach a beginning Greek class and began by looking at Romans 1:16. To that point, the students had learned the alphabet, the Present Indicative endings, the article, a handful of conjunctions, first and second declension nouns, and the Present tense of εἰμί. In Rom 1:16, I was surprised by how much they were capable of recognizing in the verse. It was a fun way to begin class.

Here is the text with some coloring coding from a visual filter I created within Logos Bible Software (blue are adverbs, green conjunctions and particles, purple prepositions, and red non-Indicative moods—there are other colors not found in this verse).

Rom 1:16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι.

Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel; for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone that believes, both for the Jew first and for the Greek.

It is standard to understand that Rom 1:16 belongs to the thesis statement (1:16-17; however, I would maintain that the thesis extends from 1:14-17). Indeed, the verse encapsulates much of what Paul will argue in the following chapters. It centers on Paul’s positive affirmation of the Gospel, although his affirmation comes as a denial of any shame that he might have concerning it. By stating that he is not ashamed, he thereby implies that he is rather darn right proud of it. (The rhetorical figure used here is called litotes.) The next statement beginning with γάρ for indicates the reason why: because the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. The ideas expressed here are naturally prominent since they concern the core of what people in the Greco-Roman society longed for: power, connection to God (or gods), and salvation. A book that treats this is Ramsay MacMullen’s Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981).

Thus far, the Greek sentences have been fairly straightforward. However, the end of 1:16 explodes with emphatic and marked elements that pack quite a punch. First, the παντί “everyone” entails what I call quantitative emphasis that here stresses the inclusive scope of those potentially impacted by the salvific power of God in the Gospel. This inclusive scope of the reach of the Gospel re-affirms the Pentecostal event in Acts 2 and Peter’s quoting of Joel 2:28-29 there. But Paul is not yet finished. He could have stopped here and his message would have been clear. However, he provides additional specificity by using an appositional statement in which two ethnic recipients are specified: Jew and Greek. The construction of apposition thematically highlights these two groups. Why? Indeed, Paul prepares for his subsequent argument where these two groups reoccur explicitly several times in the next chapters (2:9-10; 3:9; also 10:12).

However, here in 1:16 we must also observe the adverbial modifier πρῶτον first, which also conveys quantitative emphasis in terms of sequential “ordering.” With this single adverb Paul encapsulates the story of salvation history in which God first revealed himself to Abraham and his descendants, but always with a view to blessing the nations. Then, Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah. However, Jesus is also the Messiah for the entire world, for everyone that believes. The παντί expressed that point as we have already seen. However, a further type of emphasis is seen in 1:16 with the use of τε … καὶ both … and. This pairing of particles signals a type of correlative emphasis with the τε marked for “+sameness,” not of identity but here of equality of opportunity (see Long, Koine Greek Grammar, 275). Although there was a historical sequence to God’s salvific plan––the “firstness” for the Jews––Paul affirmed in Rom 1:16 that there is now an inclusive scope––the “allness” that reaches broadly into the Greek speaking world. Indeed, 1:16 encapsulates quite succinctly what Paul argues in the rest of Romans.

An Ancient “Bless Your Heart” Insult – Kevin Southerland

(This post originally appeared on the author’s own blog site in a shorter form that had a more general audience in mind.)

“As long as you say, “Bless your heart,” you can say anything you want about them afterward.”
–Comedian whose name is not remembered (bless the author’s heart).

While it can be used to express sympathy for someone who has suffered some misfortune (e.g., “Your broke your leg? Bless your heart!”), “Bless your (or “his/her/their”) heart, . . .”  is often, especially in the southern US, an insult that is “softened,” typically followed by some statement as to the stupidity or wrongheadedness of the person whose heart is “blessed.” Typically, it is a statement that is trying to assert that, while “[your/her/his/their] heart is in the right place” (i.e., one is sincere in one’s motives or beliefs), the person is (sincerely!) wrong and/or thoughtless in his/her actions or application.

In Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, V.105.3  (which is an ancient account of the war between various Greek city-states led by rivals Athens and Sparta in 431-404 BCE), there is a speech of the Athenians to the inhabitants of the island of Melos, whom the Athenians wanted to defect from their alliance with Sparta. In the back and forth between the two groups, the Melosians declares that they are going to trust in the gods and in Sparta. The Athenians respond that they do not expect the gods to disfavor themselves. As far as the Melosians trusting in Sparta, they say the following: τῆς δὲ ἐς Λακεδαιμονίους δόξης, ἣν διὰ τὸ αἰσχρὸν δὴ βοηθήσειν ὑμῖν πιστεύετε αὐτούς, μακαρίσαντες ὑμῶν τὸ ἀπειρόκακον οὐ ζηλοῦμεν τὸ ἄφρον. “But of the expectation [of help] in the Lakedaimonians [i.e., Spartans] which, because of the shame [the Spartans might acquire], you believe it would be necessary of them to come to your aid, blessing your simplicity, we do not envy your drivel.”

“Simplicity” here means something like innocent sincerity. In our vernacular, it might be able to be corresponded to the metaphor of one’s “heart,” as in the motivation behind the choice. The word translated as “drivel” can be glossed more literally as “foam,” but like the English word “drivel,” which can literally mean something like slobber, it also figuratively refers to foolish talk. Put it in a form that some of the author’s Southern family might say and it comes out something like: “Bless your heart, your talk ain’t worth spit.” In other words, the Athenians think there is no way that the Spartans will be driven to help them by necessity of virtue or fear of shame, as they go on to say in the following line.

Thus, what might seem like an expression of the relatively recent past of English in America appears, at least in the general meaning of the insult form, to go all the way back to more than 2,400 years ago in Greece!

A Note of Welcome From ATS Chapter President – Jerry Breen


Gamma Rho Kappa (ΓΡΚ), the Greek Honor Society at Asbury Seminary, welcomes new students, returning students, and ΓΡΚ alumni to the 2016-2017 academic year! We invite you to invest time with us as we recognize outstanding achievements in Ancient Greek language, literature, and culture. Study and appreciation of biblical languages is important for every Christian leader, and ΓΡΚ wants you to engage with us in relevant conversations concerning biblical language, literature, and culture while you are at Asbury and after you have graduated. Our monthly meetings provide opportunities for discussion and critical analysis of presentations from visiting scholars, Asbury faculty, and recognized students who present research concerning Greek language, literature, and culture. Now is your time to join the conversation.

Why Join?

I know you may be asking why you should want to join a Greek Honor Society, so we have provided some compelling reasons, such as:

  • To engage in current dialogue concerning the study of Ancient Greek language, literature, and culture.
  • To discover current thoughts and trends concerning the study of Ancient Greek language, literature, and culture.
  • To network with scholars and students interested in Ancient Greek language, literature, and culture.
  • To receive greater access to Greek tutoring and resources for studying the language.
  • To receive exposure to critical feedback given to presenters and personal work.
  • To recognize the hard work you as a student have accomplished concerning the Ancient Greek language.
  • To receive recognition of your work as a student in the study of the Ancient Greek language upon graduation in the form of a ΓΡΚ
  • To advertise your involvement in ΓΡΚ in your resume or CV.

We want to assist you in your study and love of Ancient Greek and will be there to support you on your journey. Join us, and help cultivate a love for Ancient Greek in your heart and the hearts of others!

Requirements for Membership

What do you need to do to join? First you should evaluate whether you meet our requirements for membership, which, simply stated, are:

  • Graduate students must have taken Greek 1, Greek 2, and Intermediate Greek with a B average or above.
  • Post-graduate students must have taken Greek 1, Greek 2, and Intermediate Greek with a B+ average.
  • Students may petition the committee for membership for equivalents of requirements.

If you meet these requirements, you will then be asked to pay a membership due before you are officially considered a member. Membership dues are $20/year, but we are going to discuss and vote on a change in the constitution to allow for a one-time due of $40 that would provide a lifetime membership. If this measure passes, those who have paid dues in the past will be able to count those previously paid dues towards their one-time fee.

Our requirements for membership are quite stringent, and you may find that you will not meet the requirements until you have been at Asbury for a year or two. Do not let that stop you from attending our monthly meetings and engaging in engaging, practical, profound, and insightful conversation.

Meeting Dates and Times

Our monthly meetings are the last Tuesday of the month in September, October, November, February, March, and April. The meetings are officially from 12pm-1pm, but we invite you to come a little early and stay a little late. The meetings take place in the special rooms in the cafeteria known as Cordella A (for the last meeting) and Cordella B (for the first five meetings).

So consider taking part in Gamma Rho Kappa this year so your love of studying the biblical text is enriched by a greater understanding of the Greek language, literature, and culture. Once this love grows in your heart it will become infectious to all with whom you come in contact!

Greek Infinitives in Philippians and James – Ryan K. Giffin

The Greek infinitive appears 2,291 times in the pages of the NT, performing a broad range of semantic functions.[1] In his introductory Greek grammar William D. Mounce highlights five main ways in which the Greek infinitive may be used: (1) as a substantive, (2) as a complementary infinitive, (3) as an articular infinitive preceded by a preposition, (4) as indicating purpose, and (5) as expressing a result.[2] Few would dispute these five categories as basic to the structure and semantic function of the infinitive. The Greek infinitive appears in these basic categories at multiple points throughout the NT.

            However, while it may be helpful for first year students of biblical Greek to conceptualize the infinitive in terms of the categories suggested by Mounce, students pursuing an advanced understanding of the infinitive soon realize that its usage in the NT far exceeds these five basic functions. For example, in his advanced level grammar Daniel B. Wallace discusses the infinitive in terms of both its structural categories and semantic categories. In his section covering the semantic categories, Wallace highlights the adverbial, substantival, and independent uses of the infinitive, identifying thirteen semantic categories in all: purpose, result, time (including antecedent, contemporaneous, and subsequent), cause, means, complementary, subject, direct object, indirect discourse, appositional, epexegetical, imperatival, and absolute.[3]

            Many of these various usages of the infinitive may be found in two NT epistles of approximate length, the epistles of Philippians and James. The purpose of this essay is to examine the use of the infinitive in these two ancient letters in order to understand how two different NT authors addressing different audiences in different contexts employ the Greek infinitive within a comparatively equal amount of literary space. There are 104 verses and four chapters in Philippians, and 108 verses and five chapters in James. How does Paul’s use of the infinitive in Philippians compare with James’ use? In order to move toward an answer to this question I will survey of the use of the infinitive in both letters respectively. Both surveys are organized first according to the broad structural categories of the infinitive (anarthrous and articular). Within these broad structural categories each I will highlight the various semantic categories represented in each epistle.[4] Following the two surveys I will present a comparative summary of the use of the infinitive in each epistle, giving attention to four noteworthy points about how Paul and James employ the infinitive in their letters.


            The infinitive occurs 39 times in the epistle to the Philippians. Of these 39 occurrences, 23 occur without the article and sixteen occur with the article. Although Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the apostle’s shorter letters, his use of the infinitive in the span of its four chapters is quite diverse. Of the thirteen semantic categories for the infinitive in the NT identified by Wallace, ten occur in Philippians.

            The largest semantic category of anarthrous infinitives in Philippians is the indirect discourse infinitive. The explanation of this category given by James L. Boyer is helpful: “When an infinitive stands as the object of a verb of mental perception or communication and expresses the content or the substance of the thought or of the communication it is classified as being in indirect discourse.”[5] Paul uses the anarthrous infinitive this way in thirteen places in Philippians (1:17, 2:25, 3:4, 3:8, 3:13, 4:2, 4:11, and six times in 4:12).

The next largest category of anarthrous infinitives in Philippians is the complementary infinitive, used four times (1:12, 2:19, 2:23, 3:21). An example of this usage may be found in Phil 1:12 where Paul states that he wants the Philippians “to know” (γινώσκειν) that what has happened to him has really served to advance the gospel.[6] In addition to the complementary infinitive Paul uses the anarthrous infinitive of result three times in this epistle (1:13 and twice in 1:14). A clear example of this usage may be recognized in 1:13 where the apostle uses ὥστε with the infinitive γενέσθαι to indicate that his imprisonment has served to advance the gospel “so that it has become clear to the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” [7] Wallace notes that the use of ὥστε with the infinitive is “the most frequent structure for result infinitive” in the NT.[8]

Paul uses the anarthrous subject infinitive twice in Philippians (1:7, 3:1). A clear instance of this usage occurs in 3:1 where Paul indicates that “to write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Replacing the infinitive phrase with X shows clearly that γράφειν in 3:1 is a subject infinitive: “X is no hassle.”[9]

One more anarthrous infinitive occurs in 3:16 where Paul implores the Philippians, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (πλὴν εἰς ἐφθάσαμεν, τῳ αὐτῳ στοιχεῖν). The infinitive στοιχεῖν here is one of the very rare instances in the NT in which the infinitive functions like an imperative. Wallace identifies only two others, both of which appear in Rom 12:15. He suggests that the appearance in Phil 3:16 more resembles a hortatory subjunctive than an imperative, but he classifies it as an imperatival infinitive nonetheless and translates “let us walk.”[10]

            The largest semantic category of articular infinitives in Philippians is the subject infinitive, occurring four times (twice in 1:21, 1:22, 1:24).[11] Wallace cites both articular infinitives in 1:21 (τὸ ζῆν and τὸ ἀποθανεῖν) as subject infinitives and uses this verse as an example in the “key to identification” section of his discussion of the subject infinitive. However, he also suggests that these infinitives could be translated as gerunds: “living is Christ and dying is gain.”[12]

Although the direct object infinitive apart from instances in indirect discourse is rare in the NT, the articular direct object infinitive appears four times in Philippians (2:6, 2:13 [2x], 4:10).[13] Wallace recognizes τὸ εἶναι in the Christ hymn of 2:6, where Paul indicates that Christ Jesus, “did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited,” as an example of a direct object infinitive in an object-compliment construction. In this case the infinitive is the object and ἁρπαγμόν is the compliment. Wallace also categorizes both infinitives in 2:13 as direct object infinitives as Paul assures the Philippians that the one producing both “the willing” (τὸ θέλειν) and “the doing” (τὸἐνεργεῖν) in them is God.[14]

Paul uses the articular infinitive of purpose three times in Philippians (1:10, 1:23, 3:10). In 1:10 the appearance of the governing preposition είς with the articular infinitive τὸ δοκιμάζειν clearly indicates purpose as Paul prays that the love of the Philippians may aboundso that they “might approve what is excellent, and be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”[15] Young identifies τοῦ γνῶναι in 3:10 is an infinitive of purpose as Paul aims “to know” Christ and the power of his resurrection and the partnership of his sufferings.[16]

In Phil 1:29 Paul teaches the Philippians that it has been granted to them “not only to believe (τὸ πιστεύειν) on Christ, but also to suffer (τὸ πάχειν) for him.” Both articular infinitives in this verse function appositionally to a substantival prepositional phrase serving as the subject of the sentence (τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ). In other words, Paul is indicating that what has been granted to the Philippians is, namely, believing on Christ and suffering for Christ. Wallace explains Paul’s grammar:

The article with ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ turns this expression into a substantive functioning as the subject of ἐχαρίσθη. Thus, ‘the-[following]-on-behalf-of-Christ has been granted to you.’ This then is picked up by two articular infinitives, πιστεύειν and πάχειν (the prepositional phrases each time are wedged between the article and inf. for clarity). Thus, the articular infinitives are in apposition to a substantival prepositional phrase functioning as subject.[17]

Finally, three more articular infinitives appear in Philippians, each representing a different semantic category. First, Peter T. O’Brien rightly views Paul’s use of the genitive articular infinitive τοῦ δύνασθαι as indicating result as Paul assures the Philippians that the Lord Jesus Christ “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, according to the power that results in him being enable to subject all things to himself.”[18] Second, Paul employs the articular infinitive in a causal sense in 1:7 when he shares that it is right for him to feel positive toward the Philippians “because I have (διὰ τὸ ἔχειν) you in my heart.”[19] Finally, in 1:23 Paul appears to be using the articular infinitive τὸ ἀναλῦσαι with the governing preposition εἰς and the accusative τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν epexegetically as he explains that the desire he has “is to depart and to be with Christ.”[20]


            The infinitive occurs 26 times in James. Of these 26 occurrences, nineteen occur without the article and seven occur with the article. Of the thirteen semantic categories for the infinitive in the NT identified by Wallace, nine occur in James.[21]

The largest semantic category of anarthrous infinitives in James is the complementary infinitive. James uses the infinitive this way in ten instances (2:12, 2:14, 2:20, 3:8, 3:12[2x], 4:2, 4:4, 4:12[2x]). The infinitive in each of these instances complements one of “the most common verbs that take an infinitive” mentioned by Wallace (ἄρχομαι, βούλομαι, δύναμαι, ἐπιτρέπω, ζητέω, θέλω, μέλλω, and ὀφείλω).[22] Of these common “helper” verbs, James uses the infinitive to complement δύναμαι seven times (2:14, 3:8, 3:12[2x], 4:2, 4:12[2x]). Additionally, James uses the infinitive to compliment μέλλω (2:12), θέλω (2:20), βούλομαι (4:4).

The next largest category of anarthrous infinitives is the infinitive in indirect discourse, used three times (1:26, 2:14, 4:17). A clear example of this usage occurs in 1:26 where James teaches, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Here the verb of perception δοκεῖ signals that εἶναι is an infinitive in indirect disourse.[23]

James uses the anarthrous appositional infinitive twice in 1:27. Writing about “pure and undefiled religion”, James states that religion that is pure and undefiled “is this, namely, to visit (ἐπισκέπτεσθαι) orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep (τηρεῖν) oneself from the world.” Inserting either the word “namely” or a colon before the infinitive in translation is a key to identification of the appositional infinitive, and Wallace uses Jas 1:27 to illustrate this.[24]

The remaining four anarthrous infinitives in James are the subject infinitive, (3:10), epexegetical infinitive (1:21, 3:2), and the absolute infinitive (1:1). In 3:10 James employs the subject infinitive when he writes, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. It is not necessary, my brothers, for things thus to be (γίνεσθαι with the impersonal verb χρή “it is necessary”).[25] An example of the anarthrous epexegetical infinitive in James occurs in 1:21 where James implores his audience to “receive with meekness the implanted word, the one being able to save (τόν δυνάμενον σῶσαι) your souls.”[26]

In Jas 1:1 the opening greeting appears in the infinitive: χαίρειν “I greet you” or “greetings!” Here James uses the infinitive absolute, a type of infinitive that is quite rare in the NT. Wallace provides the following description of this rare type of infinitive:

Like the genitive absolute, the infinitive can function independently of the rest of the sentence. It thus bears no syntactical relation to anything else in the sentence. One word, χαίρειν, is especially uses as an infinitive absolute. The idea can be expressed as “I greet you” (thus, the equivalent of an indicative), or “Greetings!” (thus, the equivalent of an interjection).[27]

With that we “greet” the seven occurrences of the articular infinitive in James, which represent four semantic categories. Three times James employs the articular infinitive of purpose (1:18, 3:3, 5:17). A clear example of this type of usage occurs when James teaches his audience, “if we put pits into the mouths of horses for the purpose of persuading (εἰς τὸ πείθεσθαι) them to us, we guide their whole bodies as well” (Jas 3:3). The preposition είς governing the articular infinitive τὸ πείθεσθαι provides a helpful structural clue for recognizing James’ intent to indicate purpose in this verse.[28]

Twice in 1:19 James uses the articular epexegetical infinitive when he writes “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear (τὸ ἀκοῦσαι), slow to speak (τὸ λαλῆσαι), slow to anger.” The preposition είς governs both infinitives here as well. Like the infinitive of purpose, είς τὸ with the infinitive is also a clear structural clue for identifying infinitives functioning epexegetically.[29]

James employs the articular causal infinitive one time in his epistle. In 4:2 the writer famously instructs his audience concerning prayer: “You do not have because you do not ask” (οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς). The governing preposition διὰ with the article τὸwith the infinitive here is representative of the most commonly used structure for the causal infinitive in the NT.[30]

One more appearance of the articular infinitive in James occurs in 4:15. In this verse James offers a corrective to those who would map out their life plans too far in advance without considering the will of the Lord. Rather than becoming overly focused on “tomorrow” James suggests an alternative posture: “Instead you all ought to say (ἀντὶ τοῦ λέγειν ὑμᾶς), ‘if the Lord wills it we will live and do this or that.’” The use of the infinitive here with the preposition ἀντὶ represents one of those miscellaneous prepositional uses of the infinitive. According to Boyer, infinitives governed by this preposition may be understood as expressing “substitution.”[31]


            The tables below present a comparative breakdown of the use of use of the infinitive in Philippians and James. Table 1 displays the use of the infinitive in these letters according to the broad structural categories of “anarthrous” and “articular” infinitives. Table 2 displays the use of the infinitive in Philippians and James according to the semantic categories provided by Wallace.[32]

Table 1: The Use of the Infinitive in Philippians and James

According to Structural Categories

Infinitive Type













            This table shows that the infinitive appears thirteen more total times in Philippians than it does in James, and that both basic structural types of infinitives appear more frequently in Philippians than in James. Both writers are comparatively close in their use the anarthrous infinitive—just four more times for Paul than for James. However the use of the articular infinitive occurs over twice as much in Philippians as it does in James.

Table 2: The Use of the Infinitive in Philippians and James

According to Semantic Categories

Infinitive Type



















Direct Object


Indirect Discourse













“Miscellaneous Use”


(“substitution” in 4:15)





            Table 2 shows a number of noteworthy points of comparison between the use of the infinitive in Philippians and James. I will briefly note four points here. First, both writers each use one category much more frequently than the other categories. For Paul in Philippians, the indirect discourse infinitive is by far the semantic category that occurs most frequently, appearing thirteen times. This doubles the amount of the second most frequently used category, the subject infinitive, which occurs six times. For James the complementary infinitive represents over 40 percent of his uses, accounting for ten of his 26 total uses of the infinitive. As in Philippians, this also doubles the amount of the second most frequently used category, the epexegetical infinitive, which occurs four times.

            Second, the category employed most frequently by each writer is used considerably less by the other writer. James uses the indirect discourse infinitive just three times, compared to Paul’s thirteen uses in Philippians. Likewise, in Philippians Paul uses the complementary infinitive just four times, compared to the ten uses by James.

            Third, neither writer makes use of the infinitive of time or means in these letters, and both use the causal infinitive once once respectively in these epistles. According to Wallace, the infinitive of time is “relatively common” in the NT[33] so the absence of it in either of these documents may be worth noting. However, Wallace notes that instances of the infinitive of means are “rare” in the NT, and the causal infinitive is fairly common in Luke-Acts, though “rare” elsewhere. The absence and sparse usage of these infinitive semantic types in James and Philippians represents this broader use (or lack thereof) in the NT.

            Finally, while both writers each use one semantic type of infinitive with comparatively more frequency than any of the other semantic types, Table 2 demonstrates that both writers are wholly capable of using the infinitive in a variety of ways. Appearances of the infinitive representing ten of the fourteen semantic categories listed in the table may be found in Philippians, and nine of the fourteen may be found in James. Additionally, both epistles contain instances of the two independent uses of the infinitive dubbed by Wallace as “quite rare,” the imperatival infinitive in Phil 3:16 and the absolute infinitive in Jas 1:1.


            In this brief study I have set out to compare the usages of the infinitive in Philippians and James according to their structural and semantic categories. After surveying every instance of the infinitive in both epistles, this study has shown that the infinitive appears more in Philippians than in James, even though both letters are comparatively equal in length, that both writers each use one semantic category much more than any of the others, that the semantic category employed most frequently by each writer is used considerably less by the other writer, that neither writer makes use of the infinitive of time or means in these letters and both use the causal infinitive just once respectively, and that both writers are wholly capable of using the infinitive in a variety of ways.

            Future work may build on this information in an effort to understand why Paul and James use the infinitive in the ways they do in these epistles. Such a study would likely result in increased understanding concerning exegetical matters related to both letters, as well as perhaps a more nuanced understanding of the function of the infinitive in biblical Greek. For those who read Philippians and James as Christian Scripture, moving toward such increased understandings of these texts and the language in which they were written is of infinitevalue.


Boyer, James L. “The Classification of Infinitives: A Statistical Study” Grace Theological Journal 6:3-27, 1985.

Mounce, William D. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. 3d ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.

O’Brien, Peter T. The Epistle to the Philippians. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

Robertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. Nashville: Broadman, 1934.

Sumney, Jerry L. Philippians: A Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2007.

Votaw, C.W. The Use of the Infinitive in Biblical Greek. Chicago: by the Author, 1896.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Young, Richard A. Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994.


[1] This count is according to James L. Boyer, who used Gramcord/acCordance software based on UBS3 to count 1,977 anarthrous infinitives and 315 articular infinitives in the NT. See James L. Boyer, “The Classification of Infinitives: A Statistical Study” GTJ 6:3-27, (1985), 3.

[2] William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (3d ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 302-05.

[3] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 590-608.

[4] Wallace notes that most NT Greek grammars that break down their treatment of the infinitive by structural categories have two broad groupings, anarthrous and articular. Wallace himself treats both structural and semantic categories, beginning first with the semantic categories and concluding with a discussion of the structural categories. My approach here attempts to survey both sets of categories simultaneously for each epistle, but in the “Comparative Analysis” section I will present statistical summaries for each set of categories separately. For Wallace’s discussion of “Structure vs. Semantics” see Greek Grammar, 589.

[5] Boyer, “Infinitives”, 7.

[6] The use of γινώσκειν in 1:12 is classified as a complementary infinitive by Wallace, Greek Grammar, 599.

[7] This construction in Phil 1:13 is cited as an example of an infinitive of result by A. T.  Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman, 1934), 1091.

[8] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 593. See also Boyer, “Infinitives,” 11; C.W. Votaw, The Use of the Infinitive in Biblical Greek(Chicago: by the Author, 1896), 14.

[9] This is shown by Wallace, Greek Grammar, 601.

[10] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 608. See also Richard A. Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 175.

[11] In Phil 1:24 τὸ ἐπιμένειν is treated as a subject infinitive by Jerry L. Sumney Philippians: A Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2007), 31.

[12] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 600-601. See also Young, Intermediate Greek, 173.

[13] Boyer lists only Phil 4:10 and 2 Cor 8:11 as places in the NT where the direct object infinitive occurs. Wallace adds John 5:26, Phil 2:6, and possibly Phil 2:13. See Boyer, “Infinitives”, 9; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 601-602.

[14] For his full discussion of the complicated syntax of Phil 2:13 see Wallace, Greek Grammar, 602-603. See also Young,Intermediate Greek, 174 in support of understanding the infinitives in this verse as direct object infinitives.

[15] See Sumney, Philippians, 15; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 591.

[16] Young, Intermediate Grammar, 169.

[17] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 607.

[18] Peter T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 466.

[19] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 597.

[20] The epexegetical infinitive clarifies, explains, or qualifies a noun or adjective. Wallace notes that the noun or adjective is normally a word indicating ability, authority, desire (as here in Phil 1:23), freedom, hope, need, obligation, or readiness (Wallace,Greek Grammar, 607).

[21] James also employs the infinitive of “substitution”, a category not specifically included in Wallace’s treatment but included in Boyer’s. See below.

[22] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 598. Boyer identifies 72 verbs that take a complementary infinitive in the NT (“Infinitives,” 6).

[23] Wallace classifies this as an indirect discourse infinitive in Greek Grammar, 605.

[24] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 606.

[25] The subject infinitive category especially includes instances where the infinitive occurs with impersonal verbs such asδεῖ, ἔξεστιν, δοκεῖ, etc. according to Wallace, Greek Grammar, 600.

[26] Wallace notes that the epexegetical infinitive normally clarifies, explains, or qualifies nouns or adjectives indicating ability, authority, desire, freedom, hope, need, obligation, or readiness (Greek Grammar, 606). In this case σῶσαι explains τόνδυνάμενον, a substantive participle modifying τὸν ἔμφυτον λόγον.

[27] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 609. Wallace uses Jas 1:1 to illustrate the infinitive absolute, referencing also Acts 15:23, 23:26, and Heb 7:9 as other examples, although he notes that Heb 7:9 “is classical, following a different semantic situation than that which is found in Jas 1:1.”

[28] This use of the infinitive in Jas 3:3 is cited as a purpose infinitive by Wallace, Greek Grammar, 592.

[29] The infinitives in Jas 1:19 are used as examples of the epexegetical infinitive by Wallace, Greek Grammar, 607.

[30] So Wallace, Greek Grammar, 597. Wallace includes Jas 4:2 in his representative list of citations for the causal infinitive.

[31] Boyer, “Infinitives,” 13. Wallace concludes his treatment of the infinitive by noting that there are other prepositions in the NT used with the infinitive that go beyond the “normal” prepositions he highlights in his text (Greek Grammar, 611).

[32] With the addition of the category of “miscellaneous use”, so as to account for the “infinitive of substitution” in 4:15.

[33] Wallace, Greek Grammar, 594.

Blog at

Up ↑