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Greek/Inceptive/Inchoative?

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QUESTION: Maria,

THANK YOU for offering your service as an expert!

Question: I know there are verbs in other languages that LOOK like inceptives, but are not due to tense/mood. Here is my question. In the NT, Ephesians 5:18 states:

καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι

So, while  μεθύσκεσθε appears to be inceptive, I'm not aware of any present-tense inceptives. Does the "μὴ"  also impact the usage as a negative command?

Which would be the better translation:

1. Do not get drunk
2. Do not drink (begin the process of getting drunk)

The latter is used to make the case for total abstinence from wine.

Would the phrase above not need to be in the aorist subjunctive to make the case for "do not begin" to be accurate?  

Thanks!

Peter

ANSWER: Hello,

first of all you are right when you suppose that μὴ μεθύσκεσθε in the NT, Ephesians 5:18 καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι  is a negative  command.

Such a negative command is composed of the negative conjunction μὴ  used in prohibitions and the 2nd.person plural of the present imperative middle-passive voice  of the inchoative verb μεθύσκω  that in its active voice means “I make drunk, I intoxicate, I inebriate” as a transitive verb, whereas in its middle passive voice means  exactly “I get drunk” as an intransitive verb where the subject  receives the action expressed by the verb: hence the meaning “I[myself] get drunk” instead of “I make [someone] drunk”.

In short, please note that:

-μεθύσκω, active voice, transitive form, inchoative of the obsolete μεθύω, means “I make [someone] drunk”.

-μεθύσκομαι, middle passive voice, intransitive form of the inchoative μεθύσκω, means “I [myself] get drunk”, not "I drink" which in ancient Greek would be πίνω just meaning "I drink", not "I get drunk".

Moreover I have to point out that the inchoative verbs, marked with the suffix -σκ-, expressed the  beginning of an action only in their original meaning, whereas eventually  they did not indicate anymore the  beginning of an action, but the action in  itself.

So, with reference to the negative command μὴ μεθύσκεσθε (2nd.person plural of the present imperative middle-passive voice  of the inchoative verb μεθύσκω), the correct translation is  “Do not get drunk”, not “Do not drink” (even if it indicates the beginning of the process of getting drunk).

In fact, “Do not drink” would correspond to “Mὴ  πίνετε” where the verb is the 2nd.person plural of the present imperative active of the verb  πίνω meaning “I drink” as in e.g. “πίνειν οἶνον” (to drink wine).

Finally, the phrase above μὴ μεθύσκεσθε could also have been in  the aorist subjunctive,since in prohibitions the conjunction μὴ  can also be constructed with the subjunctive (usually the 2nd. pers. of aorist).


Hope all is clear enough.

Best regards,
Maria


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks Maria!  A quick followup for clarification:

You said: "Moreover I have to point out that the inchoative verbs, marked with the suffix -σκ-, expressed the  beginning of an action only in their original meaning, whereas eventually  they did not indicate anymore the  beginning of an action, but the action in  itself."

So, if I understand correctly, μεθύσκεσθε is NOT an inchoative? And the reason is because it is in the present imperative middle-passive voice?  

Thanks again!

Peter

ANSWER: Please note that my statement about the inchoative verbs, marked with the suffix -σκ- in ancient Greek such as μεθύσκω or γηράσκω, and –sc- in Latin  such as “senesco” or “floresco”,  meant that the inchoative verbs had eventually lost their original meaning of the  beginning of an action and ended by expressing the action in  itself, so that e.g. μεθύσκω does not mean “I begin to make [someone]drunk”, but simply “I make [someone]drunk” as well as  μεθύσκομαι does not mean “I begin to get drunk”, but simply “I get drunk”.

To sum up,  μεθύσκω and its middle passive voice μεθύσκομαι (from which the imperative μεθύσκεσθε) are definitely inchoative verbs from the grammatical point of view, though they have lost its original semantic meaning of verbs expressing the beginning of an action.

It is therefore clear that μεθύσκω and μεθύσκομαι are grammatically inchoative verbs whose semantic value has however changed.

Hope I made myself understood.
Best regards and thanks for your rating,
Maria


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you again, Maria! Your expertise is appreciated!  I apologize for the continued responses, but I'm really trying to understand the issue. I appreciate your patience with me.

I agree that the context makes it clear that the verb here is not inceptive/inchoative. How, then, do I explain the Vines entry here:

<A-2,Verb,3182,methusko>
signifies "to make drunk, or to grow drunk" (an inceptive verb, marking the process or the state expressed in No. 1), "to become intoxicated," Luke 12:45; Eph. 5:18; 1 Thess. 5:7.


Is Vines dated? Has scholarship improved since this entry?

Thanks again for your assistance!

Marc

Answer
Hello,

No problem. I’m glad to answer your questions.

So, apart from the fact that  Vine's entry <A-2,Verb,3182,methusko>  in “Vine's Expository Dictionnary of New Testament Words", first published in 1939, refers to the active form μεθύσκω (I make [someone] drunk”), not to the middle passive voice μεθύσκομαι(I get drunk),this entry is definitely  correct from the grammar point of view as W.E. Vine considers the origin of the verb μεθύσκω  which originally indicated the  beginning of an action, while eventually lost this meaning and started  denoting  the action in  itself.

In fact, μεθύσκεσθαι in Luke 12:45, μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ in Eph. 5:18, οἱ μεθυσκόμενοι in 1 Thess. 5:7, as mentioned in <A-2,Verb,3182,methusko>,are forms of the middle passive μεθύσκομαι just meaning “I get drunk" and then indicating that someone is drunk by now,not about to get drunk.

To sum up, Vine's entry is grammatically correct still today for μεθύσκω was originally an inchoative verb.

Hope this is clear enough.
Best regards,
Maria

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Maria

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I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning ANCIENT GREEK. So, do not ask me please questions regarding MODERN GREEK as it is different from Ancient Greek either in spelling/meaning or in pronunciation.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy) and my thesis was about ancient Greek drama (Aeschylus).

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