I have a question about a verse from the Septaugint
Genesis 1:1 in Greek:
εν αρχή εποίησεν ο θεός τον ουρανόν και την γην

We have the preposition εν (cognate with Latin in). It is my understanding that this preposition need to be followed by a word in dative, eg. αρχή.  When Latin has ablative, eg. "In principio", Greek has dative? A strange thing is that Wiktionary doesn't even give the dative form of αρχή. Would this be some strange Koine Greek thing?

According to wiktionary we have εν and ἐν. Is this just a change in pronunciation that happened?

εποίησεν, I understand is verb 3rd sg aor ind act nu_movable. I was tought that the prefix ε tells us that the verb is written in the imperfect tense. Am I wrong?

Does ο θεός mean (the) God? It's like the spiritus asper has been lost.

in Latin we have "In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram". Caelum and terram is in the accusative case. Does the same thing rule apply to Greek as well?

Here's the website with the Greek text:

ANSWER: Hello Anders,

thank you for your question. Concerning the text style, I would like to point out that the polytonic script is missing from that website and thus it isn't a very ideal source for learners. Actually, the accents had been lost by that time (already two centuries BC) and were not pronounced. It is somehow "correct", to leave it like that, but for someone who learns Greek, possibly having also some knowledge of Classical Greek, it is something new and might obscure things (such as the subscript in dative of αρχή etc.).

The preposition εν/ἐν cannot actually be confused with any other word. The classical tradition keeps the spiritus lenis (no change in pronunciation anyway), but no one misses anything with that. It's just that in some schools they use the classical accent, i.e. they pronounce spirits like in the classical polytonic way, and in some they don't, i.e. they use almost the Modern Greek pronunciation which corresponds 80-90% to the Koine Greek.

We cannot establish a general rule by which every Latin ablative can correspond to a Greek dative. There are many ways to express e.g. location in Greek with different prepositions and cases. I am afraid here one has to practise and learn them. The fact is, though, that εν takes always dative and almost always declares location and this preposition will almost always correspond to the Latin in + abl.

The ε- augmentation is used not only for Imperfect but also for Aorist. You have also to judge by the suffixes, in this case -σα- is a cognate of the Aorist.

Concerning the spiritus asper, yes it is missing, as I mentioned above, but depending on the learning method you might see it in other versions. The original script is ὁ (ho), though. It means (the) God, as you wrote.

The rules for verb objects apply in most cases, because the Latin translation was created opposite the Greek one. The scholars tried to find verbs and words that would have the closest structure to the original, so that the whole work is a kind of mirror-work and comprehensible enough. Let us not forget that the Hellenistic society was bilingual with Latin and Greek on top. That's why many words that didn't exist in Latin were adopted from Greek and directly transliterated to fulfill the needs. The languages couldn't have been farther away from one another. Nevertheless, I am sure there are cases where an accusative object in Greek would correspond to a different case in Latin and vice-versa.

Should you have more questions, do not hesitate to consult me further. So, have a nice day, Anders.


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

QUESTION: Do you think that the script on the website is good or bad? It didn't really understood what you thought about it?

The text is presumably correct, but the choice to omit the spirits and the rest accents does not ease up the reading/researching process for a foreigner. This version would suffice a native Greek's or an advanced learner's goals. So, it is neither good, nor bad when speaking in general, but if you personally are a beginner, then it is rather inappropriate (there is no good or bad in this case).

Compare with the following version:

Good luck with that.


PS> A quick fix to the previous response: the original Old Testament was written in Hebrew - just mixed it with the NT - but nevertheless translators are usually looking for alike verbs to keep the structure closest to the original. There is accusative, of course, in Hebrew and transitivity is also taken into consideration when thinking in another language. Exceptions exist always, of course.  


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Michael Barkas


I provide assistance in linguistic, literary topics of Greek and Latin covering, thus, the following fields: translation, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etymology, morphology, semantics and interpretations etc.


Studies: University of the Aegean, Dept Rhodes Friedrich Wilhelm Universitšt Bonn

Magister Artium (Archeology/Linguistics) Bachelor (Latin/English/Greek)

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