LOY Excursus: The Genitive Absolute in the Synoptic Gospels

& LOY Excursions

What can the distribution of genitive absolute constructions in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us about the origins of the Synoptic Gospels?

Revised: 28 September 2022[1]





The genitive absolute (perhaps better called a genitive circumstantial participial clause)[2] is a Greek grammatical construction in which a clause—often (but not always) at the beginning of a sentence—uses an anarthrous participle in the genitive case to describe an activity that was taking place in relation to the main action of the sentence. The genitive participle is often (but not always) accompanied by a genitive noun or pronoun that serves as the subject of the clause. According to the canons of Classical Greek, the subject of the genitive absolute ought not to appear in the main sentence, but this rule was not strictly observed even among classical authors, and was observed even less in Koine Greek.[3]

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  • David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). Joshua continued his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2005. After seminary…
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