Grammar, Greek

The Grammatical Mess of 1 Cor. 5:3-5

If you’ve worked through the Greek text of 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, you know what a grammatical mess it is to sort out. Here’s the text:

3 ἐγὼ μὲν γάρ, ἀπὼν τῷ σώματι παρὼν δὲ τῷ πνεύματι, ἤδη κέκρικα ὡς παρὼν τὸν οὕτως τοῦτοκατεργασάμενον

4 ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τοῦ κυρίου [ἡμῶν] Ἰησοῦ, συναχθέντων ὑμῶν καὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ πνεύματος σὺν τῇ δυνάμειτοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ,

5 παραδοῦναι τὸν τοιοῦτον τῷ Σατανᾷ εἰς ὄλεθρον τῆς σαρκός, ἵνα τὸ πνεῦμα σωθῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦκυρίου.

The grammar of 1 Corinthians 3-5 is notoriously difficult. There are various suggestions as to how one should construct this text:

  1. ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι modifies συναχθέντων and σὺν τῇ δυνάμει modifies παραδοῦναι
  2. both ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι and σὺν τῇ δυνάμει go with συναχθέντων
  3. both ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι and σὺν τῇ δυνάμει go with παραδοῦναι
  4. ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι modifies παραδοῦναι and σὺν τῇ δυνάμει goes with συναχθέντων.

Construction one makes sense in that gathering together would naturally be so in the name of the Lord, but as Garland notes, when they did gather together it was always in the name of the Lord, thus such a construction would seem unnecessarily redundant.[1] This, of course, doesn’t preclude the unnecessary use of phrases for the sake of emphasis. Fee notes that this construction also suffers from the fact that σὺν rarely functions instrumentally, and never so in Paul.[2]

By sandwiching συναχθέντων with ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι and σὺν τῇ δυνάμει (as in construction two), the focus then seems to be on συναχθέντων.  While there is some emphasis on their gathering together, the primary focus is on their collective action regarding the man in question, not so much on the gathering itself.

Construction three makes sense conceptually, but seems unlikely because the prepositional phrases are so far from παραδοῦναι.

Construction four places ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι as the modifier of παραδοῦναι and συναχθέντων is modified by σὺν τῇ δυνάμει.  The problem here is again the prepositional phrase σὺν τῇ δυνάμει  is too far removed from παραδοῦναι, plus the noted objection that σὺν never occurs instrumentally in Paul.

I wonder if there is a possibility that the entire phrase συναχθέντων ὑμῶν καὶ τοῦ ἐμοῦ πνεύματος σὺν τῇ δυνάμει τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ could modify the infinitive παραδοῦναι.

Anyone have any thoughts?

Αυτω η δοξα,


[1] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 164. Garland notes the three other genitive absolutes in the letter, all of which include a prepositional phrase that comes after the participle and pronoun (4:18; 11:18, 20).

[2] Fee, Corinthians, 206, n.46.


4 thoughts on “The Grammatical Mess of 1 Cor. 5:3-5”

  1. Actually, your last option (entire phrase w/συναχθεντων modifying the following verb) appears to be the way that represent the structure (with v. 5 as a primary clause, v. 4 is a secondary clause pointing to v. 5 as its primary).

  2. Rick: I am leaning in that direction, though I would like to study the verses a bit more. It’s a tough one, that’s for sure. When I wrote a paper on this passage several years ago, I went with an option not presented here, but I like to rethink these things after not having looked at them in a while.

  3. The default ordering for prepositional phrases would be reading then with the previous verb. Placing it before the verb would place give it some extra prominence in the clause. I cannot see ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι going with anything that follows it, so I’d align ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι with κέκρικα. Were ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι to modify, συναχθέντων the PP would receive extra emphasis rather than the verb.

    But σὺν τῇ δυνάμει τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν could go either way in terms of word order, though since as you say, συν isn’t instrumental in Paul and it’s actually rather rare in Greek literature generally, I’d be inclined to place σὺν τῇ δυνάμει τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ with συναχθέντων.

  4. Mike: I was curious as to your thoughts–thanks for chiming in. I didn’t put it in the post, but in the paper I wrote on this passage a couple of years ago, I wrote assuming ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι modified κέκρικα. I’m with you, too, on σὺν τῇ δυνάμει τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ going with συναχθέντων.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s