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Middle Voice Verbs in the New Testament

Middle Voice Verbs in the New Testament

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Susan E. Kmetko challenges the general lack of significance afforded the 3726 middle voice verb forms in the Greek New Testament. She explores the essential meaning of the middle voice in light of the demise of deponency and the resultant implications for Biblical interpretation and translation. Integral to her investigation is the awareness that languages do not neatly map onto each other. Hence, whereas ancient Greek employed three voices—active, passive, and middle—many modern languages do not. Consequently, when ancient Greek authors expressed ideas deploying middle verbs, their reduction to active or passive in English or other languages falls short of the intended meaning.


The voice of a verb indicates the relationship of the subject to the verbal process. In the search for a clear definition of the middle voice, Kmetko argues that descriptions vary between grammatical and linguistic fields. Accordingly, the subject acting on, for, or with reference to itself, being affected by the action of the verb, or being internal to the verbal process are among the descriptions that have been proposed. Condensing these into three criteria, her contextual analysis of middle verbs in 1 Thessalonians and 2 Corinthians reveals that middle verb morphology does in fact indicate middle function. This leads her to undertake an inverse study of middle verbs in Galatians in which she explicates the interpretive nuances of middle voice function. In the end, Kmetko demonstrates that a linguistically grounded understanding of the Greek middle voice significantly enhances New Testament Interpretation.

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