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The Original Greek New Testament

LESSON 2 - First Part / Second Part
ACHILLES' GRIEF - From Homer's Iliad 

by George Valsamis



Page 9

Οὐσία, in Plato's Sophist, refers to the proper action (πρᾶξις) or to the proper idleness (ἀπραξία) of a being. In any case, the primary and crucial function/ambition of a verb is to reveal something about the essence of a being, about the οὐσίαν ὄντος, by determining proper states of activity of that being. This way a name becomes the subject (ὑποκείμενον) of a verb and a sentence is formed.

E.g. in Heraclitus' sentence "harmony invisible [is] superior to the visible" (ἁρμονίη ἀφανὴς φανερῆς κρείττων) the invisible harmony will remain only that: invisible, until it becomes a term of comparison with the visible harmony. To our consciousness the invisible harmony exists, becomes essential (οὐσιώδης, οὐσιαστικὴ) only as the subject of the confirmation: κρείττων ἐστί (=it is superior). I can not "see" the invisible harmony, unless I see its superiority and only into this superiority - awareness of the invisible harmony always presupposes in the same time awareness of an inferior harmony.


Order of importance - Omission (implication) of the subject or the verb


The smaller, foundational, sentence consists of a verb and its subject. If one of these terms is missing, then it is implied, e.g. in the sentence of Heraclitus the verb [is=ἐστί] is implied.

It is very common in Greek for the verb "is" to be implied. This is a way of language to concentrate upon the essential, to bring forward the subject/noun and the particularity of the action. Besides Heraclitus' sentence, note e.g. the sentence "μεθ' ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός" (="with us God"). We know that God always is. The point is that now God is with us, so that the verb ("is") disappears, to let the important appear more clearly. Note again. In English normally we would say "God is with us". Greek places first the "with us" and then "God" omitting entirely the "is". You can think of it as an order of importance, where syntax follows the importance of meaning, moving the most significant to the start of the sentence.

Note something analogous: "τὴν τῆς πόλεως ἐπιμέλειαν" Plato writes, placing, as is usual in Greek, the object of an action, before the action itself. This phrase in English would be "the watching over of the city", in Greek usually is "the of the city watching over". Think of it also as a reflection in language of the opposite of what medieval Latin thinkers (interpreting Aristotle) called principium individuationis, the principle of individuation, where a general sense - in our case, the sense of "watching over whatever", becomes specific by the addition "watching over this". In Greek, the word that specifies the action tends to be placed first - and thus we have: "the of the city watching over", τῆς πόλεως ἐπιμέλεια. This way the order of importance becomes also an order of accuracy, which places first the individual and specific out of which and only, we can have a sense of the general and unspecified. 

Sometimes the subject or the verb is mentioned in a previous sentence and is not repeated and can be inferred from the context, e.g. in this lesson's text, in the sentence "[they] fight about his naked body", the verb "fight about" (''ἀμφιμάχονται") refers to the Trojan and Greek armies. 

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Cf. The Complete Iliad * The Complete Odyssey
Greek Grammar * Basic New Testament Words * Greek - English Interlinear Iliad
Greek accentuation * Greek pronunciation

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