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Monday, June 12, 2006  

Cognate Accusa-whats?

Last week, we built a Greek Construct to search for nouns and verbs which agree in root form. Today, we'll take that search a step further to look for cognate accusatives.

Now, before your eyes glaze over at my use of grammatical jargon, let me explain what a cognate accusative is. (If it makes you feel any better, I had to look it up before I could write about it!).

"Cognate" is basically just a fancy term for a related word—that is, a word which is derived from the same root as another word. The "accusative" case has many functions in Greek, but its most basic function is to indicate the direct object of a verb. So a "cognate accusative" is a construction in which a verb is followed by a cognate (related) noun in the accusative case.

We found some examples of cognate accusatives in the search we did last Monday. "Rejoiced a great joy" in Matthew 2:18 is a cognate accusative. Likewise, "Do not treasure up treasures" in Matthew 6:19 is a cognate accusative.

When we think of Biblical language, we often think of repetitive expressions like these. This is largely because the King James Bible tended to translate cognate accusatives literally. Most modern translations look for ways to translate these expressions into more natural English.

Ironically, cognate accusatives may not have been that natural in Greek, either. The use of a direct object derived from the same root as a verb is quite common in the Hebrew Bible; and when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, these constructions were rendered as cognate accusatives. Cognate accusatives do occur in classical Greek, but they appear to be most common in Greek texts which have some kind of connection to Hebrew.

We can test that hypothesis by searching for cognate accusatives and then examining where they occur most frequently. Here's how to do it:

  1. Open a Search window, select GNT-T (the tagged Greek New Testament) as your search text, and click the Search for Words radio button.
  2. Control-click the More Options section of the Search window and select "Clause" from the "Search Within Every" submenu of the contextual menu.
  3. Hit the tab key to select the contents of the argument entry box and select "Greek" from the New Construct submenu of the File menu (or use the keyboard shortcut command-2).
  4. In the Construct window that opens, drag a VERB element into the first (leftmost) column. Click OK to dismiss the dialog that appears without setting any additional tag details.
  5. Drag a NOUN element into the second column. In the dialog that appears, select "accusative" from the Case pop-up menu, then click OK.
  6. Drag a WITHIN item above the first two columns. In the dialog box that appears, enter "5" in the first field and click OK.
  7. Drag an AGREE item above the first two columns. In the dialog box that appears, click the checkbox for Root, click the Ignore Prefixes radio button, then click OK.

Your Construct should now look like this:

Click OK to perform your search, and the results of your search will be displayed in the Search window.

Now, as I've mentioned before, the first thing I usually do after a search is to click the Details button. A special Details workspace will then present you with a variety of tools for getting a bird's-eye view of your search results.

The first thing you'll see is a graph of where your search results occur most frequently across the search range. Here's a graph of cognate accusatives in the New Testament:

Note: I've customized this graph to be an area graph (rather than the standard bar graph) and to use a black background with a grid. How did I do that? By using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn. Say it with me! Command-T.

If we look at this graph, we find that there's a thick concentration of cognate accusatives in Matthew and Revelation, and that there are several sharp spikes in Luke and Acts. The Hebraic background of Matthew is well-known, and the writer of Revelation is also recognized for his frequent use of hebraisms. You wouldn't think this would be the case (since Luke's Greek is among the most literary in the New Testament), but Luke is also known for his frequent use of hebraisms, most likely for literary effect. Another high spike occurs in Ephesians, where Paul happens to be quoting the Greek Septuagint. You can examine any of the areas of the graph simply by double-clicking on them. The search window to which this graph is linked will then jump to the corresponding place in the text. By double-clicking on the high spike in Ephesians, I was taken immediately to Ephesians 4:8, where I saw that both cognate accusatives occur in a section of italicized text, indicating a quotation from the Septuagint.

So far, our search of the New Testament has tended to confirm the hypothesis that cognate accusatives are most common in Greek which has some kind of Hebrew connection. We can test this hypothesis further by switching our search text to the Septuagint (LXX1) and performing the search again. The graph of that search looks like this:

Wow! We can see immediately that the spikes are higher and much more thickly concentrated in the Greek Septuagint than in the Greek New Testament. Interestingly, the books which have the lowest concentration of cognate accusatives—such as Nehemiah, Esther, and most of the apocryphal books—all come from the exilic and post-exilic period. Could this be because Hebrew was being supplanted by Aramaic and Greek during these periods?

Frankly, this is a subject about which I know just enough to be dangerous. I'm formulating hypotheses and analyzing data that I really don't have the expertise to evaluate intelligently, and it would come as no surprise to me if one of our scholarly users chimed in to say, "David, you really don't know what you're talking about!" That's the main reason it has taken me so long to finish this blog entry. I spent a fair amount of time last week looking up cognate accusatives and hebraisms in various lexicons and grammars (all in Accordance, of course), just to try to avoid making a complete fool of myself. Whether or not I've succeeded remains to be seen. :-)

My point in talking about this stuff is simply to show how the new ability to search by root can be used. Obviously, the average user is not going to be doing these kinds of searches, but for scholars who really want to be able to analyze and study the Biblical languages, root searching adds a whole new dimension of exploration. Yet it's so easy to use that guys like me can construct root searches and analyze the results!

Hmmm, on second thought, maybe that's not such a good thing! ;-)

I have tried to find cognate accusatives in the BHS-W4, and it can recognize them if they are 3 or more words apart, but not if they are consecutive words (as in Gen 40.8). What am I doing wrong?

Please disregard my earlier post. I just read the blog of 12/14/06 and tried the "search in both directions" button. That did it! I still don't understand why Gen 40.8 didn't show up in the original search, but at least now I can (hopefully) generate a complete list of cognate accusatives.

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