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Lesson 21: More on the Aorist
Middle and Passive

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Lesson at a Glance

Aorist Middle/Passive

In this lesson you will learn that the forms traditionally called aorist middle in fact represent both middle and passive meanings of Greek verbs and that those traditionally called aorist passive are also used for both middle and passive meanings.

σα/ο/ε Middle/Passive

You will learn to call the forms you learned in lesson 20 the "σα/ο/ε" forms. First aorists in this group use σα to connect the personal endings to the verb stem, while second aorists use ο and ε as the connecting vowel. These verbs use the secondary middle endings for their aorist middle/passive forms.

(θ)η Middle/Passive

You will learn to call the verb forms you learned in lesson 19 the (θ)η forms. First aorists in this group use θη and second aorists use simply η to connect the personal endings to the stem. These verbs use the secondary active endings for their aorist middle/passive forms.

Grammatical Discussion

Two Sets of Middle/Passive Forms

Compare the forms of ἀποκρίνομαι (a lexical middle verb) in the following two sentences.

Ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτοῖς (John 5:17)
And Jesus answered them

Ἀπεκρίθη αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἱησοῦς (John 6:26)
Jesus answered them

The form in John 5:17 (ἀπεκρίνατο) is the form you learned in lesson 20. It is traditionally called the aorist middle. The one in John 6:26 (ἀπεκρίθη) is the one you learned in lesson 19, traditionally called the aorist passive. Can you detect any difference in the their meaning? It is clear that they can both be used with a middle voice meaning.

Now compare the two ways the form ἐκρύβη (aorist "passive" of κρύπτω, I hide) is used in the two texts below.

[γεννηθείς = when he was born; τρίμηνον = three months]
Μωϋσῦς γεννηθεὶς ἐκρύβη τρίμηνον
When Moses was born he was hidden for three months (Hebrews 11:23)

Ἰησοῦς. . . ἐκρύβη ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν
Jesus. . . hid from them (John 12:36)

In Hebrews 11:23, the sense of ἐκρύβη is clearly passive. Moses did not hide himself. He was a baby. Someone else hid him, so he was hidden (passive). Yet in John 12:36 this exact same verb form has a clear middle sense, not passive. Jesus hid himself. No one else hid him.

The same aorist "passive" form can have either a middle or passive sense. Only the context can tell you which is appropriate. In fact, the verb κρύπτω never appears with the forms you learned in lesson 20. Both its middle and passive senses are expressed exclusively with the forms you learned in lesson 19 (traditionally called the aorist "passive" forms).

Do not worry if you are unable to recognize the form of ἀπόλλυμι in this text. You will learn the middle/passive forms for -μι conjugation verbs below.

Now observe the use of the aorist middle form of the -μι conjugation verb ἀπόλλυμι (I destroy, kill; mid. I perish, die).

ἀπώλοντο ὑπό τοῦ ὀλοθρευτοῦ
They were destroyed by the destroyer (1 Corinthians 10:10)

Here the sense is clearly passive even though the form is the one traditionally called middle. The presence of the phrase with ὑπό (by) forces a passive interpretation here. Once again, we see that the context determines whether the sense is middle or passive. The form does not clearly indicate this.

We saw above that κρύπτω only has the forms learned in lesson 19 (the traditional passive forms) and uses those forms for both its middle and passive meanings. The verb ἀπόλλυμι uses only the forms traditionally called middle (those studied in lesson 20) and uses them to express both its middle and passive meanings. This is the case with most Greek verbs. They have either the forms presented in lesson 19 or the ones presented in lesson 20. Few verbs have both.

Verbs with both Sets of Middle/Passive Forms

Some verbs do have both sets of forms, those presented in lessons 19 and 20. You have already seen one of these above. The lexical middle verb ἀποκρίνομαι has both sets of forms, yet the two sets of forms can be used with the same meaning. For this verb, the forms presented in lesson 19 can have either a middle or passive sense, and so can the ones presented in lesson 20. Only the context can tell you which meaning is appropriate.

The lexical middle verb γίνομαι introduced in lesson 20 shows a similar pattern. Its meaning often translated as "become" appears with both sets of non-active aorist forms (ἐγενήθην and ἐγένετο).The two sets of forms have the same sense and are translated into English the same way (with an active English form).

The reason both forms are translated as active is that this sense of γίνομαι is intransitive. "Imitators" and "judges" serve as complements, not direct objects in these sentences.

Καὶ ὑμεῖς μιμηταὶ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 1:6)

καὶ ἐγένεσθε κριταί
and you became judges (James 2:4)

The -μι conjugation verb τίθημι introduced in lesson 8 and reviewed in more recent lessons is one of very few verbs that is not a lexical middle, yet appears with both sets of non-active endings.

ἔθεντο εἰς τήρησιν
They were placed in custody Acts 4:3

ἐτέθησαν ἐν τῷ μνήματι
They were placed in the tomb Acts 7:16

While the form of the verb in Acts 4:3 is middle, both texts have a passive meaning. Again, it is the context that determines the choice between middle and passive meaning, not the form of the verb. The form ἔθεντο can have a middle sense in some contexts and a passive sense in others. The same is true for ἐτέθησαν.

There are very few Hellenistic Greek verbs that have both sets of non-active aorist forms. Most verbs in the Hellenistic period had one set or the other. In fact, of the verbs you have studied so far, only ἀποκρίνομαι, γίνομαι, and τίθημι have both sets of forms.

In order to help you remember that both sets of forms can be used with either middle or passive meaning, I will from this point forward refer to the endings presented in lesson 19 as Aorist Middle/Passive (θ)η Forms and those presented in lesson 20 as Aorist Middle/Passive σα/ο/ε Forms. Read the section below to review those forms.

Review of Aorist Middle/Passive Forms

Aorist Middle/Passive σα/ο/ε Forms

Review the forms of παύω and βάλλω as examples of σα/ο/ε forms (augment + aorist active stem + secondary middle endings). These are the same forms you learned in lesson 20.

First Aorist Middle/Passive σα/ο/ε Group

First aorist verbs have an aorist stem identical to their present tense stem. First aorist verbs in this group use σα to connect the secondary middle endings to that stem.

παύω

Singular

Person

Greek Verb

English Gloss for the Middle Sense

English Passive Gloss

1st

παυσάμην

I stopped

I was stopped

2nd

παύσω*

You stopped

You were stopped

3rd

παύσατο

She stopped, He stopped, It stopped

She, He, It was stopped

Plural

1st

παυσάμεθα

We stopped

We were stopped

2nd

παύσασθε

You stopped

You were stopped

3rd

παύσαντο

They stopped

They were stopped

*σα + σο = σω (σασο ⇒ σαο ⇒ σω)

Practice recognizing these forms (Exercise 1).

Second Aorist Middle Passive σα/ο/ε Group

Second aorist verbs have a unique aorist stem (one different from their present tense stem). The second aorist verbs in this group useο/ε to connect the secondary middle endings to that stem.

βάλλω

Singular

Person

Greek Verb

English Gloss for the Middle Sense

English Passive Gloss

1st

βαλόμην

I threw

I was thrown

2nd

βάλου**

You threw

You were thrown

3rd

βάλετο

She, He, It threw

She, He, It was thrown

Plural

1st

βαλόμεθα

We threw

We were thrown

2nd

βάλεσθε

You threw

You were thrown

3rd

βάλοντο

They threw

They were thrown

**ο + σο = ου (οσο ⇒ οο ⇒ ου)

These middle/passive forms of βάλλω appear in several compound verbs in the New Testament. Three of them (ἀναβάλλω, περιβάλλω, and συμβάλλω) are included in the vocabulary list below. While the middle/passive form of βάλλω itself does not appear in the New Testament, these compound verbs do appear with middle/passive forms, so it is worth your time to study this chart well. Remember that compound verbs are formed by combining a preposition and a verb: περιβάλλω = περί + βάλλω. The augment goes between the preposition and the verb stem: περιεβαλόμην.

Practice recognizing the aorist middle and passive forms of βάλλω (Exercise 2).

Aorist Middle/Passive (θ)η Forms

Review the forms of βαπτίζω and κρύπτω as examples of the (θ)η forms (augment + aorist passive stem + [θ]η + secondary active endings). These are the same forms you learned in lesson 19.

First Aorist Middle/Passive (θ)η Group

First aorist forms in this group use θη to connect the secondary active endings to their stem.

βαπτίζω

Singular

Person

Greek Verb

English Passive Gloss

English Gloss for Middle Usage

1st

βαπτίσθην

I was washed

I washed (myself)

2nd

βαπτίσθης

You were washed

You washed (yourself)

3rd

βαπτίσθη

He, She, It was washed

He, She, It washed (...)

Plural

1st

βαπτίσθημεν

We were washed

We washed (ourselves)

2nd

βαπτίσθητε

You were washed

You washed (yourselves)

3rd

βαπτίσθησαν

They were washed

They washed (themselves)

Practice recognizing the aorist middle and passive forms of βαπτίζω (Exercise 3).

Second Aorist Middle/Passive (θ)η Group

Second aorist verbs in this group us η rather than θη to connect the secondary active endings to their stem.

κρύπτω

Singular

Person

Greek Verb

English Passive Gloss

English Gloss for Middle Usage

1st

κρύβην

I was hidden

I hid (myself)

2nd

κρύβης

You were hidden

You hid (yourself)

3rd

κρύβη

He, She, It was hidden

He, She, It hid (...)

Plural

1st

κρύβημεν

We were hidden

We hid (ourselves)

2nd

κρύβητε

You were hidden

You hid (yourselves)

3rd

κρύβησαν

They were hidden

They hid (themselves)

Practice recognizing aorist middle and passive forms of κρύπτω (Exercise 4).

Aorist Middle/Passive of μι Conjugation Verbs

Observe the aorist middle/passive forms of δίδωμι (I give) and τίθημι (I put, place). Remember that to form the aorist of a μι conjugation verb, you have to remove the first syllable (the reduplication) of the present tense form, so the aorist stem of δίδωμι is not δίδω-, but simply δο- (The stem vowel, ω is shortened to ο).

Aorist Middle/Passive (θ)η Group

First aorist μι conjugation in the (θ)η group follow the pattern of δίδωμι. They use the secondary active endings.

δίδωμι

Singular

Person

Greek Verb

English Passive Gloss

English Gloss for Middle Usage

1st

δόθην

I was given

I gave (something to someone for my own reasons)

2nd

δόθης

You were given

You gave (something to someone for your own reasons)

3rd

δόθη

She, He, It was given

She, He, It gave (...)

Plural

1st

δόθημεν

We were given

We gave (something to someone for our own reasons)

2nd

δόθητε

You were given

You gave (...)

3rd

δόθησαν

They were given

They gave (...)

Τίθημι (I put, place) can follow the same pattern as δίδωμι (first aorist of the θη group). Its stem may seem surprizing to beginning students, though. It is τε- rather than θη-. Remember that the stem vowel is shortened for the aorist AND that θ is a variant of τ. The first aorist middle/passive first singular of τίθημι, when it follows the (θ)η pattern, is τέθην.

Practice recognizing the aorist middle and passive forms of δίδωμι (Exercise 5).

Aorist Middle/Passive σα/ο/ε Group

More frequently, τίθημι appears as a second aorist using the endings associated with the σα/ο/ε (the secondary middle endings). When μι conjugation verbs use these endings, they do not use a connecting vowel.

τίθημι

Singular

Person

Greek Verb

English Passive Gloss

English Gloss for Middle Usage

1st

θέμην

I was placed

I put (something somewhere for my own reasons)

2nd

θου***

You were placed

You put (something somewhere for your own reasons)

3rd

θετο

She, He, It was placed

She, He, It put (...)

Plural

1st

θέμεθα

We were placed

We put (something somewhere for our own reasons)

2nd

θεσθε

You were placed

You put (something somewhere for your own reasons)

3rd

θεντο

They were placed

They put (something somewhere for their own reasons)

***ε + σο = ου (εσο ⇒ εο ⇒ ου)

Practice recognizing the aorist middle and passive forms of τίθημι (Exercise 6).

Vocabulary

The words given in this vocabulary list are presented with their lexical form followed by the future active, aorist active, and (θ)η aorist middle/passive if the verb has one. A long underscore (________) indicates that the verb never appears in the relevant form. If no (θ)η middle/passive form appears in the list, then the verb uses the σα/ο/ε pattern for its aorist middle/passive (σα if it is first aorist, ο/ε if it is second aorist).

New Vocabulary

1

ἀναβάλλω, ________, ἀνέβαλον, ________

I lay or throw (something) on (someone); I defer
ἀνά + βάλλω

23

περιβάλλω, περιβαλῶ, περιέβαλον, ________

I put on (a garment); I clothe (someone)
περἰ + βάλλω

6

συμβάλλω, ________, συνέβαλον, ________

I put together; I agree
σύν + βάλλω (ν changes to μ when followed by β.)

37

βούλομαι, ________, ________, ἐβουλήθην

I want (something)

Notice that βούλομαι is a lexical middle. Can you understand why this verb never appears in the active voice? Think about its meaning. Whenever you want something, you are directly affected by that want. The middle voice is the most natural way to express this meaning.

119

παραδίδωμι, παραδώσω, παρέδωκα, παρεδώθην

I hand over, deliver
παρά
+ δίδωμι

43

θεραπεύω, θεραπεύσω, ἐθεράπευσα, ἐθεραπεύθην

I heal

8

ἐπιλαμβάνομαι, ________, ἐπέλαβον, ________

I take hold (of) ἐπί + λαμβάνω

15

καταλαμβάνω, ________, κατέλαβον, κατελήμφθην

I take; I overtake, catch up with (someone); I reach (a destination or a conclusion)κατά + λαμβάνω

12

προσλαμβάνω, ________, ________, ________,

I receive, accept; I increase
πρός
+ λαμβάνω

39

ἐπιτίθημι, ἐπιθήσω, ἐπέθηκα, ________

I lay (something) on (something else); I put, place; I add
ἐπί
+ τίθημι

3

συντίθημι, ________, ________, ________

I put (some things or some people) together; I agree
σύν
+ τίθημι

19

κρύπτω, ______, ἔκρυψα, ἐκρύβην

I hide (someone or something), conceal (something)

Review

90

ἀπόλλυμι, ἀπολέσω, ἀπώλεσα, ________

I destroy, kill; mid. I perish, die
(ἀπό + ὀλλυμι) When an augment is added to this verb, the ο at the beginning of the stem lengthens to ω.
(See lesson 17.)

66

ἀπολύω, ἀπολύσω, ἀπέλυσα, ἀπελύθην

I release, dismiss, send away, divorce
(See lesson 14.)

231

ἀποκρίνομαι, _______, ἀπεκρινάμην, ________, ________, ἀπεκρίθην

I answer (See lesson 20.)

122

βάλλω, βαλῶ, ἔβαλον, ἐβλήθην

I throw, cast (See lessons 12, 18, and 21.)

77

βαπτίζω, βαπτίσω, ἐβάπτισα, ἐβαπτίσθην

I dip, immerse (See lessons 8, 9, and 18.)

415

δίδωμι, δώσω, ἔδωκα, ἐδώθην

I give (See lessons 8, 9, and 18.)

259

λαμβάνω, λήμψομαι, ἔλαβον, ________

I take, receive; I choose (See lesson 12.)

15

παύω, παύσομαι, ἐπαυσάμην, ________

I stop, cease (See lesson 20.)

100

τίθημι, θήσω, ἔθηκα ἐτέθην

I put, place (See lessons 8, 9, and 18.)

Reading and Translation

1. [πᾶσα = all (nom. fem. sing.); μοι = to me]
Matthew reports that Jesus, after his resurrection, told his disciples...

ἐδόθη μοι πᾶσα ἐξοθσία
All authority was given to me
All authority has been given to me (Matthew 28:18)

Since πᾶσα ἐξοθσία (all authority) is nominative case in Matthew 28:18, it must be taken as the subject. That forces a passive interpretation. A middle interpretation such as "[God]gave me all authority" would require ἐξοθσία to have its accusative case form.

2. [Πρίσκιλλα is a name: Priscilla]
Πρίσκιλλα καὶ Ἀκύλας προσελάβοντο αὐτον
Priscilla and Aquila received him
Priscilla and Aquila welcomed him into their home (Acts 18:26)

In Hellenistic Greek society, to "receive" someone meant to welcome him or her into your home. How does this affect your understanding of Acts 18:26? Should this information be included in the translation?

Can you see why the author of Acts 18:26 used the middle voice form rather than the active voice? Using the middle voice form suggests that Priscilla and Aquila invited Paul into their house for their own interest, not just his.

3. [ὀρθῶς = rightly, correctly]
εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ· ὀρθῶς ἀπεκρίθης
And he said to him: You answered correctly (Luke 10:28).

What is the difference between ἀπεκρίθης in Luke 10:28 (above) and ἀπεκρίνατο in Luke 23:9 below? Is there any difference in meaning?

4. [οὐδέν = nothing, no one]
αὐτὸς δὲ οὐδὲν ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτῷ.
And he answered nothing to him.
And he did not answer him (Luke 23:9).

5. [ἐγώ = I (nominative singular)]
ἐγὼ δὲ ἀπεκρίθην· τίς εἶ, κύριε;
And I responded, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 22:8)

6. [λάθρᾳ = secretly, in secret]
ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν
He wanted to release her quietly (Matthew 1:19)
He wanted to divorce her secretly

The verb βούλομαι is a lexical middle. Can you see why this verb would never appear in the active voice? Whenever you want something, you are directly affected by that desire. This meaning is best represented in the middle voice in Hellenistic Greek.

7. Ἰωάννης παρεδόθη
John was handed over
John was arrested (Matthew 4:12)

8. ἐθεραπεύθη ὁ παῖς
The child was healed (Matthew 17:18)

9. [φοβέω = I fear, I am afraid]
ἐφοβήθησαν τοὺς ὄχλους
They feared the crowds
They were afraid of the crowds (Matthew 21:46)

10. Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν ἐκείναις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἦλθεν Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ Ναζαρὲτ τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ ἐβαπτίσθη εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην ὑπὸ Ἰωάννου.
And it happened in those days, Jesus went from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.

How can we tell that the verb ἐβαπτίσθη should be understood as passive here? What in the context makes this clear?