The Classification of Participles: A Statistical Study -- By: James L. Boyer

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 05:2 (Fall 1984)
Article: The Classification of Participles: A Statistical Study
Author: James L. Boyer

The Classification of Participles:
A Statistical Study

James L. Boyer

Understanding participles is a major requisite for the NT scholar. This study surveys the many ways participles are used in the Greek NT and the frequency of occurrence of each functional type. Attention is given to the structural patterns involved and the significance of these classifications. Eighteen categories are distinguished, nine of adjectival uses and nine of verbal uses. The special feature of this study is the statistical information provided, which points out the relative importance of the various types; more detailed discussion of the adverbial, the genitive absolute, the periphrastic, and the imperatival categories is provided.

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This article does not present a new and different approach to participles in the NT. It is, rather, an attempt to use a new avenue of study via computer analysis to supply information previously not easily available. This information concerns the relative frequencies of the various uses of participles in the NT, and some of the patterns these uses take. The first step in this process was to prepare an in-order list of all participles occurring in the Greek NT, together with a grammatical identification of each. Next, an in-context study was made in order to determine the usage classification of each. Finally, a class-by-class study of these occurrences was conducted in order to note any special features or peculiarities which might be helpful to the NT Greek student. The classification system used is for the most part the traditional one, though the purpose is not to defend this manner of treatment. In fact, in some cases a very different treatment is advocated.

The definition of a participle as a verbal adjective sets a pattern for the classification of its uses. As an adjective it stands in gender,

number and case agreement with a noun or other substantive (expressed or unexpressed), and in some way modifies, describes, or limits that substantive. As a verbal, while still attached by agreement to a substantive, it affects also the action or predication of the sentence.

Adjectival Uses

Just as the position of the adjective in relation to the article gives the clue to its adjectival function (attributive or predicate), it is also important to understand whether the same is true of the participle. Thus the position of the adjectival participle in relation to its governing noun’s article was made the basis for the classification. The first four categories show the article in “attributive position,” that is, immediately following the article. The fifth category shows the participle in ...

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