Monday, August 08, 2016


Asyndetic Privative Adjectives in the Preaching of Peter

There is a pair of asyndetic, privative adjectives (ἄϕθαϱτος, ἀποίητος) in Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 6.5.39 = Ernst von Dobschütz, Das Kerygma Petri kritisch untersucht (Leipzig: J.C. Hinrichs, 1893), pp. 18-19 (fragment 2a):
ὅτι δὲ οὐ κατ' ἐπίγνωσιν ἴσασι τὸν θεόν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ περίφρασιν Ἑλλήνων οἱ δοκιμώτατοι, Πέτρος ἐν τῷ Κηρύγματι λέγει· "Γινώσκετε οὖν ὅτι εἷς θεός ἐστιν, ὃς ἀρχὴν πάντων ἐποίησεν, καὶ τέλους ἐξουσίαν ἔχων" καί "ὁ ἀόρατος, ὃς τὰ πάντα ὁρᾷ, ἀχώρητος, ὃς τὰ πάντα χωρεῖ, ἀνεπιδεής, οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐπιδέεται καὶ δι' ὅν ἐστιν, ἀκατάληπτος, ἀέναος, ἄφθαρτος, ἀποίητος, ὃς τὰ πάντα ἐποίησεν λόγῳ δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ [τῆς γνωστικῆς γραφῆς] τουτέστι τοῦ υἱοῦ."
Translation in Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. II: Writings Relating to the Apostles; Apocalypses and Related Subjects. English translation edited by R. McL. Wilson (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), p. 38 (notes omitted):
And that the most notable of the Greeks know (about) God not by positive knowledge, but (only) by roundabout expression, Peter says in the 'Preaching':
Recognize now that there is one God who created the beginning of all things and who has the power to set an end;
the Invisible who sees all things; the Incomprehensible who comprehends all things; the One who needs nothing, of whom all things stand in need and for whose sake they are; the Inconceivable, the Everlasting, the Imperishable, the Uncreated, who has made all things by the word of his power [from the gnostic writing], that is his Son.
The English definite articles ("the Imperishable, the Uncreated") somewhat obscure the asyndeton. More literally, "Imperishable, Uncreated". At first glance the passage contains what looks like a series of four asyndetic privative adjectives (ἀκατάληπτος, ἀέναος, ἄφθαρτος, ἀποίητος), but ἀέναος isn't privative — it's from ἀεί + νάω, i.e., ever-flowing.

Related post: Via Negativa.


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