Be sure to study English participles before you attempt to master Greek participles. video
Just as in English, Greek participles are verbal adjectives (the following is adapted from Machen).
- Being adjectives, they have gender, number, and case; and like other adjectives they agree in gender, number, and case with the nouns that they modify; see principle 7.
- Being verbs, they have tense and voice, they can be modified by adverbs or prepositional phrases, and if transitive, they can take an object.
Consider this sentence:
|ο ἀπόστολος λέγων ταῦτα ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ βλέπει τὸν κύριον||The apostle, saying these things in the temple, sees the Lord.|
Here the participle λέγων, which means “saying,”
- agrees with ἀπόστολος, which is in the nominative, masculine, and singular. The participle, therefore, must be the same; cf principle 7.
- Since participles are also like verbs, λέγων has tense and voice. It is in the present tense because the action which it denotes is represented as going on at the same time as the action of the leading verb βλέπει;
- it is in the active voice because it represents the apostle as doing something, not as having something done to him;
- it has the adverbial modifier ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ and the direct object ταῦτα.
- On the other hand, it has no subject, as a finite verb would have; participles never have a subject.
Consider this sentence:
|βλέπομεν τὸν ἀπόστολον λέγοντα ταῦτα ἐν τη ἱερῷ,||we see the apostle saying these things in the temple.|
Here the noun with which the participle agrees is accusative, singular, masculine. Therefore the participle must also be accusative, singular, masculine, but its direct object and its adverbial modifier are the same as the previous example.
|προσερχόμεθα τῷ ἀποστόλῳ λέγοντι ταῦτα ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ,||we come to the apostle while he is saying these things in the temple.|
Here the participle λέγοντι agrees with a masculine noun in the dative singular and must therefore itself be dative singular masculine. But in this example it is quite impossible to translate the participle literally. The translation,
we come to the apostle saying these things in the temple,
would not do at all, for in that English sentence the participle saying would be understood as modifying the subject of προσερχόμεθα, not ἀποστόλῳ. It is necessary, therefore, to give up all attempts at translating the participle “literally.” Instead, we must express the idea which is expressed by the Greek participle in an entirely different way—by the use of a temporal clause. When such temporal clauses are used to translate a Greek present participle they are usually introduced by the DMW “while.” Such a free translation would have been better than the literal translation even in example #1 above, although there the literal translation was not absolutely impossible. It would have been rather better to translate ὁ ἀπόστολος λέγων ταῦτα ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ βλέπει τὸν κύριον with while the apostle is saying these things in the temple, he sees the Lord.
|διδασκομένῳ ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀποστόλου προσέρχονται αὐτῷ oi δοῦλοι||while he is being taught by the apostle, the servants are coming to him|
All Greek participles are either articular or anarthrous.
- If articular, then it must be either attributive or substantival.
- If anarthrous, then it may still be attributive or substantival but many anarthrous participles have an additional adverbial nuance. Note: even adverbial participles will still be modifying a noun (it will agree with that noun in gender, number, and case).
Substantival participles will be performing one of the noun functions and hence won’t be modifying anything.
Study chapter 26 in BBG.