Before I start this, I should say that I greatly appreciate Bill Mounce and all of the work he's done. It's not easy to write a first-year grammar that anyone besides yourself can productively use. And have you ever really dug into his Morphology of Biblical Greek book? While not my cup of tea, there's an astounding amount of work and understanding distilled in there. So Bill, if you ever read this, know I greatly appreciate your efforts.
But did anyone else skim the Koinonia blog "Mondays with Mounce" this week and find themselves saying "huh?" after the first few paragraphs? Here's the text I'm talking about:
In Mark 5:7 the demon says to Jesus, "I adjure you by God (horkizo se ton theon), do not torment me" (ESV). The TNIV says, "In God’s name don’t torture me!" There are two issues here. The accusative ton theon is an accusative of oath, the name by which the oath is taken. That is why you can translate an accusative with "by," an idea normally connected with the dative.
The other issue is horkizo. BDAG lists its meaning as, "to give a command to someone under oath, adjure, implore." It is more than just a command or a strong request from the demon. The demon wants Jesus to take an oath not to torment him. This explains the "adjure" and "In God’s name." Pretty bold of the demon—asking the Son of God to swear an oath in the name of God.
The bold part is the part that threw me. An "accusative of oath"? Now, I have to admit, I don't have Wallace's grammar handy, so I don't know if he actually lists that one in his accusative categories. But the translation logic, at least as written and briefly argued here, astounds me: We are permitted to translate the accusative with "by" in this instance because τον θεον is an "accusative of oath"? Actually, I guess we're permitted to translate the accusative article τον with "by" because of this label?
Funny, I thought the verb ορκιζω had something to do with that. There's nothing about τον θεον in and of itself here that would cause one to label it as "accusative of oath". We know oaths are involved here because ... well ... the verb ορκιζω is put in the mouth of the demon. In other words, it's the context, not just the accusative.
While we typically wouldn't use "by" to put a Greek accusative structure to English, for some reason the Greeks did use accusatives in such contexts. The Greeks used one particular structure to accomplish this; in English we use a different structure. It doesn't mean we need to give it a fancy label to clue us in to "English" it as if we are translating a standard Greek dative into English; like we need to appeal somewhere for permission or something. We just need to understand the whole structure.
True, BDF §149 describes "Accusative with verbs of fearing, etc., and of swearing", including Mk 5.7 as an example (though in a section on "The Simple Accusative of the Object", not as double accusative, which is discussed in §§155-158). Robertson (p. 483, XI.VII(i)), at least at the point cited by BDAG, takes the causative route here and notes the double accusative in that context.
But all of that stymies me. I'm really supposed to know (and recall?) all that hooey before I can translate ὁρκίζω σε τὸν θεόν as "I implore you by God"? The label doesn't help me understand the Greek any better, it gives one shorthand to English it (lemma + parsing/declension + force labels == English translation). Actually, I may even be understanding the Greek less because I'm relying on the label to tell me how to English something instead of actually understanding the Greek itself. Doesn't the occurrence of ορκιζω along with the double accusative (σε + τον θεον) clue me in to something different going on without having to label the blasted thing "accusative of oath"?
You know, I'm liking some aspects of Robertson's grammar more and more each time I pull it off of my Logos Bible Software bookshelf.
But I don't begrudge BDF for including §149; it is very useful for the information it provides. I do, however, begrudge the notion that I need to have a label in order to justify a translation, because the labels quickly move from explanation of translation to prescription for translation. It's not, "Oh, oaths and stuff, particularly ορκιζω, are "causative" verbs, and they typically take double accusatives — so they get translated like so-and-so" (and yes, I'm not even really a fan of calling the verb "causative"); it is "well this is an accusative of oath, so we translate it using 'by'". Assigning the label becomes the task, with understanding (and translation) following; when the reverse of that process should really be what's going on.
So, in closing, I'll again say I appreciate Bill Mounce's work. And I'll end the post with some words from (near) the end of his post:
The point is this: languages are not codes. You can’t go neatly from one into the other. Words don’t have exactly the same meanings, and neither do grammatical constructions. All translation is both science and art.