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End Notes

This page revised and Copyrighted: Theon Doxazo

14 December, 2023


The Cases of the Terms


In this section we will be laying out the arguments for a sequentiality of the character qualities noted in 2 Peter 1:5-7.  Specifically, we shall argue that Peter assumes his readers already have a Christian Faith, and that on this foundation they are commanded to add each of the qualities, in sequential order, until Christian Love is attained.  This point is belabored here because some commentators, whom we will discuss later, do not see a sequence implied in this list of virtues.


We will begin our argument for the sequential nature of the qualities to be added based upon an analysis of the grammar used in the verses.  Acknowledgment is made of the work of William Graham MacDonald, who wrote the Greek Enchiridion (1986).  This work guided much of the thinking contained in this section.


By way of introduction it should be noted that the character qualities presented in 2 Peter are clustered in pairs in which the terms repeat regularly from one pair to the next.  The first term in each pair is a dative.  The second term in each pair is an accusative.  In this section we will consider first the different possibilities for interpreting the datives, and then the accusatives.




Let us begin with a consideration of the various dative cases.  When these types of datives appear in a Greek text they are frequently translated as: 'to' or 'for'.  The first is the Dative of Indirect Object.  MacDonald (1986, p. 85) says this term:  “. . . indicates the indirect recipient of the action of a transitive verb.”  For example:  “He gave me a prize.”  Gave is the active verb, Prize is the direct object that was actively given, and Me is the indirect object that was effected by the giving.  The verb that drives each of the pairs of terms, επχορηγησατε, frequently translated as “add”, is noted by Dana & Mantey (1957, p. 154) as being a transitive verb.  As a transitive it needs something to complete the action implied.  So, the question we are left with is, Add what?  Notice that MacDonald describes the dative of indirect object as an indirect recipient of the action.  The more reasonable recipient of the action of the transitive is the accusative term in each pair.  Thus, the accusative term is added to the dative term, and the dative is indirectly impacted by the action of the transitive.


For example:  “You should add to your faith, virtue.”  The word You is implied by the verb and is the noun in the sentence.  The phrase Should Add is the imperative Verb in the sentence and tells us what is to be done.  The word Virtue is the direct object in the sentence and tells us what is to be added.  The phrase To Your Faith is the indirect object that tells us to what the direct object (Virtue) is to be added.  Thus, understanding the dative as a Dative of Indirect Object is quite possible.  Accepting this interpretation confirms the sequentiality of the second term of each pair (which is ALWAYS an Accusative) as added to the (logically pre-existing) first term of each pair (which is ALWAYS a Dative).  Please note that several English translations cast these sentences in a somewhat different form (“You should add virtue to your faith”).  While some translators believe this is a more readily understandable English translation, the Greek text has them arranged as in the first example above.  Rearranging them as some English translators do does NOT change the grammar (and thus this analysis) one little bit.  Thus, understanding the dative as signifying an indirect object is reasonable, given the grammar of the clauses and is supportive of an understanding that Peter is speaking of a sequential adding of the virtues.


The second possibility of interpreting the dative is the Dative of Advantage.  MacDonald (1986, p. 85) notes that this usage:  “. . . shows 'for' whose benefit something exists or is done.”  This use of the dative would seem to be problematic in this context.  It does not make sense to argue, for example, that self-control is being added to knowledge so as to benefit our knowledge.  So, the Dative of Advantage should be set aside.


The third possibility is the Dative of Disadvantage.  MacDonald (1986, p. 85) notes this:  “. . . shows to whose detriment something exists.  Supply the word 'against' whenever suitable.”  As the second option above, this use of the dative does not make sense.  Again, do we add self-control so as to be a problem for our knowledge?  This doesn't make sense.  The Dative of Disadvantage should also be set aside.


The next possibility is the Possessive Dative.  MacDonald (1986, p. 85) again notes that this:  “. . . reveals to whom some one/thing belongs, this approximates the special dative of advantage.”  Once again, as above, it does not make sense to say that we are to add our self-control to our knowledge as a possession of that knowledge.  Again, the Possessive Dative needs to be set aside.


There is also a Dative of Reference.  This dative “. . . indicates the person or personified idea to which the action of an intransitive verb refers” MacDonald (1986, p. 86).  This use of the dative does not apply to this instance, as the verb in the sentence “add” is a transitive verb.


Finally, there is a Dative of Apparent Object.  “Though the accusative case is the case of the direct object, certain verbs are internally constructed with personal implications so as to require their objects to be in the dative case” MacDonald (1986, p. 86).  This usage does not apply in this case as the operative verb “add” is so simple that no 'personal implications' are realistic.  Also, using the dative with the accusative repetitively, as 2 Peter 1:5-7 does, tends to distinguish between the normal sense of the accusative as direct object and a more common use of the dative.




The Dative case also has a usage that appears so frequently that many commentators consider it as another case, the Instrumental or Instrumental Dative.  Dana & Mantey (1957, p. 89) describe the Instrumental saying:  “The function of the instrumental is quite distinct.  Its root idea is manifestly means” (italics in the original).  As noted in our discussion of the other uses of the dative, there are several applications of the instrumental.


The first of these is the Instrumental of Means.  MacDonald (1986, p. 87) notes that:  “This use tells that cause by which an effect is produced.”  In 2 Peter this would imply, for example, that knowledge was the cause producing the effect of self-control.  As one can readily see, this use of instrumental is completely compatible with considering the 2 Peter virtues as sequentially added.  This is the interpretation preferred by this author.


The second usage is the Instrumental Agent.  MacDonald (1986, p. 87) says of this usage:  “This use tells the person by whom an effect is produced.”  Thus, one might say:  “The cake was eaten by Mary.”  Mary was the agent that ate the cake.  Applying this use of the instrumental to the 2 Peter sequence is problematic, however.  While the Instrumental of Means would describe Knowledge as the means for producing Self-Control, it doesn't make sense to think of Knowledge as a person or an agent.  Thus this usage is not reasonable.


A third usage is the Instrumental of Manner.  This is a usage that has the instrumental modify the verb.  MacDonald (1986, p. 87) notes:  “This adverbial use expresses HOW something is done.”  Again, if we consider this use within the context of the 2 Peter list of virtues, we would be asked to add Self-Control in a Knowledgeable manner.  While one can imagine how this might work, it seems a stretch and somewhat clumsy, given the otherwise 'wooden' nature of the 2 Peter listing.  Note that, even if one were to adopt this variant, the sequential nature of the 2 Peter virtues would remain intact.  This application of the Instrumental of Manner is not preferred.


Lastly, we turn to consider the Cognate Emphatic Instrumental.  MacDonald (1986, p. 87) describes:  “This use repeats the verb's idea in the cognate noun; the effect is emphatic.  Such a construct reproduces a Hebrew idiom.”  In 2 Peter we would be faced with merging the verb 'add' to it's cognate (related) pronoun 'your' (υμων).  I hope it is readily apparent that there is no obvious and necessary relation between 'you' and 'adding'.  This usage is not reasonable in the 2 Peter passage.




Continuing our survey, the Dative case in Greek also has another usage that is so common that it, too, is frequently considered as a separate case, the Locative or Local Dative.  Consider first the Locative of Place.  MacDonald (1986, p. 88) says of this construction that it:  “. . . designates spatial location.”  This usage seems much too concrete to be applied to the 2 Peter list.  Faith is not a concrete place.


Next consider the Locative of Time.  MacDonald (1986, p. 88) notes:  “This use locates the action AT or DURING a period(s) of time.”  It doesn't make sense to think that Knowledge or Self-Control are periods of time.  If one were describing the 'teen years,' then yes, that would make sense.  The virtues in 2 Peter, however, are not age-constrained in this way.  Faith in the Lord Jesus can be acquired as a child or as a senior citizen.  It does not seem appropriate to use the Locative of Time in 2 Peter.


The Locative of Sphere seems much more appropriate.  MacDonald (1986, p. 88) notes that it:  “. . . indicates an abstract realm.”  One could consider this usage as indicating that ideas are constrained by other ideas.  For example, consider the concept of singing with the spirit, and singing with the mind (see 1 Cor 14:15).  Thus, the terms used in this locative are much more abstract than those used, for instance, in the Locative of Place.  This usage is consistent with the 2 Peter virtues being arranged in a sequence.  Thus, one is directed to add whatever it is that we understand as Self-Control into whatever it is that we understand as Knowledge.  The commentator accepting the sequentiality of 2 Peter would see this usage as implying that the pre-existing Knowledge had the newly acquired Self-Control placed into it, thus supporting the concept of sequentiality.


There is also the Locative Absolute.  MacDonald (1986, p. 88) describes the situation in which:  “A noun/pronoun in this case together with a participle in the same case is connected with the rest of the sentence adverbially.  This use is rare in the NT: Luke 8:27.”  Noting that the key verb driving the 2 Peter sequence is just that, a verb, and not a participle, this usage would seem to be untenable.


Finally, lets consider the Prepositional Locative.  MacDonald (1986, p. 88) notes that this is to be applied to:  “The preposition εν whenever it means 'in' rather than 'by' takes this case.”  While this may be appropriate to apply to εν, as it does appear in the 2 Peter sequence, there are several different datives that appear that are not prepositions.  Applying this usage to them would be inappropriate.  IF one chose to understand the 2 Peter datives as Locative, rather than as Instrumental or simply as Indirect Objects, then this usage for εν would seem to be appropriate.


Summary of Datives


A recap is in order for the long-suffering reader that has waded through all this detail.  Be reminded that this author has argued that the dative terms that appear in the 2 Peter listing can be understood as one of three different expressions of the dative.  Specifically, these datives could be: 1)  the Dative of Indirect Object, 2)  an Instrumental of Means, or 3) a  Locative of Sphere.  It is the position of this author that any of the other usages are either impossible or simply not preferred to these three options.


When one considers these three options the first observation is that the sequential nature of the list of virtues in 2 Peter is strongly supported by all three of these options.  If these datives are Indirect Objects, then the grammatical construction of the clauses implies that the second of each of the pairs of virtues (direct object) is what is being added (verb) to the first of the pairs of virtues (indirect object).  If the construction is to be understood as an Instrumental of Means, then the first virtue of each pair (instrumental) is the pre-existing means by which the second virtue of each pair (accusative) is added.  If the cases are to be understood as Locatives of Sphere, then the first virtue of each pair (locative) is the pre-existing location within which the second virtue of each pair (accusative) is placed.  ALL of these forms clearly support the sequentiality of the 2 Peter listing of virtues.


Another observation of these three options is that they vary regarding their implications for causality.  The Instrumental of Means includes an understanding of causality such that something having to do with the first of each pair of virtues somehow causes or produces the second virtue in each pair.  This interpretation is this author's preferred understanding and it is the goal of this web site to describe just how this process occurs.  On the other hand, the Locative of Sphere doesn't say much of anything about the causal nature of adding each virtue.  It specifies conceptually 'where' the new virtue is to be added, and that may constrain how the process of adding occurs, but does not say much of anything about 'how' or 'by whom' the adding occurs.  Finally, the Dative of Indirect Object clearly indicates which of the terms are sequentially primary and which secondary, but doesn't seem to say anything about causality.


The concept of causality in anything to do with God and religion can be a somewhat difficult matter.  Does one hold a powerful view of God/the Holy Spirit and accept that everything is determined/predestined?  Does one take the position that human beings have choice and that what we choose to do and not do has spiritual consequences for our lives and the lives of others?  This author holds a mixed position, though leans strongly toward the second option.  The interested reader is encouraged to consider the sections of the Second Peter Theory that appear later on this web site for a more in-depth consideration of just these issues.




The reader is reminded that, while a dative always appears as the first virtue in each pair of the 2 Peter listing, the second virtue that is to be added is always an accusative.  While we have exhaustively considered the dative above, we now turn to consider the accusative.


The first of the accusative forms that we will consider, the Accusative of Direct Object, is also the one this author prefers.  MacDonald (1986, p. 89) says that this:  “. . . indicates who/what is acted upon by a transitive verb, participle, or infinitive."  Dana & Mantey (1957, p. 154) clearly indicate that 'add' is a transitive verb, meaning that the verb needs something to complete the action implied.  Simply telling someone that they need to 'add' may motivate them to search for a calculator or pencil and paper to write down numbers to be 'added', but that isn't what is meant in the 2 Peter sequence.  Rather, Peter would have us 'add' a specific virtue to another virtue.  Thus, being a transitive verb, the word 'add' needs to also have listed what is to be added.  This is the nature of a transitive verb.  Thus, the Accusative of Direct Object tells us what is to be 'added.'


The Accusative of Double Direct Object is not the preferred reading.  MacDonald (1986, p. 89) states:  “Certain verbs such as those of teaching, asking, reminding, and dressing can take both a personal and an impersonal direct object, neither of which is an object compliment.”  As only one accusative is available for each pair of virtues, this use of the accusative is not appropriate.


MacDonald (1986, p. 90) also describes the Accusative of General Reference.  (a) He notes that it:  “. . . extends the basic verbal activity 'with reference to' or 'toward' some terminal other than a direct object.”  For example:  “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Eph 4:15).  As only one accusative is available for each pair of virtues, this use of the accusative is not appropriate.  (b) MacDonald (1986, p. 90) also noted that this usage:  “. . . occurs frequently with infinitives in which the extension is in the direction of affording a 'subject' for the verbal idea of the infinitive.”  As no infinitive is relevant to these pairs of stages, this use of the accusative would not be appropriate.  And finally, (c) MacDonald (1986, p. 90) states that this accusative:  “. . . also occurs with participles, in which the accusative word functions as the agent or 'subject' of the verbal action in the participle.”  As no participle is relevant to these pairs of stages, this use of the accusative would not be appropriate.


Consider next the Cognate Accusative.  MacDonald (1986, p. 91) says this:  “. . . Consists of an object derived from the verb it completes, emphasizing in a secondary way and Hebraically what is already set forth in the verb itself.  The cognate object may also have with it an adjective that is not cognate.”  As the accusatives in each pair of the 2 Peter qualities are not derived from the operative verb 'add', this use of the accusative would not be appropriate.


Considering the Complementary Accusative, MacDonald (1986, p. 91) says it:  “. . . serves as an objective complement explaining or completing the objects of verbs of making, calling, naming, taking to be, and proving to be.”  As the listed verbs are not operative in the 2 Peter list, this use of the accusative is not appropriate.


There is also the Adverbial Accusative.  MacDonald (1986, p. 91) states:  “. . . In certain nouns the accusative case virtually becomes an adverb.”  Such a construction might appear as:  “Add to your virtue knowledgeably?”  This use of the accusative seems highly unlikely, especially recalling that the virtue that was the accusative of the prior pair of virtues becomes the virtue cast as the dative in the current pair, and so forth.


Next consider the Accusative of Extent of Time.  MacDonald (1986, p. 92) notes that this Accusative:  “. . . indicates a temporal duration.”  Nothing in the 2 Peter passage seems to indicate a reference to periods of time.  This use of the accusative would not be appropriate.


There is also the Accusative of Specification.  MacDonald (1986, p. 92) says this usage:  “. . . tells how many (items, individuals) or how much (space), or where something is located.”  For example:  “. . . about a stone's throw” (Luke 22:41).  As none of the accusatives relate to number or quantity, these uses of the accusative are not appropriate.  Given the presence of the datives associated with each accusative and the step-wise manner in which they are related, it would seem highly unlikely that the accusative should relate to 'where something is located'.  It would seem much more natural for the dative to carry this function (Locative of Sphere).


Finally, consider the Prepositional Accusative.  MacDonald (1986, p. 93) notes that:  “Certain prepositions take the accusative.”  As no prepositions are relevant to the understanding of these accusatives, this use of the accusative would not be appropriate.


Summary & Conclusions


While we saw that three options were available for understanding the datives, we discovered above that only the Accusative of Direct Object was a reasonable application to the virtues added in the 2 Peter sequence.  ALL of the other usages of the accusative were found to be inappropriate to the 2 Peter passage.  Given that all three of the datives were compatible with the sequential nature of the 2 Peter passage, the Accusative of Direct Object would also be very compatible with all three of the dative forms noted as well as the interpretation of the listing of virtues as sequential.


Recall that in discussing the Datives this author preferred the Instrumental of Means.  The Instrumental would imply that as the conflict at one level is resolved the concerns of the next would appear naturally, without effort or intervention, but as a natural outgrowth of the resolution of the prior level.


The Locative of Sphere is another of the Dative options.  It would imply that the outside “will” or “choice” of the person is somehow active apart from the previously completed levels and that this “will” then chooses to confront the conflict of the next level.  The Second Peter Theory this author is proposing is built about the idea that this choice to confront a conflict is not necessary, that conflicts confront us unbidden.


Given the spiritual “dynamics” theorized that “naturally” motivate/lead one from one stage to the next, this author prefers to understand the Datives as instances of the Instrumental of Means.


While this exercise in Greek grammar has been long and probably boring, it was undertaken because it is important that the reader be fully convinced of the sequentiality of the 2 Peter virtues.  As our study of the Greek grammar has demonstrated, the text of Scripture clearly indicates that disciples are to 'add' these virtues one to another in the order specified in 2 Peter.  That is what the text teaches.  Understanding how that process actually occurs is why this web site has been created and will be discussed at length later.