“ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ (‘Come and Take!’): Rethinking the Use and Function of Participles of Attendant Circ

The phrase μολὼν λαβέ (“come and take”) is a classical expression of defiance. Plutarch (Moralia, Apoph. 51.11) reports that this phrase was the response of King Leonidas when King Xerxes demanded that the Spartans surrender their weapons on the eve of the Battle of Thermopylae (440 BC). This example illustrates that the normal way of communicating two distinct imperatival nuances was not by using two imperatival forms, but rather by using a participle followed by an imperative. That is, a participle of attendant circumstance followed by and imperative (or an indicative) is the natural way of expressing two parallel verbal activities in Classical and Koine Greek. For example, the first participle in the Great Commission (πορευθέντες) in Matthew 28:19 should be translated “Go!” and not “As you go” or merely “going” (In an earlier article, I argued that the preponderance of evidence argues in favor of interpreting the participle as conveying attendant circumstance, i.e., “Go!”).
But is this usage of the participle common? In answering this question, I will respond to the following objections: (1) the participle of attendant circumstance is not a legitimate category (Wallace maintains that “some grammarians deny its validity” [Greek Grammar, 640]) and Porter seems to reject this category [Idioms, 187–90; Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament, 237–53]; (2) the participle of attendant circumstance is only a somewhat common category (Wallace argues that it is “relatively common” or “relatively frequent” [640]); (3) the participle of attendant circumstance is not the default category (Wallace states, “If a participle makes good sense when treated as an adverbial participle, we should not seek to treat it as an attendant circumstance” [640]); and (4) the participle of attendant circumstance is not equal to using two imperatives (Wallace comments, “If an author wished to make both commands truly coordinate, he would normally join two imperatives with καί” [643 n72]).

I will demonstrate that the participle of attendant circumstance (1) is a legitimate category, (2) is extremely common, (3) is the default category, especially in the Gospels and when it occurs before the main verb, and (4) is indeed the equivalent to using two imperatives. If this is the case, this perspective will affect the way we interpret, translate, and understand many NT passages.

1 thought on ““ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ (‘Come and Take!’): Rethinking the Use and Function of Participles of Attendant Circ”

  1. Continues the Discussion but Anything New?
    Merkle’s paper would allow participants to rethink but I’m not sure of much fresh ground to be broken. More reference from Plutarch et al.?

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