The Adnominal Genitive in the Pauline Corpus

by Ghassan Elia Khalaf (Author) J. William Johnston (Volume editor)
Monographs XX, 244 Pages
Series: Studies in Biblical Greek, Volume 19


Usage of the adnominal genitive (one or more genitive substantives in relationship to a head noun) is one of most ambiguous aspects of the Greek language of the New Testament, and thus the source of contentious debate among exegetes. This study finds a way forward in the understanding of the genitive case by examining concatenations of single and multiple genitives, testing methods on the Pauline corpus as a representative sample of adnominal genitive usage in the whole New Testament. The results are offered with a set of rules that are vital in assisting the interpreter in clarifying these often difficult expressions. This book offers fresh insight especially where genitives appear in concatenation, and examines the syntactical configurations of genitive constructions with a view to untangling their semantics.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Preface
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • The Adnominal Genitive
  • Ongoing Debate
  • A State of Dissatisfaction
  • Defining the Goal
  • Ablative and Genitive
  • Basic Meaning
  • Ablatival
  • Possessive
  • Restrictive
  • Adjectival
  • Definitional
  • Nature of the Genitive
  • Appurtenance
  • Concatenation
  • Adnominal Construction
  • Propagation of Meanings
  • Ambiguity
  • Method
  • Basic Tools
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter One: The Pauline Corpus as a Model
  • Distinctive Style
  • Extensive Use of the Genitive
  • Frequent Genitive Clusters
  • Wide Range of Meanings
  • The Need for Careful Exegesis
  • Paul’s Use of the Genitive Is Typical
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter Two: The Genitive in New Testament Grammars
  • G. B. Winer
  • A. Buttmann
  • S. G. Green
  • J. H. Moulton
  • A. T. Robertson
  • H. E. Dana and J. R. Mantey
  • F. Blass and A. Debrunner
  • M. Zerwick
  • C. F. D. Moule
  • Nigel Turner
  • J. A. Brooks and C. L. Winbery
  • S. E. Porter
  • R. A. Young
  • D. B. Wallace
  • Conclusion
  • Cumulative Outline of Usage
  • Principles for Interpretation
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter Three: The Semantics of Adnominal Genitives
  • Short History of Linguistic Theory
  • Rationalistic
  • Comparative-Historical
  • Structuralist
  • Transformational-Generative
  • From Dictionary to Meaning
  • Lexical
  • Grammatical
  • Syntactical
  • Semantic
  • The Genitive in the Era of Semantics
  • William L. Wonderly
  • Harold K. Moulton
  • Nida and Taber
  • Beekman and Callow
  • J. P. Louw
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter Four: Adnominal Two-Word Genitive Constructions
  • Introduction
  • Adnominal Genitive Meanings
  • Genitive of Definition
  • Possessive Genitive
  • Genitive of Relationship
  • Genitive of Identification
  • Genitive of Location
  • Genitive of Association
  • Genitive of Accordance
  • Ascription-Recipient Genitive (Ascribed-to Genitive)
  • Appositive (Epexegetic) Genitive
  • Adjectival Genitive
  • Descriptive Genitive
  • Qualitative Genitive
  • Hebrew Genitive
  • Attributed Genitive
  • Genitive of Manner
  • Objective Genitive
  • Pure (Accusative) Objective Genitive
  • Genitive of Advantage
  • Genitive of Destination
  • Genitive of Reference
  • Genitive of Derivation
  • Superlative Genitive
  • Subjective Genitive
  • Genitive of Source
  • Genitive of Origin
  • Genitive of Authorship
  • Genitive of Cause
  • Instrumental Genitive
  • Genitive of Resemblance
  • Ablatival Genitive
  • Genitive of Separation
  • The Partitive Genitive
  • Genitive of Comparison
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter Five: Adnominal Three-Word Genitive Constructions
  • The Grammatical Aspect
  • Structural Elements
  • Three-Word Genitives Connected by καί
  • The Semantic Aspect
  • Sentence Approach
  • Subject-Predicate Approach
  • Inter-relational Approach
  • Meanings of the Three-Word Genitive
  • Cumulative Genitive
  • Adjectival Genitive
  • Multivalent Functions of the Middle Word
  • Appendix: List of Three-Word Genitive Constructions
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter Six: Adnominal Four-Word Genitive Constructions
  • Structural Elements
  • Pure Nouns
  • Pronoun Involved
  • Four-Word Genitives Connected by καί
  • The OT Roots of Paul’s Genitive Clusters
  • Meanings of the Four-Word Genitive
  • Cumulative Genitive
  • Epexegetical Genitive
  • Adjectival Genitive
  • Appendix: List of Four-, Five-, and Six-Word Genitives
  • List of Four-Word Genitives in Paul
  • List of Four-Word Genitives in the NT
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter Seven: Interpretive Principles
  • Syntactical Aspects of the Genitive
  • The Article
  • Article as Substantive
  • Emphatic Position of the Nomen Rectum
  • Article + Articleg + Ng + N
  • Article + Ng + N
  • Article + Ng (Pronoun) + N
  • Ng (Pronoun) + Article + N
  • Ng+ N
  • Ng (Pronoun) + N
  • Article + Ng + N
  • Prepositions
  • Conjunctions in Genitive Constructions
  • Exegetical Principles for Genitive Interpretation
  • Relationships Between Substantives
  • Figures of Speech
  • Verbal Head Nouns
  • Immediate Context
  • Wider Context
  • Same Wording but Different Meanings
  • Parallel Genitive Expressions
  • Different Passages by the Same Author
  • Genitive and Non-genitive Expressions
  • Authorial Usage
  • Beneath the Surface
  • Septuagintal Influence
  • Contemporary Texts
  • Genitive in Concatenation
  • History of Interpretation
  • Interpretive Principles
  • Syntactical Categories to Add
  • Multivalence of the Middle Word
  • The Four-Word Genitive
  • Additional Categories for the Four-Word Genitive
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter Eight: Conclusion
  • Summaries
  • Problematic Genitive Interpretation
  • Method
  • Traditional Grammars
  • Semantics and Structuralism
  • Transformational Grammar
  • Levels of Investigation
  • Meaning
  • Categorization
  • Genitives in Concatenation
  • Criteria for Genitive Interpretation
  • Challenges and Contributions
  • Confirmation of Existing Meanings
  • Designation of New Meanings
  • Concatenate Genitive Constructions
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index

←xii | xiii→



This volume in the Studies in Biblical Greek series is a revision of the Ghassan Khalaf’s doctoral dissertation (“The Syntactical Meanings of the Adnominal Genitive Constructions in the Pauline Corpus”) presented in 2001 to the Evangelical Theological Faculty of Heverlee (Leuven), Belgium. Regrettably, Ghassan Khalaf passed into the presence of the Lord Jesus before he could complete the manuscript.

Khalaf accomplished the work of identifying NT adnominal genitive constructions (and counting the words in each) using paper editions and some computer assistance. I have verified this work using Logos Bible Software. I have also worked through the data by hand in NA28, following in his footsteps. I have a real sense of the lofty task Ghassan Khalaf set for himself in this enterprise.

But he is no stranger to heavy lifting. Khalaf produced an Arabic-Greek concordance during Lebanon’s civil war without the aid of computers or typesetting software. He is known in the Arabic-speaking world for this landmark accomplishment, and for years of service to the world of theological education in Lebanon and beyond. He was actively engaged in producing a fresh NT translation into Arabic up until the day he departed this life. It is my hope that the wider world of scholarship will appreciate the work Ghassan Khalaf left behind, and that it will be a help to those who have struggled to take hold of the slippery genitive case.

←xiii | xiv→

My heartfelt thanks are due to several people. Those thanks begin with gratitude to Smyrna Khalaf, Ghassan’s daughter, for entrusting me with this part of her father’s legacy. It was an honor to meet Smyrna and her family in Beirut and to hear about Ghassan Khalaf’s life and work. Thanks are also due to Daniel B. Wallace, my mentor and colleague, who put my name forward to Smyrna Khalaf to carry this project forward. I still have fond memories of a retreat I went on as a graduate student intern with Dr. Wallace and several fellow interns to discuss—of all things—the genitive case. I am also grateful for D. A. Carson’s comments and correspondence with Khalaf and Wallace, which have proved very helpful in updating the manuscript.

It is a daunting task to undertake editing the work of another scholar when he is no longer available for consultation. I have endeavored throughout the work to retain Khalaf’s voice as I worked to fill in the lacunae in the manuscript he had begun to expand. I updated the text by adding interactions with newer works in some cases and more recent editions in others. Unless otherwise indicated, translations are Ghassan Khalaf’s or my own. Most often, these translations are simple functional equivalents given alongside an example to be discussed. It is truly an honor to have joined Ghassan Khalaf in this study. It is my profound hope that he would have been pleased to see the finished product.

J. William Johnston
17 June 2020

←xiv | xv→



For biblical and related primary source literature, consult the standard abbreviations of The SBL Handbook of Style: For Biblical Studies and Related Disciplines, ed. Billie Jean Collins, Bob Buller, and John F. Kutsko, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: SBL Press, 2014), §8.3 pp. 124–71.

ABAnchor [Yale] Bible
AYBRLAnchor Yale Bible Reference Library
BBRBulletin of Biblical Research
BDAGBauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed., revised and edited by Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.
BDFBlass, Friedrich and Albert Debrunner. A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Translated by Robert Walter Funk. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.
BDRBlass, Friedrich and Albert Debrunner. Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch. Edited by Friedrich Rehkopf. 18th ed. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2001.
Beekman-CallowBeekman, John and John Callow. Translating the Word of God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974.←xv | xvi→
Brooks-WinberyBrooks, James A. and Carlton L. Winbery. Syntax of New Testament Greek. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1979.
Buttmann, GrammarButtmann, Alexander. A Grammar of the New Testament Greek. Translated by J. H. Thayer. Andover: Draper, 1880.
BSacBibliotheca Sacra
CSBChristian Standard Bible
Dana-ManteyDana, H. E. and Julius R. Mantey. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. New York: Macmillan, 1927. Reprint, 1957.
EECEvangelical Exegetical Commentary
ESVEnglish Standard Version
GNTGood News Translation
GTJGrace Theological Journal
HALOTThe Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Ludwig Koehler, Walter Baumgartner, and Johann J. Stamm. Translated and edited under the supervision of Mervyn E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. Leiden: Brill, 1994–2000.
HCSBHolman Christian Standard Bible
Herm. Mand.Shepherd of Hermas, Mandates
HFTHelps for Translators
Householder, ApolloniusHouseholder, Fred W. The Syntax of Apollonius Dyscolus. Amsterdam Studies in the Theory and History of Linguistic Science Series Studies in the History of Linguistics 3/23. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1981.
ICCInternational Critical Commentary
JBLJournal of Biblical Literature
JGLJournal of Greek Linguistics
JLLJournal of Latin Linguistics
JLSMJanua linguarum, Series minor
JSNTJournal for the Study of the New Testament
JSNTSSJournal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series←xvi | xvii→
KJVKing James Version
LBThe Living Bible
LNLouw, Johannes P. and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains. 2nd ed. New York: United Bible Societies, 1996.
LUTDie Bibel nach Martin Luthers Übersetzung. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2017.
MHT1Moulton, J. H. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908–76. Vol. 1 (1908): Prolegomena, by J. H. Moulton.
MHT2Moulton, J. H. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908–76. Vol. 2 (1929): Accidence and Word Formation, by W. F. Howard.
MHT3Moulton, J. H. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908–76. Vol. 3 (1963): Syntax, by Nigel Turner.
MHT4Moulton, J. H. A Grammar of New Testament Greek. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1908–76. Vol. 4 (1976): Style, by Nigel Turner.
MNTCMoffat New Testament Commentary
Moule, Idiom BookMoule, C. F. D. An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959.
N(head) Noun or nomen regens
NA28Aland, Barbara et al., eds. Novum Testamentum Graece. 28th rev. ed., ed. Holger Strutwolf. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.
NACNew American Commentary
NEBNew English Bible
NETNew English Translation
NETSNew English Translation of the Septuagint. Edited by Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
NgNoun [in the] g[enitive], a dependent genitive or nomen rectum
NIGTCNew International Greek Testament Commentary
NIVNew International Version←xvii | xviii→
NIV84New International Version, 1984.
NJBNew Jerusalem Bible
NKJVNew King James Version
NRSVNew Revised Standard Version
NTNew Testament
NTSNew Testament Studies
OTOld Testament
PgPronoun (in the genitive case)
PNTCPillar New Testament Commentary
Porter, IdiomsPorter, Stanley E. Idioms of the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. Biblical Languages—Greek 2. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994.
REBRevised English Bible
Robertson, GrammarRobertson, A. T. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. 4th ed. New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1923.
RSVRevised Standard Version
SNTGStudies in New Testament Greek
SNTSMSSociety for New Testament Studies Monograph Series
SPIBScripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici
TDNTTheological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by G. Kittel and G. Friedrich. Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 10 vols. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964–76.
TEVToday’s English Version
TNKTANAKH: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the Traditional Hebrew Text. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985
TNTCTyndale New Testament Commentaries
TOBTraduction œcuménique de la Bible
TRTextus Receptus
TrinJTrinity Journal
UBSHSUnited Bible Society Handbook Series
Wallace, ExSynWallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Wallace, Sharp’s CanonWallace, Daniel B. Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance. Studies in Biblical Greek 14. New York: Lang, 2009.←xviii | xix→
WBBarclay, William. The New Testament: A New Translation. London: Collins, 1969. Reprint, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1999.
Winer, GrammarWiner, Georg Benedikt. A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament New Testament Greek: Regarded as a Sure Basis for New Testament Exegesis. Translated by W. F. Moulton. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1882.
WPCWestminster Pelican Commentaries
Zerwick, Biblical GreekZerwick, Maximillian. Biblical Greek: Illustrated by Examples. Translated by Joseph Smith. Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici 114. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1963.
←xix | xx→

←xx | 1→



The Adnominal Genitive

The present work will investigate what F. Blass and A. Debrunner call “the adnominal genitive,”1 and A. T. Robertson calls “the genitive with substantives.”2 To qualify as an adnominal genitive, a construction must have a nominal related to other nominals via the genitive case. Thus, this study omits all other genitive case uses, such as constructions involving participles, infinitives, verbs, adverbs, and prepositions. The uses of the genitive case in this latter category of construction are much less difficult to construe. The adnominal genitive has been chosen because of the interpretive challenges this kind of genitive creates. The variety of nuances that may arise from linking two or more nouns in a genitive construction is immeasurable, especially when those nouns have symbolic or metaphorical reference.

The genitive case, as a whole, is an enormous and diversified subject for study. It involves a very long history. The genitive originated in the primitive periods of the formation of the Greek language, passing to the Greek language from Sanskrit. It was used in the classical and Hellenistic periods, and has survived into modern ←1 | 2→usage in Modern Greek. The dative case, in comparison, has disappeared from Modern Greek.3

The genitive is used extensively in the NT. A statistical study of the case forms in the New Testament reveals that in terms of frequency the genitive case’s forms come after the nominative and the accusative. Grammarian Daniel B. Wallace informs us that the genitive case occurs 19,633 times in the New Testament—a quarter of the total number of the occurrences of all case forms: 7681 nouns, 4986 pronouns, 5028 articles, 743 participles, and 1195 adjectives.4

Understanding the adnominal genitive can be seen as a critical need for exegesis because the relationship between the “head” noun (nomen regens) and the noun in the genitive (nomen rectum)5 often requires disambiguation. No detailed statistical survey has yet been done on adnominal genitive constructions in the NT. In preparation for this study, I [Ghassan Khalaf] surveyed the Pauline corpus and calculated approximately 1800 two-word adnominal genitive constructions and two hundred adnominal genitives in clusters. It is hoped this survey will lay the groundwork for the same kind of studies that will eventually cover the whole NT.

No comprehensive study of the adnominal genitive in the New Testament has been undertaken. Readers of the standard grammatical tools for the NT know these books’ treatment consists of introductory analyses of the syntax of the genitive. Distinguished grammarians, such as G. B. Winer, J. H. Moulton, A. T. Robertson, F. Blass and A. Debrunner, M. Zerwick, C. F. D. Moule, N. Turner, S. E. Porter, and D. B. Wallace have each made their contribution. The works of those scholars form the basis of many other derivative Greek grammars, but all their analyses of the genitive case—as helpful and insightful as they are—remain limited in scope.6

Several decades passed during the twentieth century without any new major investigation of the genitive case in the NT. All that was available about the genitive had been contained in the traditional NT grammars. A new development, however, occurred in the 1960s. A renewed interest in the genitive arose, driven ←2 | 3→mainly by issues raised by modern linguistic theories and the need for the refinement of Bible translations.

It is difficult to find sustained discussions of adnominal genitive constructions. The works of Harold K. Moulton, Eugene A. Nida and Charles R. Taber, John Beekman and John Callow, Stanley E. Porter and Johannes P. Louw contain the only treatments of the adnominal genitive in the NT that have been done outside the standard grammars.7

One of the most important of the recent studies of the genitive case in the NT appears in the work of D. B. Wallace.8 Wallace utilizes almost all the genitive studies that have been done before him to the date of the release of his grammar in 1996. Yet, due to the inherent limitations of the reference grammar format, his treatment of the adnominal genitive syntax (especially the genitive in concatenations) cannot be comprehensive.

The need for thorough study of all the uses and kinds of adnominal genitives still exists. There is still no treatment of the subject that can be described as comprehensive. This work hopes to begin the task by undertaking a discussion of the usage of the adnominal genitive in the Pauline corpus.


XX, 244
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. XX, 244 pp.

Biographical notes

Ghassan Elia Khalaf (Author) J. William Johnston (Volume editor)

Ghassan Elia Khalaf (1945-2018) was Professor and President at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut for many years. He earned his BA from ABTS and his MA and PhD from Evangelische Theologische Faculteit in Leuven, Belguim. Dr. Khalaf has written the Arabic-Greek New Testament Concordance (1979) and Basics of the Art of Preaching (2010) in addition to writing and editing over a dozen books and articles. J. William Johnston is Associate Professor of NT Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, Houston. His research interests focus mainly on the application of Greek grammar and syntax to exegesis. His monograph The Use of Πᾶς in the New Testament (2004) appears in the Studies in Biblical Greek series.


Title: The Adnominal Genitive in the Pauline Corpus