How to Decide Why a Noun is Dative
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You can usually handle a noun in the dative case simply by inserting the words to, in or with in the English translation right before the noun itself.
However, you may want a more precise understanding of the author’s idea. In that case, follow the steps below to discover the most likely possibilities.
Is there a preposition before the dative noun?
If so, you don’t need to go any further on this page. The dative noun is simply the object of the preposition. You should look up the preposition in your lexicon to determine how the noun is related to the rest of the sentence.
1. Dative of Indirect Object
The noun tells “to whom” or “for whom” an action is performed.
Example: They gave him the money (another way to say “They gave the money to him.”)
Example: And they brought little children to him (Mark 10:13)
2. Dative of Advantage
The dative noun tells who receives the advantage (or disadvantage) of the action.
It might be paraphrased “for the benefit of [dative noun].”
Example: If we are beside ourselves, it is for God (2 Corinthians 5:13).
3. Dative of Possession
The dative noun describes the owner of something, the one to whom something belongs.
Example: And there was not to them a child [literally] (Luke 1:7). A smoother rendering would be “And they had no child.”
4. Dative of direct object
Certain Greek verbs always demand a direct object in the dative case, rather than the accusative case you would normally expect.
In grammar books using an 8-case system for describing nouns, the next few meanings are called “Locative,” because they show where something is located.
5. Dative (Locative) of Place
It shows the location where something is found.
Example: He stayed at Caesarea.
Example: The disciples came in the boat (John 21:8).
6. Dative (Locative) of time
It tells the point of time when something happened, almost like pointing to a particular date on the calendar.
Example: On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1)
7. Dative (Locative) of sphere
This specifies the sphere of thought which is being discussed, the logical limits of the statement.
Example: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:1) — They are poor in the area of spirit, not necessarily in terms of finances or other types of poverty.
Example: You have become slow in hearing (Hebrews 5:11) — They may not have been slow physically or mentally, but they are sluggish in this particular area.
In the 8-case system, the following usages are described as instrumental, because they show the instrument used to accomplish something.
8. Dative (Instrumental) of means
The dative noun is used to specify the tool or instrument (seldom a person) used to do something.
Example: He cast out the spirits with a word (Matthew 8:16).
9. Dative (Instrumental) of Manner
The dative noun shows the manner in which something is done.
Example: In every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is being preached (Philippians 1:18)
10. Dative (Instrumental) of Association
This is a less precise usage; it simply shows that something is placed in association with the dative noun.
You might paraphrase the idea as “in company with [dative noun].”
Example: A certain youth followed with him (Mark 14:51).
Example: The men who were traveling with him stood speechless (Acts 9:7).