Major Uses of the Greek Genitive Case
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If you want to keep it simple, and all you need is a possible translation for a genitive noun in Greek, just insert the word “of” before the noun.
But if you want to dig deeper for a more precise explanation of the way a genitive is being used, here are the steps to take.
If there is a preposition in front of the genitive noun, look up the meaning of the preposition.
The word is genitive because that particular preposition demands a genitive after it. You don’t need to look for a more complicated explanation.
If there is no preposition before the word, consider one of the following possible uses:
“something which belongs to ____”
The first noun is the property of the genitive noun.
Example: Matthew 26:51 — “the slave which belongs to the high priest.”
“someone who was the son of ____”
This involves the names of two people, one of which is genitive, as in “James, of Alphaeus.” It shows family relationship, usually father/son, but can occasionally refer to a brother or other close relative. You have to add the words “son of.”
Example: Mark 2:14 – “Levi, son of Alphaeus.”
Some genitive nouns give information about the action of the verb rather than another noun, so they are called adverbial genitives.
1. TIME- “[verb] which happened at [time in genitive]”
It tells what time an act occurred; it emphasizes this time as opposed to some other time. It is not trying to locate a certain point of time (that would be dative) or giving the duration of an action (that would be accusative).
Example: John 3:2 – “This one came to him at night.”
2. PLACE – “[verb] which happened at [place in genitive]”
It shows that an action took place in a particular place rather than some other place.
Example: Luke 16:24 – “that he might dip the tip of his finger in water (rather than somewhere else).”
3. REFERENCE – “[adjective] with reference to the subject of ____”
It is used to show what subject the idea of an adjective can cover.
Example: Hebrews 3:12 – “a heart evil with reference to unbelief”
When a genitive is linked with a noun that describes some kind of action, like “preaching, blasphemy, revelation,” there are two special possibilities of usage:
1. Subjective genitive – “[verbal noun] which was done by ____”
If you turned the verbal noun into an actual verb, then a subjective genitive tells what the subject of that verb would be.
For example, in “the preaching of men,” it would imply that the men preached.
Example: Acts 1:22 – “the baptism of [done by] John.”
2. Objective genitive – “[verbal noun] of which the object was ____”
The genitive noun tells you the direct object of the action described by the verbal noun.
Example: John 3:10 – “the teacher of Israel” [the one who teaches Israel]
Example: Matthew 12:31 – “the blasphemy of the Spirit [the act of blaspheming the Spirit].
“____ which is ____”
The genitive noun is simply another name for the noun to which it is linked.
Example: “the city of Chicago” [the city which is Chicago]
Example: John 2:21 – “the temple which is his body.”
“[fraction] of [the whole]”
When a noun gives a fraction or portion of something, it is often followed by a genitive that tells you the whole from which the fraction comes.
Example: “part of an apple”
Example: Mark 6:23 – “half of my kingdom”
This is a complicated usage, which deserves a separate section of its own.
There are certain verbs that always take a genitive noun rather than an accusative as their direct object.
NOTE: Some older grammar books use a more complicated system for naming the cases. Ablative is simply another name for genitive in that system.
SEPARATION “____ away from ____”
The first noun is described as separated from or moved away from the genitive noun.
Example: “I took the doll away from the child.”
Example: Ephesians 2:12 – “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.”
SOURCE – “____ which has ___ as its source.”
The genitive noun is the source of the other noun; in some way it is responsible for its existence.
Example: Romans 4:13 – “through the righteousness from faith.:
Example: 2 Corinthians 4:7 – “that the excellency of the power may be from God.”
COMPARISON – “[comparative adjective] than ____”
Genitive is sometimes used after comparative adjectives or adverbs like “better, smaller, hairier” to tell what they are compared to.
Example: John 13:16 – “a servant is not greater than his lord.”
If your passage doesn’t really fit any of these uses, it is what grammarians call a “genitive of description.” This is a generic category which merely means that the genitive describes the other noun in one way or another.
Example: “a basket of grapes” – “the arm of flesh”
Example: Mark 1:4 – “baptism of repentance.”