Genitive Case

Major Uses of the Greek Genitive Case

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].

Apposition GENITIVES

 “____ 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”

Genitive Absolute

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.”


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