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New Testament Greek
Course II
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  Lesson 4 Passive Voice, Middle Voice, Deponent Verbs, Future of εἰμί, Instrumental Dative, ὑπό with Genitive  
  Passive Voice  

Contrary to what we might have guessed, it is thought that the Passive voice developed after the Middle Voice. (Robertson, p. 798; Zerwick, p. 72) However, because the Passive Voice can be described more simply, we will discuss it first.

Remember that Voice has to do with the relationship of a verb and its subject. In the active voice, the subject performs the action. In the passive voice, the subject is the recipient of the action.

In Level I, Lesson 2, we considered the following two sentences:

The bull tramples the ground.

The ground is trampled by the bull

In the first sentence, the subject is "bull" and the bull is actively trampling. The verb "tramples" is in the Active voice.

In the second sentence, the subject is "ground" and the ground is passively being trampled. The verb "is trampled" is in the Passive voice.

In the indicative mood, the passive endings for the primary tenses are the following:

  singular     plural  
1st person μαι     μεθα  
2nd person σαι     σθε  
3rd person ται     νται  

In the Present tense, a variable vowel precedes the ending, connecting it to the stem. In the 2nd person singular, this variable vowel, or connecting vowel, combines with the ending in a contracted form.

The Present Passive Indicative is formed using the first principle part as follows:


stem + variable vowel + primary passive ending


add the primary passive ending...

  λυ μαι   λυ μεθα
  λυ σαι   λυ σθε
  λυ ται   λυ νται

...insert the variable vowel,
ο before μ or ν, otherwise ε

  λυ ο μαι   λυ ο μεθα
  λυ ε σαι   λυ ε σθε
  λυ ε ται   λυ ο νται

...In the 2nd person singular, the σ drops out, the ε and α combine to form η and the ι drops to a subscript...

  λυ ομαι   λυ ομεθα
  λυ   λυ εσθε
  λυ εται   λυ ονται


This is the conjugation of the present passive indicative of λύω

  singular   plural
1st person λύομαι I am loosed λυόμεθα we are loosed
2nd person λύῃ you are loosed λύεσθε you (pl.) are loosed
3rd person λύεται he, she, it is loosed λύονται they are loosed



The Perfect Passive Indicative is formed using the fifth principle part.

This is the conjugation of the perfect passive indicative of λύω

  singular   plural
1st person λέλυμαι I have been loosed λελύμεθα we have been loosed
2nd person λέλυσαι you have been loosed λέλυσθε you (pl.) have been loosed
3rd person λέλυται he, she, it has been loosed λέλυνται they have been loosed

Notice that that the Perfect Passive does not use the variable vowel, and also notice that the 2nd person singular form is not contracted.



The Future Passive Indicative is formed using the sixth principle part.

You have learned several characteristic stem terminations which you should now learn to associate with the various principle parts. In the chart below, notice that θη is characteristic of the 6th principle part. The characteristic stem terminations are not always present for a given principle part. For example, 2nd Aorist active verbs do not have the σ of the 3rd principle part (though they may have the α), 2nd perfect actives do not have the κ of the 4th principle part, and 2nd Aorist Passive Verbs do not have the θ of the 6th principle part. Instead of having these stem terminations, the stems of 2nd Aorists, 2nd Perfects and 2nd Pluperfects have internal changes. Still, it will be very helpful to think of the principle parts as being characterized by the highlighted letters.

λύω λύσω ἔλυσα λέλυκα λέλυμαι ἐλύθην
Act Mid Pass

Act Mid Pass

Act Mid
Act Mid


Mid Pass
no variable vowel

Mid Pass
no variable vowel




This is the conjugation of the future passive indicative of

  singular   plural
1st person λυθήσομαι I shall be loosed λυθησόμεθα we shall be loosed
2nd person λυθήσῃ you will be loosed λυθήσεσθε you (pl.) will be loosed
3rd person λυθήσεται he, she, it will be loosed λυθήσονται they will be loosed

Notice that that the Future Passive, like the Future Active, appends the σ to the stem. Notice also that as in the Present Passive, the 2nd person singular form is contracted.

  Middle Voice  

When the middle voice is used the subject is performing the action, but is also involved in some further way in that action. The subject may both perform and receive the action, or may perform the action on his own behalf, or in some other way be more intimately involved in the action.

Perhaps the easiest way to think of the middle voice is as a reflexive: Judas
"hanged himself" (
ἀπήγξατο, aor. middle ind. of ἀπάγχω; Mt. 27:5).

Consider the idea of guarding, i.e., protecting, someone from something. In 1 Jn. 5:21, "guard yourselves" represents an active verb and a reflexive pronoun.

φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων.

guard yourselves from the idols.

Compare this with Luke 12:15 where the same idea is expressed using the middle voice:

φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας

guard yourselves from all covetousness.

These examples may seem to suggest that the middle voice can be explained as merely reflexive. But its significance is generally a bit more subtle than that, and in fact, varies from verb to verb and even from context to context. Robertson said,

"The only difference between the active and middle voices is that the middle calls especial attention to the subject. In the active voice the subject is merely acting; in the middle the subject is acting in relation to himself somehow. What this precise relation is the middle voice does not say. That must come out of the context or from the significance of the verb itself." (Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 804)

In some verbs, the middle voice seems to mean get something done to/for oneself or get oneself in some condition. For example, in Luke 2:3 (also vs. 1 and vs. 5), "and everyone was going to get himself enrolled (ἀπογράφεσθαι, pres. middle inf. of ἀπογράφω) each one unto his own city." The idea is not merely active - they were not simply enrolling someone (else). Nor is the idea merely passive. They were not being enrolled without some effort on their part. But it seems to me that "enroll themselves" also fails to convey exactly the right idea. Just as one doesn't vaccinate himself, but instead, gets vaccinated, they didn't enroll themselves. They were getting enrolled, or we could say, getting themselves enrolled.

In 1 Cor. 6:11, it is interesting to note that in the triad washed, sanctified, justified, the first term is middle while the last two are passive. The sanctification and justification are accomplished by God. But in the washing, there is both the activity of the one who is baptized and the spiritual cleansing that is accomplished by the Lord. Therefore, Paul writes, "you got yourselves washed, you were sanctified, you were justified." He doesn't say, you washed (active), nor you were washed (passive), nor you washed yourselves (active verb with a reflexive pronoun), but you got yourselves washed (ἀπελούσασθε, aor. middle ind. 2nd pers. pl. of ἀπολούω).

In the primary tenses, the middle endings are identical to the passive endings:

  singular     plural  
1st person μαι     μεθα  
2nd person σαι     σθε  
3rd person ται     νται  

This is the conjugation of the present middle indicative of λύω

  singular   plural
1st person λύομαι I loose [for/to/etc.] myself λυόμεθα we loose [for/to/etc.] ourselves
2nd person λύῃ you loose [for/to/etc.] yourself λύεσθε you (pl.) loose [for/to/etc.] yourselves
3rd person λύεται he, she, it looses [for/to/etc.] --self λύονται they loose [for/to/etc.] themselves

The Present Middle is identical in form to the Present Passive.


This is the conjugation of the perfect middle indicative of λύω

  singular   plural
1st person λέλυμαι I have loosed [for/to/etc.] myself λελύμεθα we have loosed [for/to/etc.] ourselves
2nd person λέλυσαι you have loosed [for/to/etc.] yourself λέλυσθε you (pl.) have loosed [for/to/etc.] yourselves
3rd person λέλυται he, she, it has loosed [for/to/etc.] --self λέλυνται they have loosed [for/to/etc.] themselves

The Perfect Middle is identical in form to the Perfect Passive. There is no the variable vowel and the 2nd person singular form is not contracted.



Unlike the Future Passive, the Future Middle Indicative is formed using the 2nd principle part. Accordingly, it lacks the θη that characterizes the Future Passive. Its formation is predictable, using the σ that characterizes the 2nd principle part and the primary middle/passive endings that we have learned.

This is the conjugation of the future middle indicative of λύω

  singular   plural
1st person λύσομαι I shall loose [for/to/etc.] myself λυσόμεθα we shall loose [for/to/etc.] ourselves
2nd person λύσῃ you will loose [for/to/etc.] yourself λύσεσθε you (pl.) will loose [for/to/etc.] yourselves
3rd person λύσεται he, she, it will loose [for/to/etc.] --self λύσονται they will loose [for/to/etc.] themselves

Notice that the 2nd person singular form is contracted.

  So-Called Deponent Verbs  

Many verbs have middle or passive forms that will often be translated into English using active voice verbs. An example is ἔρχομαι, I come, I go.

Traditionally, these have been called deponent verbs. The word deponent is from the Latin deponere = to lay aside. This term suggests that the middle or passive meaning was laid aside for these particular verbs even though the middle or passive form was used. However, for many of these so-called deponent verbs, it may well be that the Greek speaker really had a perspective on the action that made a middle voice appropriate, even though in modern English we would tend to describe the action using an active voice.

In any event, these are usually verbs for which no active form is found in the Greek New Testament. For now, we will refer to these verbs in the traditional way. That is, we will call them deponent verbs for the sake of convenience and consistency with the terminology found in most beginning grammars.

Some verbs are said to be deponent in one tense, but not in another. The verb γινώσκω is Present Active Indicative. But the future indicative is γνώσομαι. We will translate this I shall know even though it is middle in form. Another example is the verb to be. We have already learned the Present Active Indicative, εἰμί. The future is conjugated as follows:

  singular   plural
1st person ἔσομαι I will be ἐσόμεθα we shall be
2nd person ἔσῃ you will be ἔσεσθε you (pl.) will be
3rd person ἔσται he, she, it will be ἔσονται they will be

  οἶδα & ᾔδειν  

οἶδα (I know) is 2nd perfect in form but is used with a present meaning. ᾔδειν (I was knowing) is 2nd pluperfect in form but is used with an imperfect meaning. The conjugations are as follows:


  singular   plural
1st person οἶδα I know οἴδαμεν we know
2nd person οἶδας you know οἴδατε you (pl.) know
3rd person οἶδε(ν) he, she, it knows οἴδασι they know


  singular   plural
1st person ᾔδειν I was knowing ᾔδειμεν we were knowing
2nd person ᾔδεις you were knowing ᾔδειτε you (pl.) were knowing
3rd person ᾔδει he, she, it was knowing ᾔδεισαν they were knowing


  Instrumental Dative  

Review the discussion of cases in Lesson 3, Level I. Study the table relating 8 functions to 5 forms, giving particular attention to the different functions of the dative case.

Some text books will refer to the Instrumental function as the Dative of Means. Those who refer to 8 cases, using the term case to refer to different functions, call it the Instrumental case. In form, it is no different than what you have already learned as the dative case. But its function is to indicate the means by which something is done, especially an impersonal means by which something is done.

Observe the dative nouns in the following examples. In each example, the dative noun indicates the means by which something is done. No preposition is required in Greek to express an idea that will be represented in English using the words by or with.

τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι Eph 2:8
by grace you have been saved*

τῷ δακτύλῳ κατέγραφεν εἰς τὴν γῆν Jn. 8:6
with the finger he drew in the dirt

ἔγραψα τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί Gal 6:11
I wrote
with my hand

εἶπεν μεγάλῃ φωνῇ Ac 14:10
he said
with a loud voice

Notice that impersonal does not preclude the activity of a person. Rather it means the specific means is attributed to a thing, whether some tool or some abstract idea, or even some part of the body such as a finger, hand, or voice.

  ὑπό with Genitive  

Contrast the Instrumental dative with the use of ὑπό and the genitive case, whereby the agency indicated is usually personal. Consider the following examples:

ἐβαπτίσθη εἰς τὸν Ἰορδάνην ὑπὸ Ἰωάννου Mk. 1:9
he was baptized in the Jordan
by John

οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ Ro. 13:1
for there is no power if not
by God

When positioned immediately preceding a word with an initial vowel, several prepositions with final vowels experience elision. That is, the final vowel of the preposition is dropped as the preposition is pronounced closely with the following word. Consider the following examples, and also notice that again in these passages, personal agency is indicated:

ἐβαπτίζοντο ὑπ� αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ Mk. 1:5
they were being baptized
by him in the Jordan River

οὗτος ἔγνωσται ὑπ� αὐτοῦ 1 Co. 8:3
this one has been known
by him

Note that ὑπό is not used exclusively for personal agency, as is illustrated in Mt. 11:7 (ὑπὸ ἀνέμου = by wind) and James 1:14 (ὑπὸ τῆς ἰδίας ἐπιθυμίας = by his own desire).


* This is an example of a periphrastic construction, a circumlocution whereby a verbal idea is expressed using a combination of verbs, often a form of εἰμί combined with a participle. In this example, ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι, you are having been saved, can be translated more idiomatically in English, "you have been saved."

  Assignment for Lesson 4