How important are participles in the Greek NT?

February 1, 2011

How important are participles in the Greek NT? Perhaps these frequency figures will give you some idea just how important they are. You can’t read the NT in Greek if you don’t know your participles!

Participles in the NT

Verses with [x] participles:

6 participles in one verse: 1
1 Cor 7:30

5 participles in one verse: 15
Matt 21:9; Mark 5:15; 6:2; 10:32; 15:29; Luke 17:7; Acts 9:39; 16:27; 24:25; 2 Cor 4:18; 6:9–10; Jude 1:12; Rev 2:17; 19:20

4 participles in one verse: 100
3 participles in one verse: 398
2 participles in one verse: 1,197 1,218 verses (2,436 participles). (Thanks to Mike Thigpen for correcting one of my search parameters.)
1 participle in a verse: 2,556

# ptcps in NT: 6,662
# vv. in NT: 7,941 (per GNT-T module in Accordance; = NA27, Accordance digital v. 3.9)
# vv. in NT with ptcps: 4,277

And for the really curious, there is one verse in the LXX which has 9 participles!

2 Macc 9:25, πρὸς δὲ τούτοις κατανοῶν τοὺς παρακειμένους δυνάστας καὶ γειτνιῶντας τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῖς καιροῖς ἐπέχοντας καὶ προσδοκῶντας τὸ ἀποβησόμενον, ἀναδέδειχα τὸν υἱὸν Ἀντίοχον βασιλέα, ὃν πολλάκις ἀνατρέχων εἰς τὰς ἐπάνω σατραπείας τοῖς πλείστοις ὑμῶν παρεκατετιθέμην καὶ συνίστων· γέγραφα δὲ πρὸς αὐτὸν τὰ ὑπογεγραμμένα.

Trivia for other Accordance users
Here’s how to find these figures/verses.
Start with 2 construct windows with this pattern, each one having one more participle specified than the first:

Correction: the “within” constraint is not needed–and my use of 20 turns out to be too small since it misses 2 dozen verses with more than 20 words separating the participles.
Then compare the two construct result windows with a 3d search window and this criteria:
You have to iterate the 2 windows to get all the figures. The “GNT-T” window is always one number smaller than “GNT-T2.”
Reason for this is that a search for, say 3 participles also finds those with 4 or more (since it does have 3). The search essentially says, give me only those that have just 3 (i.e., whose references do not show up in a search for a verse with 4 participles).

See Accordance forums for the help necessary:

Topic: Another participle search query
Description: How to find vv with multiple participles
Author: Rod Decker
Date (begin): 1/31/2011
Thanks to Dr. J., JP, and Helen for the help to figure this one out! And Mike for pointing out a mistake.

4 responses to How important are participles in the Greek NT?

  1. Thanks Rod. But if importance is determined by the quantity that a form appears, wouldn’t the Greek article be even more important than the participle?

  2. I didn’t say that the participle was the most important, only that it was important. A form that occurs this frequently must be understood if you are going to understand the text. My goal of the stats is only to show my first year students in a week or two that they are going to see a lot of participles.

  3. A.T. Robertson has referred to Greek as a “participle loving language.” This post provides some examples of how that is so true.

  4. Participles also happen to be the most frustrating piece of Greek grammar! At least as far as the basics are concerned. I am self-taught in Greek, and the first time I went through my textbook I gave the chapters on participles a glorified skim, thinking, ‘if I know verbs I can figure out participles.’ Big mistake! I had to go back through and really spend some time not only on recognizing the various forms, but ensuring that I could truly translate participles effectively. It’s true – you really can’t read the Greek NT without a firm grasp on participles.