Parsing Greek Words

In the Epistle of Diognetus, we find the word: ἀφυλάκτως.

The context is:  οὐ πολὺ πλέον αὐτῶν καταφρονεῖτε; οὐ πολὺ μᾶλλον αὐτοὺς χλευάζετε καὶ ὑβρίζετε, τοὺς μὲν λιθίνους καὶ ὀστρακίνους σέβοντες ἀφυλάκτως, τοὺς δὲ ἀργυρέους καὶ χρυσοῦς ἐγκλείοντες ταῖς νυξί, καὶ ταῖς ἡμέραις φύλακας παρακαθιστάντες, ἵνα μὴ κλαπῶσιν;

Which Michael Holmes translates as:

“Are you not mocking and insulting them [the gods] much more when you leave unguarded the stone or pottery gods you worship but lock up the silver and gold ones at night and post guards by them during the day, lest they be stolen?”

But my question is, how are we to parse ἀφυλάκτως? Logos parses it as Accusative, Plural, Masculine, but according to Perseus, it could also be parsed as an Adverb (they also mention that if a noun, it could be feminine but that irrelevant here). Holmes’ translation seems to assume an adverbial usage, but that’s the translation, which isn’t exactly “literal” (though the meaning is rightly conveyed). It could be translated as a noun with something like:

“Are you not mocking and insulting them [the gods], by worshipping the unguarded ones made of stone and pottery, but locking up those made of silver and gold at night, and posting guards for them by day, to prevent them from being stolen?”

If it is parsed as a noun, then this is an excellent example of Y1 Hyperbaton appearing in relation to a μένδέ construction where the strong contrastive focus is clearly evidence. If its parsed as an adverb, then well, its not an example of anything.

4 thoughts on “Parsing Greek Words

  1. There is no way in the world that ἀφυλάκτως can be anything other than an adverb, and Holmes can legitimately translate as he does although τοὺς μὲν λιθίνους καὶ ὀστρακίνους σέβοντες ἀφυλάκτως might more literally be conveyed as “revering the stone and ceramic ones without guarding them (ἀφυλάκτως). Surely, surely, surely the Logos parser wasn’t guessing that ἀφυλάκτως is accusative pl. masc. because of Holmes’ translation? Holmes does list a variant ἀφυλάκτους which would indeed be acc. m. pl. — but that’s not the reading Holmes accepts and translates.

  2. This is really what bothers me about parsing guides such as Perschbacher’s and the Fribergs’ as well as about digitized tagged texts of the GNT or of other Greek texts: the user/reader assumes that the parser has got it right even when it is blatantly wrong if one knows Greek. The real value of tagged texts is that they permit searches for words and forms as well as analytical lists and concordances for lexical data and syntactic constructions — but an error in the tagging skews the results of such searches too. There really is no substitute for knowing the language, as my wife says, “backwards and forwards, upside and downside, and inside out.”

  3. I don’t know how the parser works or how the text was manufactured. But I see there are older readings (Lightfoot) which have ἀφυλάκτως as ἀφυλάκτους. It could be that the text was tagged using that reading and then when the text was emended, the morphological rendering wasn’t fixed. That’s my only guess.

  4. Thank you, Carl & Mike, you’ve confirmed my suspicion. I couldn’t think of a noun paradigm that would have this form – which is why I double checked with Perseus to begin with.

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