4. recognize when the middle or passive verb is followed by a preposition or case that helps to complete the verb’s meaning, and
5. master ten more high-frequency vocabulary words.
There are two voices in English. The active voice is where the subject of the sentence does the action.
Zach hit the ball.
The passive voice is where the subject is acted on by the verb.
Zach is hit by the ball.
Greek adds a third voice, the middle voice, which we will look at shortly.
A passive verb often can be identified by placing a “by what?” after the verb.
Zach is hit by the ball.
Zach is hit by what? The ball.
Zach is the subject being acted on. The ball is the agent doing the action.
The present tense may describe progressive/immediacy action (single point in time: He hit the ball) or continuous action (He is hitting the ball). When the passive is used, a helping verb expresses the verb in English.
He is hit by the ball (present progressive punctiliar).
He is being hit by the ball (present progressive continuous).
How the action happens (punctiliar, continuative/durative, omnitemporal,
timeless—usually discovered from the lexical meaning of the verb
or the context)
Punctiliar (single point in time): Zach is hit by the ball.
Continuous: Zach is being hit by the ball.
Omnitemporal: The quarterback is protected by the tackles.
How the author seeks to portray the action. The present tense form is used
when the action is foregrounded, in process, sense of immediacy.
The present middle and passive have exactly the same form in Greek. Historically the middle was first but in the koine period the passive is used more frequently with modern Greek having only a passive with no middle. The context must be examined to determine which is being used. There are approximately three times as many passive verbs as there are middle verbs in the New Testament. When translating passives, a helping verb is used. Context will determine which is the best option. In Greek, as in most languages, “Context determines meaning” is an important concept to grasp. As in the present active, the present middle/passive can be translated present, past, future, omnitemporal or timeless depending on the contextual pointers like adverbs, prepositional phrases, conjunctions and narrative sequencing. Immediacy, process, description and foregrounding is the major thrust of the present aspect.
The middle has several functions:
1. It emphasizes the participation/involvement or interest of the subject in the action of the verb which often is translated actively (Tanya, herself, ran the mile). It often intensifies in some manner or degree the relationship between the subject and the action of the verb.
2. It expresses self-interest or benefit (e.g. She hid the fork for herself).
3. Rarely it is used reflexively (Tanya hit herself with the golf club) or reciprocally
(They love one another).
4. Stylistically, one writer may favor the middle (cf. Mark) over the active
Many arrive at the active translation by calling many of these “deponents.” Mounce (224) says that 75 percent of the middles are deponent (no active form present; middle in form, active in meaning) and should be translated as active: Tanya splashed Rebekah. We will understand many of them as true middles (stressing the subject’s involvement, interest, intensification or reflexivity) realizing many may be deponent.
Thus the middle may impact the subject’s relationship to the verb in many ways (involvement, interest, intensification, reflexivity, stylistic, et al.). The translator must be sensitive to the context, the writer’s style and the particular verb’s usage to determine how it should be translated. Remember also that historically the passive is taking over more and more ground from the middle in the koine period. For now, translate most of them active but be aware of the various functional options may come into play.
You should be able to chant through this middle/passive paradigm. Note that this is the second set of primary endings. These endings will reappear when you learn the future tense. Thus, learn the endings well because this hits two birds with one stone.