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Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin
Discovering Ancient Greek and Latin

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8.2 ‘To’, ‘for’ and the dative case

So much for the genitive or the ‘of’ case. Now let us look at the dative case. If I were to write a letter in Greek, I might use a noun in the dative case to refer to the recipient. The letters of the New Testament offer numerous examples. Nouns in the dative case and their English equivalents are emphasised in bold.

Example 1

Paul ... to Philemon

Παῦλος ... Φιλήμονι

Paulos ... Philēmoni

Paul’s Letter to Philemon, 1.

Example 2

John to the seven churches ...

'Ιωάννης ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλησίαις ...

Iōannēs tais hepta ekklēsiais

The Revelation of John, 1.4.

A letter might also begin or end with a standard phrase such as:

Example 3

Grace to you and peace

χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη

charis humin kai eirēnē

Used widely in the New Testament, e.g. Philemon, 3.

There is no word for ‘to’ in these passages. Instead, Greek conveys the same idea by changing the ending of the recipient (‘Philemon’, ‘the churches’, ‘you’), specifically, by putting it in the dative case.