What is ambiguity?
Flying planes can be dangerous.That sentence can have two meanings:
1. It can be dangerous to fly planes.In the Greek text of the New Testament there are sometimes cases (no pun intended) where the context of a genitive allows an interpretation as either a subjective genitive or an objective genitive. One example typically cited to illustrate this such ambiguity is the genitive phrase of 2 Cor. 5:14
2. It can be dangerous when planes are flying.
agape tou XristouThis could be a subjective genitive referring to God's love for us, as in:
Christ's love compels us (NIV, HCSB)I have found no English versions translating this as an objective genitive ("our love for Christ"). All other Bible versions I checked introduce ambiguity to the translation, using the wording "love of Christ." Translators of such versions believe that because the gentive of 2 Cor. 5:14 is ambiguous to them, it should be translated ambiguously. I believe, however, that Paul did not intend any ambiguity here and so our translation should not introduce ambiguity either.
Christ's love controls us (NLT)
Christ's love guides us (GW)
We are ruled by Christ's love for us. (CEV)
It is the Anointed One’s love that holds us together! (TSNT)
Dan Wallace believes that the genitive of this verse is both subjective and objective, what he calls a plenary genitive. He says:
"There are, in fact, many times where an author intentionally uses an ambiguous expression, employing double entendre, puns, and the like. ToI disagree with Wallace if he is referring to biblical authors when he says "There are, in fact, many times where an author intentionally uses an ambiguous expression, ..." That is not how normal human communication works. It is what is sometimes done intentionally by authors, as Wallace mentions. But doing so is more of a language game than part of ordinary communication, IMO. I don't think biblical authors intended ambiguity very often. And I think the burden of proof that there is ambiguity in the biblical text should be on those who claim that there is. It is not sufficient proof that there is ambiguity in analysis of the text.
collapse these texts into a single meaning is to destroy part of the author’s meaning. “The love of Christ” in 2 Corinthians 5:14 is one such instance;3"
Footnote 3: "3 The meaning is probably both “Christ’s love for us” and “our love for Christ”—that is, the genitive is probably both subjective and objective, or plenary. It is Christ’s love for us that produces our love for him."
Interestingly, the footnote for this verse in the NET Bible, on which Wallace was a major editor, is stated more conservatively, however:
The phrase hJ ajgavph tou' Cristou' (Jh agaph tou Cristou, “the love of Christ”) could be translated as either objective genitive (“our love for Christ”) or subjective genitive (“Christ’s love for us”). Either is grammatically possible, but with the reference to Christ’s death for all in the following clauses, a subjective genitive (“Christ’s love for us”) is more likely.Based on my understanding of the normal lack of intended ambiguity in human communication, I believe it is more likely that Paul intended a single meaning of the genitive here, and I would lean toward that meaning being the subjective, referring to Christ's love for us. But regardless of what Paul intended, we, the analysts know there are at least the subjective and objective genitive meanings possible here, and maybe also a third, that of Wallace's plenary genitive, including both the subjective and objective meanings. The Greek genitive here allows for this ambiguity in meaning. That does not mean that Paul intended any ambiguity here. It is, IMO, most likely that Paul intended one of the possible options:
Ambiguity is different from lack of clarity. With lack of clarity, there are not clear, distinct options of interpretation, as there is with ambiguity. Rather, with lack of clarity, the intended meaning is simply not clear. What is said or written is not expressed well.
- subjective genitive
- objective genitive
- plenary genitive
Categories: ambiguity, Greek, genitive, subjective genitive, objective genitive, plenary genitive, Daniel. B. Wallace