Genitive Case - Syntactical Classification

Back to main Learn NT Greek page. Back to Syntactical Classification Pages.

In general, the genitive case describes or defines. It is the case of ‘quality’, ‘attribute’, ‘description’, or ‘kind’. It limits the meaning of a substantive. It tends to be adjectival in nature and mainly answers "What kind?"

A. Genitive After Certain Prepositions - as discussed in the section dealing with prepositions, the noun governed by each preposition will be in a certain case form or forms.  Some prepositions require that the noun be in the genitive case.
B. Genitive of Direct Object - after certain verbs - Many verbs, such as those of the five physical senses and of emotion, etc., require that their direct object be in the genitive case (as opposed to the accusative case which is normally expected).

        E.g. John 5:25
        "oiJ nekroi; ajkouvsousin th'" fwnh'" tou' uiJou' tou' qeou' "
        "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God"
C. Possessive Genitive - Showing the ideas of ownership or possession. To see if it is the Genitive of Possession, try substituting the word ‘of’ with ‘belonging to’ or ‘possessed by’.  However, this use does not have to indicate actual, physical ownership of some property. It may be a broadly defined type of ownership. This is a very common use of the genitive. A possessive pronoun will often be used in the genitive case to show possession.

        E.g. Hebrews 11:25
        "tw'/ law'/ tou' qeou'"
        "the people of (belonging to) God"
        John 1:29
        "[Ide oJ ajmno;V tou' qeou' oJ ai[rwn th;n aJmartivan tou' kovsmou."
        "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
D. Genitive of Relationship - This is a subset of the Possessive Genitive. It indicates familial relationship. The article modifying the word in the genitive case is usually present, but not always. The actual word showing the relationship may be omitted (except for the definite article) when it is clearly known by context or by general knowledge. The genitive noun is often a proper noun. It is a relatively rare use of the genitive.

        E.g. Matthew 20:20
        "hJ mhvthr tw'n uiJw'n…"
        "mother of the sons"
        Acts 13:22
        "Daui;d to;n tou' jIessaiv"
        "David, the [son] of Jesse"
E. Partitive Genitive ("Wholative") - The genitive substantive (preceded by the article) can indicate the whole of which the head noun is a part. The word ‘of’ can be substituted the words ‘which is a part of’. This use of the genitive requires the head noun to in some way imply or indicate ‘portion’. E.g ‘piece of pie’, ‘some of you’, ‘a tenth of something’, etc.  It will often be found with the Greek words ti", e{kasto", and ei|". This is a fairly common use of the genitive in the New Testament.

        E.g. Luke 19:8
        "ta; hJmivsiav mou tw'n uJparcovntwn"
        "half of my possessions"

F. Attributive Genitive - (Sometimes called the Descriptive Genitive.) - The word in the genitive case is being used as an adjective, describing an attribute or quality to the head noun.  It can be thought of as a simple adjective modifying the head noun, but with stronger force and emphasis.  If it can be turned into an attributive adjective, then it is probably this use of the genitive. It is very common in the New Testament.

        E.g. Luke 16:9
        "mamwna' th'" ajdikiva""
        "mammon of unrighteousness" = "unrighteous mammon"
         Romans 6:6
        "to; sw'ma th'" aJmartiva""
        "the body of sin" = "the sinful body"

G. Genitive with Nouns of Action - Many nouns have an implicit verbal idea (indicating action). For instance the noun ‘love’ implies that someone is loving. The participle ‘coming’ when used as a substantive, clearly has an implicit verbal, action idea. When a ‘noun of action’ acts as a head noun modified by noun in the genitive case, it could indicate one of the following three uses.

        1. Subjective Genitive - The genitive substantive functions semantically as the subject of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun. To substantiate this thought, try to turn it into a sentence with the noun in the genitive as the subject.
             E.g. Romans 8:35
             "tiv" hJma'" cwrivsei ajpo; th'" ajgavph" tou' Cristou'"
             "who shall separate us from the love of Christ"
             Christ is loving us.
             Matthew 24:27
            "ou{tw" e[stai hJ parousiva tou' uiJou' tou' ajnqrwvpou"
            "so shall the coming of the Son of Man be"
            The Son of Man is coming.
            Acts 12:11
            "ejxeivlatov me ejk pavsh" th'" prosdokiva" tou' laou' tw'n jIoudaivwn."
            "… delivered me from … all the expectation of the Jewish people"
            The Jewish people were expecting.
            2 Corinthians 7:15
            "th;n pavntwn uJmw'n uJpakohvn"
            "the obedience of you all"
            You are obeying.
        2. Objective Genitive - The genitive substantive functions semantically as the direct object of the verbal idea implicit in the head noun. (Again, to substantiate, try to turn it into a sentence.)
            E.g. Luke 11:42
            "parevrcesqe ... thn ajgavphn tou' qeou'."
            "you have neglected … the love of God."
            Neglected loving God.
            Matthew 12:31
            "hJ de; tou' pneuvmato" blasfhmiva oujk ajfeqhvsetai"
            "but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven"
            Blaspheming the Spirit.
            Romans 3:25
            "e[ndeixin th'" dikaiosuvnh" aujtou'"
            "a demonstration of His righteousness"
            He is righteousness.
        3. Plenary Genitive - Indicating both Subjective and Objective Genitives simultaneously. This is a case in which a writer can use an intentional ambiguity to convey a deeper meaning.
            E.g. Revelation 1:1
            "Apokavluyi" jIhsou' Cristou'"
            "the revelation of Jesus Christ"
            Jesus Christ is revealing something and it is revealing Jesus Christ.
            2 Corinthians 5:14
            "hJ ga;r ajgavph tou' Cristou' sunevcei hJma'""
            "the love of Christ constrains us"
            Christ’s love for us and our love for Him is constraining us.
H. Genitive of Time (kind of time) - In keeping with the basic meaning of the genitive, the genitive with words of time indicate the kind of time in which something occurs. That is, it indicates the time within which an event occurs (i.e. at nighttime as opposed to in the daytime). The normally inserted word ‘of’ for the genitive, could instead be translated ‘during’, ‘at’, or ‘within’.

        E.g. John 3:2
        "h\lqen proV aujto;n nukto;V"
        "he came to Jesus during the night"
        1 Thessalonians 2:9
        "nukto;" kai; hJmevra" ejrgazovmenoi"
        "working at night and at day"
         i.e. ‘during the night and during the day’, not really ‘all through the night and day’
I. Genitive of Comparison - This use of the genitive almost always comes after an comparative adjective (like ‘more’, ‘less’, ‘greater’, etc.). The customarily used ‘of’ translated with the genitive should instead be translated ‘than’. It is a relatively common use of the genitive case.

        E.g. Matthew 3:1
        "ijscurovterov" mouv ejstin."
        "He is mightier than I."

        Matthew 6:25
        "oujci; hJ yuchV plei'ovn ejstin th'" trofh'""
        "Is not your life (worth) more than food?"

J. Genitive of Source - Sometimes the genitive case indicates the source from which the head noun is derived or depends.  The word ‘of’ could instead be translated ‘out of’, ‘derived from’, or ‘dependent on’. This use is relatively rare; rather source is often shown with the preposition ejk used with the genitive case.

        E.g. Romans 15:4
        "th'" paraklhvsew" tw'n grafw'n"
        "the comfort of (derived from) the scriptures"

K. Genitive of Apposition - The word in the genitive case refers to the same thing as the word it modifies.  To see if this is the use, try substituting the words which show this kind of equality, "which is", "namely", or "who is", instead of the word "of". As seen below, there are two different possibilities for a genitive case in apposition.
        1. Simple Apposition - If the head noun is in the genitive case, due to other relationships within the sentence, then the noun in apposition is also required to be in the genitive case. Notice that in this case, the word ‘of’ could not be used in translation to show the relationship between the two nouns.  One of the words (phrases) showing equality must be used.

            E.g. Colossians 1:18
            "aujtov" ejstin hJ kefalhV tou' swvmato", th'" ejkklhsiva""
            "He is the head of the body, (namely) the church"
            (Could not be translated, ‘the body of the church’.)
        2. Epexigetical Genitive - This use of the genitive helps to define an ambiguous or metaphorical head noun, or gives a specific example of the larger category named by the head noun. It also requires the words of equality for proper understanding, but the word ‘of’ can be used (unlike the case with Simple Apposition).

            E.g. Romans 4:11
            "kai; shmei'on e[laben peritomh'""
            "and he received the sign of circumcision"
             i.e. the sign which is circumcision.
            2 Corinthians 5:5
            "oJ dou;V hJmi'n to;n ajrrabw'na tou' pneuvmato"."
            "Who has given to us the down payment of the Spirit."
            i.e. the down payment which is the Spirit.
L. Genitive Absolute - The genitive absolute construction is a clause that is formed with the following components. It will always have an anarthrous participle in the genitive case. There will usually be a accompanying substantive in the genitive case. These words will most often be at the beginning of the sentence.
The noun in the genitive case will act as the subject of the participle. This subject will be different from the subject of the main part of the sentence (main clause) to which this clause is attached. In this way, the genitive absolute clause has only a loose syntactical connection to the rest of the sentence.

        E.g. Acts 13:2
        "leitourgouvntwn de; aujtw'n tw'/ kurivw/ ... ei\pen to; pneu'ma to; a{gion, "
        "As they ministered to the Lord …, the Holy Spirit said, …"
         The subject of the main clause of the sentence is ‘the Holy Spirit’. Whereas the  subject of the subordinate ‘genitive absolute’ clause is ‘they’.

Back to Syntactical Classification Pages

 Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.
Created by Corey Keating at: