Syntax Searching and Epistolary Form Criticism: Request/Petition Form

Read the first three posts in this series: 1 | 2 | 3.

1Co 1.10 offers an example of the Request/Petition form.


Request/Petition Form in 1Co 1.10

Description of Form
There is much debate between White and Mullins on this form. Smith, as the latest writer to review the debate, gets the last word. He sides with Mullins, thus Mullins’ formulation (as described by Smith) will be evaluated here. Smith writes:

According to Mullins, the petition form has three basic elements: the background, the petition verb, and the desired action and optionally the address (i.e. to whom the petition is directed) and the courtesy phrase (i.e. a form of ἔαν σοι δόξη, ‘if it seems good to you’). The background includes the recital of information which the petitioner deems necessary for the official to know so that the official will decide in the petitioner’s favour. The petition verb, which is always in the first person and the present tense, reflects the petitioner’s concern that the official act on his behalf. the typical verbs used are ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν and παρακαλεῖν. The desired action outlines the request of the petitioner, that is, what he wants the official to do on his behalf. [1]

No specific structural information is given regarding the “background” section, so this cannot be included in a structural search. The other “basic elements”, the petition verb and the desired action, can be structurally quantified.

The Form in OpenText.org SAGNT
The request/petition form involves consecutive clauses, each with different characteristics.

First Query


Structure of First Query

  • A primary clause that has either ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν or παρακαλεῖν as its predicator in the first person and present tense. The verb is a first-person present indicative. This clause has a complement (or perhaps an adjunct) with an embedded clause. The predicator of the embedded clause is an infinitive verb. An example is found in Lu 9.38.

Second Query


Structure of Second Query

  • A primary clause that has either ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν or παρακαλεῖν as its predicator in the first person and present tense. The verb is to be a first-person present active indicative.
  • A primary or secondary clause follows. This primary clause has an second person verb in the indicative, imperative or subjunctive mood as its predicator. An example is found in Ac 21.39.

Third Query


Structure of Third Query

  • A primary clause that has either ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν or παρακαλεῖν as its predicator in the first person and present tense. The verb is to be a first-person present active indicative.
  • A secondary clause follows. This clause contains a subordinate clause indicated by the conjunctions ἵνα, γὰρ or ὅπως.[2] An example is found in 2Th 3.12. Note that other secondary clauses may intervene between the primary clause and the subordinate clause (e.g. Phm 10).

Mullins reports the following instances of the Petition Form: Lu 8.28; 9.38; 14.18-19; 16.27; Ac 8.34; 21.39; 26.3; 28.22; Ro 12.1; 16.17; 1Co 1.10; 16.15; 2Co 2.8; 6.1; 10.1, 2; Ga 4.12; Eph 4.1; Php 4.2, 3; 1Th 4.1, 10; 5.12; 2Th 2.1; 3.12; 1Ti 2.1; Phm 9, 10; Heb 13.19; 22; 1Pe 2.11; 5.1.[3]

  • Instances from Mullins located by the First Query: Lu 9.38; Ac 26.3; 28.22; Ro 12.1; 16.17; 2Co 2.8; 6.1; 10.2; Eph 4.1-3; Php .4.2; 1Th 4.10-11; 5.12-13; 2Th 2.1; 1Ti 2.1-2; 1Pe 2.11-12.
  • Extras located in First Query: Ac 24.4; 27.34; Ro 15.30.
  • Instances from Mullins located by the Second Query:[4] Lu 8.28; Lu 14.18-19; Lu 16.27; Ac 21.39; Ro 12.1-2; 16.17; 1Co 1.10; 16.15; 2Co 5.20; Ga 4.12; Php 4.3; 1Th 4.1; 5.12-13, 14; Heb 13.22
  • Extras located in Second Query: Jn 17.15
  • Instances from Mullins located by the Third Query: Lu 16.27; 1Co 1.10; 1Th 4.1, 10-12; 2Th 3.12; 1Ti 2.1-2; Phm 10-13; Heb 13.19; 1Pe 2.11-12.
  • Extras located in Third Query: Jn 17.15; Ro 15.30-32; 2Jn 5
  • Instances missed by all three queries: Ac 8.34; 1Pe 5.1.

In the instances missed by the queries, the syntax is not as easily ascertained as in the others. In Ac 8.34, the substance of the desired action is not stated at all; it is implied by asking a question—a question that is formally three short clauses. The petition, then, is to answer the question; it is not explicitly stated at all. In 1Pe 5.1, a complex verbless clause consisting of a subject with embedded participles intervenes between the petition verb and the desired action (stated in a primary clause with an imperative verb).

Alternate Query


Structure of Alternate Query

An alternate method would be to simply find where a present tense, singular form of the petition verb occurs as the predicator of a primary clause. These would logically have a high probability of being examples of the petition form.

This method, completed in a single search, locates all of the instances supplied by Mullins. The query additionally locates the following false positives: Jn 17.9, 15, 20; Ac 24.4; Ro 15.30; 1Co 4.13, 16; 1Th 5.14.

Bibliography

Mullins, T.Y., “Formulas in the New Testament Epistles”, JBL 91 (1972), pp. 380-390.
———, “Petition as a Literary Form”, NovT 5 (1962), pp. 46-52.
Smith, C.A., Timothy’s Task, Paul’s Prospect: A New Reading of 2 Timothy (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006). pp. 10,
White, J.L., “Introductory Formulae in the Body of the Pauline Letter”, JBL 90 (1971), pp. 91-97.
———, The Form and Structure of the Official Petition (Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature, 1972).

Notes
[1] Smith, 47.
[2] White 1971, p. 93.
[3] Mullins 1962, p. 54. Note that Mullins has two typos. “2 Corinthians XX 2” should be “2 Corinthians X 2” and “2 Corinthians V 20; V 1” should be “2 Corinthians V 20; VI 1”.
[4] These instances include overlapping matches between all three queries; this is not a unique list.