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Relative Pronouns Revisited (Eph 1:6) — Mondays with Mounce 239

Categories Mondays with Mounce

ἧς in Eph 1:6 gives us a good opportunity to review our understanding of relative pronouns. Warning: 2nd year Greek ahead.

The prepositional phrase is ἧς ἐχαρίτωσεν ἡμᾶς ἐν τῷἠγαπημένῳ. What determines the number and gender of a relative pronoun? Antecedent. In your phrasing, be sure to draw a line from ἧς to its antecedent.

But what determines its case? Right, its function inside the relative clause. But this is  where it gets tricky. Inside the clause it is functioning as part of what appears to be a double accusative; just replace ἧς with its antecedent and you will see this. But in that case ἧς should be accusative, but it is genitive. Why?

This could be an example of “attraction." Its case has been attracted to the case of its antecedent χάριτος (genitive) as if ἧς were an adjective.

But here is where it really gets tricky, and we move from first to second year Greek. I checked with my friend Verlyn, and here is what he wrote.

"The verb used here is χαριτόω, which occurs twice in the NT, once in Luke 1:28 (a perfect participle passive applied to Mary), and here in Ephesians 1:6. BAGD defines the word as "to bestow favor upon, bless," and suggests the translation "his great favor [χάριτος] with which he has blessed [bestowed on] us through (or in) his Beloved." In other words, the clause without the relative pronoun would read, "God has blessed us with his favor in his Beloved."

"Now what puzzles me is that one would expect a dative for "with/by means of his favor," not a genitive. We don't have enough occurrences in the NT for χαριτόω to be able to say whether it normally expresses manner or means with a genitive or a dative. What I am wondering is if perhaps ἧς is a genitive of attraction from a dative rather than an accusative.

"In sum, I think one of two things may be going on. There is either an unusual use of a genitive (a genitive of reference or something like that, or a genitive of agency) or a genitive of attraction from an expected dative. I do not think, however, that χαριτόω takes a double accusative; it is not that type of verb.

"You get the fun of deciding which one option to choose."

I know this is more grammar than I usually cover in this blog, but it is a chance to stretch our understanding of the language, and also to remember that the intricacies of Greek go far beyond what we learn in first and even a normal second year class.



William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.

Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at and visit his blog on spiritual growth at

His Glory within Us [Awakening Faith]
His Glory within Us [Awakening Faith] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David....
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