Grassman’s Law

Before I begin, I think it best to clarify that Grassman’s Law has nothing to do with landscaping or this weird dude covered in fescue.  As many of you know, I have been working through Metzger ἵνα προστιθῶ πρὸς μου θησαυρον “in order that I might add to my storehouse.”  In the list “14 uses” is the word θύω “I sacrifice.”  This is a relatively easy word to memorize and I had it cold, so I thought.

When reading along in 1 Corinthians 5:7 I found the word ἐτύθη.  My initial impression was, this must be a noun.  After all, first declension feminine words are characterized by the η ending.  A second pass at the word revealed the past time morpheme (past time indicator) ε, as well as the aorist passive morpheme θη.  At this point, befuddlement found its home.  So I looked high and low, checked my lexicons and grammars…wait…I just highlighted the word and Accordance gave me the answer.  Cheating?  Yes, a bit…But I will tolerate no κρίμα here.

As the answer mysteriously revealed itself to me (no one truly knows how Accordance really works…I like to think a mini Plato, Aristotle or Dr. Black lives inside each program happily living out their days parsing Greek words for inadequate students, but that is a discussion for a different day), the details of Grassman’s Law slowly returned to me, producing one of those, “ahhhhhh ha, you tricky little devil” moments.

You see, ἐτύθη “e/tu/the” is from θυω “thu/o” (<- no, that is not a typo for thou).  Grassman’s Law states that two aspirates (some examples being φ, χ, θ, ξ, ψ) cannot coexist in two successive syllables within the same word.  Let’s look at θυω “thu/o.”  In order to put it in the aorist tense and passive voice, we must add the past time morpheme/augment ε + the root θυ + the aorist passive morpheme θη, which results in εθυθη “e/thu/the.”  A bit of a mouth full don’t you think?  According to Gramman’s Law, one of the aspirated consonants is deaspirated (thu->tu).  What is the result?  ἐτύθη “he was sacrificed.”

This is an easy rule, but when you encounter examples like this in the wild, which you have not been previously exposed to, the result is mild befuddlement.

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