Γίνομαι + predicate substantive

This post riffs off of something I read in Mastronarde’s commentary on Medea (which, by now, is familiar from several editions of Greek Wednesday). Here’s the quote:

“Proves to be” or “shows itself to be” or the like is frequently the best English equivalent for γίγνομαι followed by a predicate noun or adjective.

[Donald J. Mastronarde, Euripides: Medea (Cambride: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 165.]

I think this idea holds water in later Greek, as well as the Classical Greek Mastronarde is referencing. Take several examples from the NT:

(N.B.: I have limited these examples to γίνομαι in the imperative, but only to make the search easier for me; the rule applies to γίνομαι in any mood.)

Matthew 10:16  

  • Ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἀποστέλλω ὑμᾶς ὡς πρόβατα ἐν μέσῳ λύκων· γίνεσθε οὖν φρόνιμοι ὡς οἱ ὄφεις καὶ ἀκέραιοι ὡς αἱ περιστεραί.
  • Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (ESV)
  • Look, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves, so prove yourselves to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Personal translation)

Luke 12:40

  • καὶ ὑμεῖς γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι, ὅτι ᾗ ὥρᾳ οὐ δοκεῖτε ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἔρχεται.
  • You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (ESV)
  • You also — show yourselves to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not know. (Personal translation)

John 20:27

  • εἶτα λέγει τῷ Θωμᾷ· φέρε τὸν δάκτυλόν σου ὧδε καὶ ἴδε τὰς χεῖράς μου καὶ φέρε τὴν χεῖρά σου καὶ βάλε εἰς τὴν πλευράν μου, καὶ μὴ γίνου ἄπιστος ἀλλὰ πιστός.
  • Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” (ESV)
  • Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; put your hand here and push it into my side. Don’t prove to be faithless; rather, show yourself to be faithful.” (Personal translation)

1 Corinthians 7:23

  • τιμῆς ἠγοράσθητε· μὴ γίνεσθε δοῦλοι ἀνθρώπων.
  • You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. (ESV)
  • You were bought at a price; do not prove yourselves to be slaves to men. (Personal translation)

In each case, the change in meaning is subtle but significant. Translating γίνου/γίνεσθε as “prove to be” or “show yourself to be” implies a personal development, a là sanctification, that is simply not present with a simple command to “be” something.

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