Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

You are here

Sunday, March 15

The Flexible Dative (Jude 1)

The NIV footnote to Jude 1 alerted me to a great example of the challenges of the dative case.

The second part of the salutation reads, “To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father (τοῖς ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ ἠγαπημένοις) and kept for Jesus Christ (Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ τετηρημένοις).”

The NIV goes with “in” for ἐν, although its meaning is not immediately apparent, and it goes with “for” for the dative Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ. The footnote reds, “Or by; or in.”

You can see other translations struggling with this rather ambiguous construction. The ESV footnotes “for” with, “Or by.” The HCSB keeps the same preposition for both, “loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.” The NET has, “to those who are called, wrapped in the love of God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” The NLT expansively has, “I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.” (If this is confusing to you, note that they have not kept the two participles ἠγαπημένοις and τετηρημένοις modifying “called” as do other translations.)

But what does it mean to be loved “in God”? Moo says it refers to “the context in which we experience love.” Love “is the product of our ... being in fellowship with God.”

What does it mean to be “kept for Jesus Christ”? The dative allows for either Jesus being the one who keeps us, or that Jesus is the one for whom we are kept. Moo again comments, “God throughout this life exercises his power on behalf of Christians to preserve them spiritually intact until the coming of Jesus Christ in glory.”

Whatever you do this verse, my suggestion is not to base any doctrine on it. The dative is just too vague to be useful here.

On a totally different vein, we sang an old song in church today that says, “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” Does anyone have any idea what “frame” means? I don’t.


I have only, today, registered on your website, though I have been using it - and your books- for many years, and to my great profit. Thank you. I was searching on your site to try to find out the practical meaning of the datives which you translate instrumentally in 2Pe 1:5-7 in your Greek and English Interlinear NT (with KJV and NIV). How, by being virtuous one can produce knowledge,or how each quality produces the next (which I think is what your translation says?), I don't really know. (I can see that, by faith, it may be possible to produce the string of qualities). Anyway, I put "dative" into one of the search boxes (They don't seem to work in exactly the same way on every page) and was reading through various blog articles about the dative case. One was "The Flexible Dative (Mar 15 2015)", at the bottom of which you asked a question about the word "frame" in an old hymn that used the word poetically. I don't know the hymn but the following may help: “Frame” in Old English denotes any structure. Quite often the structure is the human body. Going to and selecting the first meaning, various Shakespearean verses will come up, some of which have a character using the word “frame” to refer to his own body or to that of somebody else. The phrase “mortal frame” is still used in Britain – albeit with decreasing frequency! See this Shakespearean Funeral Elegy to Master John Peter, where the phrase is used: This online dictionary recognises the usage of “frame” meaning the human body: . The second meaning is: “A person's body with reference to its size or build.” If you expand the webpage under “More example sentences” you will find many examples (which I recognise as current, normal speech on this side of “the Pond”) – mainly relating to the body-shape of a person (I would say that, even today, I might occasionally use the word “frame” to my contemporaries in the UK (I’m 59) in reference to the health of someone’s body, or of their body-shape. I don't know if you will get this post, since the blog-stream is so old but reckoned that it might still flag up to you on your system so thought I'd "give it a go".