Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
Sean Kasabuske
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Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Sean Kasabuske » October 18th, 2018, 7:40 am

Hello all,

I was recently introduced to Ronald Dean Peters' thesis entitled "The Greek Article: A Functional Grammar of Ho-Items in the Greek New Testament with special emphasis on the Greek Article", which has also now been published in book form. I've read Dan Wallace's review and Peters' response to Wallace, and now I'm about to undergo the task of reading the thesis for myself.

I was hoping that there may be individuals here who are familiar with Peters' thesis and therefore able to answer a question I have before I begin my perusal, which may facilitate my understanding as I work my way through it. Per Wallace, Peters contends that anarthrous nouns in Greek are 'abstract', and this is the definition provided to clarify what Peters means:

“The absence of the article indicates the speaker or writer’s subjective characterization of a noun, which is presented as abstract, in that it is characterized as not belonging to immediate experience as an actual thing or event, or is not associated with a specific instance. The noun has no reference in terms of a class whose identifying characteristic is grammaticalized by the noun.”

It seems counterintuitive to me to grant an 'abstract' sense to anarthrous nouns as a rule, because that would seem to yield renderings that just don't work. For example, take βασιλεὺς (king) at John 18:37a and 18:37b. An ‘abstract’ rendering of “king” would be “king-ness”, or something similar, which would yield something like the following vis a vis the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate:

“Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are king-ness?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am king-ness.’”

This obviously doesn’t work, so I have to believe that I’m misunderstanding Peters' use of ‘abstract’, which must be highly specific in a way that isn’t altogether obvious from the definition itself, or from normal use of the term in English.

Can anyone help me understand his position on this specific point? How would he likely translate John 18:37a and 18:37b, for example, and if his translation wouldn't differ from a traditional rendering in English (= ‘a king’), then help me understand how that could be the case if βασιλεὺς is abstract.

I've sent an email to Peters about this but so far he hasn't responded, so I was hoping someone here my be able provide some insight.

Thanks,
Sean Kasabuske

Peters' Thesis: https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream ... Ronald.pdf
Wallace's Review: https://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/9784_10811.pdf
Peter's Reply to Wallace: http://bagl.org/files/volume5/BAGL_5-3_Peters.pdf
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Jonathan Robie » October 18th, 2018, 4:57 pm

Hi Sean, and welcome to B-Greek. First a little housekeeping - is it OK if I change your username to Sean Kasabuske? We prefer real names on B-Greek.

I haven't read Peters' thesis, I glanced at parts of it, read a few sections on topics I know a little about, then read Wallace's response and Peter's response to Wallace. Looks like this is a really new theory, Peters sees it as radical and hopes to convince traditional scholars, Wallace is not convinced. Peters then replies mostly by citing Thomas Kuhn and implying that Wallace doesn't get it because this is a paradigm shift. Peters' response to Wallace was really very disappointing, Wallace made some very clear arguments that Peters does not address.

In general, I suggest waiting 10-15 years to see if a theory convinces most of the field. In general, I'm skeptical of anyone who uses Kuhn to imply that their work is the new paradigm shift for the field and others just fail to see their brilliance.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » October 18th, 2018, 5:26 pm

A long thread spanning 2014, 2015, 2017 re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

https://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vi ... =13&t=2291
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

Sean Kasabuske
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Sean Kasabuske » October 18th, 2018, 6:51 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
October 18th, 2018, 4:57 pm
Hi Sean, and welcome to B-Greek. First a little housekeeping - is it OK if I change your username to Sean Kasabuske? We prefer real names on B-Greek.

I haven't read Peters' thesis, I glanced at parts of it, read a few sections on topics I know a little about, then read Wallace's response and Peter's response to Wallace. Looks like this is a really new theory, Peters sees it as radical and hopes to convince traditional scholars, Wallace is not convinced. Peters then replies mostly by citing Thomas Kuhn and implying that Wallace doesn't get it because this is a paradigm shift. Peters' response to Wallace was really very disappointing, Wallace made some very clear arguments that Peters does not address.

In general, I suggest waiting 10-15 years to see if a theory convinces most of the field. In general, I'm skeptical of anyone who uses Kuhn to imply that their work is the new paradigm shift for the field and others just fail to see their brilliance.

Yes, please do! I tried doing that myself today when I noticed that all other Usernames were real names, but couldn't figure out how.
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Sean Kasabuske
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Sean Kasabuske » October 18th, 2018, 6:52 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
October 18th, 2018, 5:26 pm
A long thread spanning 2014, 2015, 2017 re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

https://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vi ... =13&t=2291
Thank you, Stirling! I assume that my specific question is addressed there, but if not I'll just ask again.
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Sean Kasabuske
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Sean Kasabuske » October 18th, 2018, 7:18 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
October 18th, 2018, 4:57 pm
Hi Sean, and welcome to B-Greek. First a little housekeeping - is it OK if I change your username to Sean Kasabuske? We prefer real names on B-Greek.

I haven't read Peters' thesis, I glanced at parts of it, read a few sections on topics I know a little about, then read Wallace's response and Peter's response to Wallace. Looks like this is a really new theory, Peters sees it as radical and hopes to convince traditional scholars, Wallace is not convinced. Peters then replies mostly by citing Thomas Kuhn and implying that Wallace doesn't get it because this is a paradigm shift. Peters' response to Wallace was really very disappointing, Wallace made some very clear arguments that Peters does not address.

In general, I suggest waiting 10-15 years to see if a theory convinces most of the field. In general, I'm skeptical of anyone who uses Kuhn to imply that their work is the new paradigm shift for the field and others just fail to see their brilliance.
I agree with you about Peters' use of Kuhn. I expressed that compliant on another forum, in fact. Peters almost seems to suggest that by merely expressing points of criticism Wallace is doing exactly what Kuhn describes and by implication this somehow supports Peters? Since when did the rejection of a new theory make the theory correct?

I read the old thread and was surprised to see that no one addressed or even posed my question about anarthrous nouns being 'abstract'. I'd really like to know how one can make sense of that notion.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Jonathan Robie » October 19th, 2018, 8:08 am

Sean Kasabuske wrote:
October 18th, 2018, 7:18 pm
I read the old thread and was surprised to see that no one addressed or even posed my question about anarthrous nouns being 'abstract'. I'd really like to know how one can make sense of that notion.
To follow his logic on this, you might want to start on page 265 and work through the examples carefully. To me, some of his argumentation is circular. He has a model that he believes is correct, he believes that some of the examples he uses are incorrectly translated, he tells you how they should have been translated, then shows you that his model corresponds to his translation. I would find it more convincing if he had a simple model that corresponds to the way other people have understood and read these texts. To me, he has not provided a compelling reason to believe that he is right and others are wrong, at least not in that section.

I find Levinsohn's paper more convincing - for me, at least, it is simpler, easier to understand, and easier to apply to a text.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Sean Kasabuske
Posts: 8
Joined: June 13th, 2015, 12:03 am

Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Sean Kasabuske » October 19th, 2018, 10:50 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
October 19th, 2018, 8:08 am
Sean Kasabuske wrote:
October 18th, 2018, 7:18 pm
I read the old thread and was surprised to see that no one addressed or even posed my question about anarthrous nouns being 'abstract'. I'd really like to know how one can make sense of that notion.
To follow his logic on this, you might want to start on page 265 and work through the examples carefully. To me, some of his argumentation is circular. He has a model that he believes is correct, he believes that some of the examples he uses are incorrectly translated, he tells you how they should have been translated, then shows you that his model corresponds to his translation. I would find it more convincing if he had a simple model that corresponds to the way other people have understood and read these texts. To me, he has not provided a compelling reason to believe that he is right and others are wrong, at least not in that section.

I find Levinsohn's paper more convincing - for me, at least, it is simpler, easier to understand, and easier to apply to a text.

Thank you, Jonathan, I really appreaciate the direction toward the place in the thesis to start. Your description reminds me my own assessment of Paul Dixon's thesis, but that's another story involving an already over-warn subject here.
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Matthew Longhorn » October 26th, 2018, 1:42 pm

I read his thesis with interest some time back and found some things interesting. One example being that morphologically the definite article seems closer to the relative pronoun, and syntactically it is found with other determiners but not with the relative pronoun. This is suggestive of a link between the two and not between the article and the demonstrative as often is contended.
With regards to abstract reference when anarthrous, I emailed him some time back to see if his published book version of the thesis had enough changes from feedback that it would justify the cost (I didn’t phrase it that way). Apparently he doesn’t think of it as marking the nominal as abstract anymore in an equipollent opposition of + concrete for arthrous and +abstract for anarthrous. He now sees it (or did at the time of email) as being an unmarked form when anarthrous which lends itself to being abstract.
I should note that I think his view of abstraction is a useful one to keep in mind. If we see words as pointing to concepts (mental representations of things) and not to actual entities then a level of abstract reference is helpful to keep in mind. It means we don’t always have to think of specific instances.

In the end after trying to apply it while reading I am finding it a bit hard to accept and I think he is trying to load too much semantic meaning into the use of the article. He would go squarely against ideas of anarthrous reference being used to introduce subjects, with the absence before an already introduced nominal being to flag its salience. I have found this to be a useful way of looking at things when translating. The fact that the article can be used with multiple competing nominals in a text make such prominence marking difficult to maintain - too much is marked.
One of his examples is that of the story of the pearl in the field. He finds the anarthrous introduction of the pearl and the articular reference to the field as indicating that it is the field that the author is focusing on. I am not convinced that he has necessarily taken into account the fact that the parable may have been recorded largely as originally delivered, with Jesus referencing the field deicticly through pointing to the field next to him. In that instance the definite article is acceptable, but does not introduce the notion of prominence/relative salience.

I still feel that this following account of the definite article is one of the best I have found from a purely theoretical perspective even though not applied to Greek specifically https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/12193/1/Luca ... teness.pdf. If Lucas is correct then the use of the article simply references a nominal that is capable of being mentally represented and accepted as possibly true by a hearer. This view of the article also nicely fits into work on bridging, where a newly introduced entity can be referenced by the article, even though not previously represented in the discourse or even necessarily in the context. Example, the car went past and the dog was barking, or I changed my usual restaurant, the prices were cheaper. In these instances the dog and the prices were not referenced before, but they are acceptably referenced with the article due to being mentally representable and accepted as true. It is up to the hearer to work out where the dog is, and which restaurant has cheaper prices though. I will see if I can find some Greek examples
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Peters' Thesis: The Greek Article

Post by Matthew Longhorn » October 26th, 2018, 2:09 pm

Sorry, the last post was getting long and I just realised I didn’t answer your question re John
Εἶπεν οὖνhim. αὐτῷ ὁ Πειλᾶτος· οὐκοῦν βασιλεὺς εἶ σύ; ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Ἰησοῦς· σὺ λέγεις ὅτι βασιλεύς *εἰμι (tyndale house version)
So for βασιλεὺς to be abstract, the way I would understand Peters is that Pilate is not referencing a given set of kings in the world from which Jesus may be one representative. Being unmarked, Pilate is allowing for this term to be seen as evoking the notion of kingship with its various qualities that may be applied to Jesus, e.g. royal, in a position of power over people, worthy of honour and reverence. if the article were used, for Peters it would indicate that Pilate had a particular notion or referent in mind and desired to mark this as what he is interested in talking about. I think he would be happy with the use of the translation ‘you are not therefore a king?’ In his presentation at a conference he responded to Wallace asking how it helps in translation to the effect that we shouldn’t be so focussed on translation, but rather on the meaning.
Translating another way without the use of the indefinite article ‘you are not therefore king?’. I can’t guarantee that this is how he would go about it, but it fits with what I have read of
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