Position of the negative in Matthew 5:17

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Stephen Hughes
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Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Position of the negative in Matthew 5:17

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 15th, 2016, 3:00 am

Within the context of null values in heads and phrases, and related to the Ἔρχου καὶ εἶδον! question, I want to ask a question about negation.
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας· οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι.
Is the position of the οὐ in front of the ἦλθον because of (a) the requirement of the construction οὐ ... ἀλλὰ ..., which uses the negation as a foward marker of what is included to be contrasted, (b) because an infinitive of purpose (or a construction with καί followed by another finite verb denoting the purpose of the first verb) is negated by negating the first verb, (c) there are some verbs - ἦλθον (surprisingly) being one of them - that show a distinct tendency or necessity to have another verb with them (either explicitly stated or clear from context) that allow them to have meaning. Something like an auxilliary verb..

An example of (a) οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν from Matthew 5:15, where everything from the negation to the ἀλλά is understood after it, just with the part after the ἀλλά substituted according to its part of speech. (In this case a prepositional phrase).

For an example of what (b) is not, John's construction of ἐλθεῖν with ἵνα places the negation with the second verb. Ἐγὼ φῶς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐλήλυθα, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ μὴ μείνῃ. John 12:46.

Of (c) οὐ δύναται σταθῆναι from Mark 3:26. The verb ἐλθεῖν seems to be a verb that doesn't really say anything in itself, but allows another verb to happen. That is similar to some usages of the English "come" and "go", but the English words seem to have more power to stand alone and say something.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
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Re: Position of the negative in Matthew 5:17

Post by cwconrad » June 15th, 2016, 5:45 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Within the context of null values in heads and phrases, and related to the Ἔρχου καὶ εἶδον! question, I want to ask a question about negation.
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας· οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι.
Is the position of the οὐ in front of the ἦλθον because of (a) the requirement of the construction οὐ ... ἀλλὰ ..., which uses the negation as a foward marker of what is included to be contrasted, (b) because an infinitive of purpose (or a construction with καί followed by another finite verb denoting the purpose of the first verb) is negated by negating the first verb, (c) there are some verbs - ἦλθον (surprisingly) being one of them - that show a distinct tendency or necessity to have another verb with them (either explicitly stated or clear from context) that allow them to have meaning. Something like an auxilliary verb..

An example of (a) οὐδὲ καίουσιν λύχνον καὶ τιθέασιν αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τὸν μόδιον, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὴν λυχνίαν from Matthew 5:15, where everything from the negation to the ἀλλά is understood after it, just with the part after the ἀλλά substituted according to its part of speech. (In this case a prepositional phrase).

For an example of what (b) is not, John's construction of ἐλθεῖν with ἵνα places the negation with the second verb. Ἐγὼ φῶς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐλήλυθα, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ μὴ μείνῃ. John 12:46.

Of (c) οὐ δύναται σταθῆναι from Mark 3:26. The verb ἐλθεῖν seems to be a verb that doesn't really say anything in itself, but allows another verb to happen. That is similar to some usages of the English "come" and "go", but the English words seem to have more power to stand alone and say something.
I think this is a good and helpful observation: ἐλθεῖν pretty clearly has the function of an auxiliary verb here. I wonder whether the usage of verbs of motion as auxiliaries with infinitive (Latin uses a future participle of purpose with a verb of motion) has been studied. Here ἐλθεῖν has almost the sense of "intend."
I'm reminded of a very frequently-used Homeric formula that's always fascinated me: βῆ δ’ ἰέναι ...
e.g.
Odyssey 6.50f, βῆ δʼ ἰέναι διὰ δώμαθʼ, ἵνʼ ἀγγείλειε τοκεῦσιν,
πατρὶ φίλῳ καὶ μητρί· κιχήσατο δʼ ἔνδον ἐόντας...
I don't see this usage of βαίνειν clearly listed in LSJ -- maybe I've missed it; the sense seems to be "took steps to ..." "made haste to ... "
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Position of the negative in Matthew 5:17

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 15th, 2016, 2:43 pm

cwconrad wrote:I think this is a good and helpful observation: ἐλθεῖν pretty clearly has the function of an auxiliary verb here. I wonder whether the usage of verbs of motion as auxiliaries with infinitive (Latin uses a future participle of purpose with a verb of motion) has been studied. Here ἐλθεῖν has almost the sense of "intend."
I think there are four difficulties with recognising ἐλθεῖν as an auxiliary. The first is that the older meaning is definitely motion. The secon is that is perhaps more a habit of speech, an idiom rather than a rule. The third is that it didn't continue in the Modern period. The fourth is that we are foreign language learners and as such we tend to be rigid and literal.

Take the English meaning of "want" as sort of a parallel. If somebody had learnt an older form of English and was used to seeing "want" in very physical terms - "have dire need of". If they were given a later text where "want" meant "have a desire for", there could be some misunderstanding. A phrase like, "I want something to eat.", might get a reaction like, "The local Presbyterian Church has a soup kitchen from 6pm till late." At what point did the meaning change from have the physical lack of something to have the desire to fill the physical lack, to just have the desire for something. So too the ἐλθεῖν. There is a range between the physical movement and the ability to get something done when you are present and the intention to do something.

Because it may not be more than a habit of speech, it might be difficult to assign a meaning to ἐλθεῖν (when used like this) that can be used to render it into English. As such, it sort of belongs in the grammar rather than the lexicon, but the grammar is for rules and patterns, but this is sort of a development of the meaning, so it belongs in the lexicon.

When we see θέλειν and it seems that the future reference of the "desire" is stressed and has all but ousted the actual meaning of "desire", we are more likely to accept that than we are to accept the grammatical nature of ἐλθεῖν, because at some point θέλειν did take on a purely grammatical role distinct from its lexical role. With even a modest knowledge of NT Hreek, it is possible to recognise familiar elements in Modern Greek. Because that feature of Greek has a linear development it is easy to recognise and verify. This abstraction of ἐλθεῖν isn't recognised as a grammatical feature in the later period, so presumably is was a feature of the language that sprung up briefly, and was then replaced by something else. It may be a small part of the adjustment of the verbal system in compensation for the change that saw the loss of the optative and the increase in the use of prepositions rather than just the cases. The subsequent loss of the subjunctive as a form, in favour of it becoming a syntactic construction might be what eclipsed this construction with ἐλθεῖν after just a relatively short time.

As with many foreign language learners who learn by translating (word-by-word), there is often an over literalness in how the target language is understood. Since taking ἐλθεῖν as an auxiliary verb (when followed by an infinitive of pupose, a finite verb separated by καί or ἵνα with the subjunctive) requires computational thinking rather than memory recall to process, it doesn't lend lend itself to easy interpretation.

Anyway, back to the question, is there a logical and simple explanation for why the negation is written before the ἦλθον rather than before the καταλῦσαι?
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Hughes
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Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: Position of the negative in Matthew 5:17

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 15th, 2016, 3:03 pm

cwconrad wrote:I'm reminded of a very frequently-used Homeric formula that's always fascinated me: βῆ δ’ ἰέναι ...
e.g.
Odyssey 6.50f, βῆ δʼ ἰέναι διὰ δώμαθʼ, ἵνʼ ἀγγείλειε τοκεῦσιν,
πατρὶ φίλῳ καὶ μητρί· κιχήσατο δʼ ἔνδον ἐόντας...
I don't see this usage of βαίνειν clearly listed in LSJ -- maybe I've missed it; the sense seems to be "took steps to ..." "made haste to ... "
The phrase is translated rather than explained in LSJ:
LSJ wrote:freq. c. inf. in Hom., βῆ δ᾽ ἰέναι set out to go, went his way, Il.4.199, etc.; “βῆ δ᾽ ἴμεν” 5.167, etc.; βῆ δὲ θέειν started to run, 2.183, etc.; “βῆ δ᾽ ἐλάαν” 13.27:
Autenrieth has some explanation:
Autenrieth wrote:the phrase βῆ δ᾽ ἰέναι, βῆ δὲ θέειν, ‘started for to go,’ a graphic periphrasis for ᾔει, etc.;
0 x
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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