John's Good Greek

RandallButh
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John's Good Greek

Post by RandallButh » July 9th, 2017, 6:09 am

John's quality of Greek is often overlooked by NT students because its vocabulary is fairly limited and sometimes repetitious. But John's Greek is very good, in fact there are many examples of excellent control of the language and a sensitivity to Greek style.

John 19:35 καὶ ὁ ἑωρακὼς μεμαρτύρηκεν,
καὶ ἀληθινὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία,
and the one who observed has given testimony,
and his testimony is TRUE.

The second clause shows a Greek sensitivity to word order. It is best read fluently with all six words together.
Notice the placement of αὐτοῦ. It follows ἀληθινἠ 'true'. But logically ἀυτοῦ belongs with μαρτυρία. It is the testimony that belongs to him, not the 'trueness'.

What we have here is a Focus element of a clause attracting an enclitic. Ἀληθινή has been placed first in the clause as Focus (specially marked salient information). Then the word αὐτοῦ has been attracted and pulled to its position just the way that enclitics are pulled to salient or pragmatically marked words in a sentence. The "enclitic" αὐτοῦ reinforces the pragmatic positioning of ἀληθινή. It is not itself the focal element of this clause, [as if to say we know that there is a true testimony and it is HIS]. Also, the "enclitic" αὐτοῦ is enclitic by usage but not according to the accentuation rules that were handed down and recorded over the centuries. Αὐτοῦ has its own accent according to the accent "rules" but it has moved position just like an enclitic, as if the text were to be read Ἀληθινή αὐτου with oxytonοs on eta and no accent on αὐτοῦ. Of course, when an enclitic word is followed by ἐστίν, another enclitic, the first enclitic would have oxytonos and the phrase would actually have been spoken as Ἀληθινή αὐτού ἐστὶν [ἡ μαρτυρία].

Finally, when the whole six word cluster is read at one go, everything is clear.
καὶ ἀληθινή αὐτού ἐστιν ἡ μαρτυρία.

τί ἐστιν τὸ ἀξιόλογον καὶ μέγα μέρος τοῦ λόγου;
τὸ "ἀληθινή".

τίνι ἐστὶν τὸ "αὐτοῦ";
τῷ "ἡ μαρτυρία".

Τίνος ἐστὶν ἡ μαρτυρία;
Τοῦ ἑωρακότος ἐστὶν ἡ μαρτυρία.

In John 19.35 the brain must hold the word 'of him' until the whole clause is processed and then its logical governing head is supplied by 'testimony'.

Anyway, while reading the passage this morning, I thought that this was a nice example of John's sensitivity to Greek structure and style, whatever NT readers may say.

Stephen Carlson
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Re: John's Good Greek

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 9th, 2017, 6:53 pm

This is a pretty good example of αὐτοῦ behaving like an enclitic despite the traditional accent rules, which always treat it as orthotonic. Also, focus is known to have a dephrasing effect in some languages, and this may be an example of that too.

I wonder, moreover, if this αὐτοῦ would have not only featured some phonological reduction as you suggest, as αὐτου, but also some lightening of the heavy first syllable as ἀτου (see Horrocks for examples, IIRC), and possibly even involving aphaeresis as 'του (per Modern Greek).
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

RandallButh
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Re: John's Good Greek

Post by RandallButh » July 10th, 2017, 1:25 am

Stephen, I would expect that some of the phonological reductions that you mention would have happened sporadically and naturally. When and if they catch on, the language accepts them and the language morphs forward another increment. Sometimes the changes precipitate a domino effect, like in a great vowel shift, be it English in the 14th century or Greek in the 3rd century BCE.

However, when playing with ancient texts I try to be as conservative as possible and still to explain the data. So my reconstruction simply moves αὐτοῦ as an enclitic, with an enclitic pronunciation. To advocate more would go beyond the necessary explanations for the data at hand.

[[ I already have plenty of arrows in my back for having advocated that we speak this language with each other if we want to truly internalize it. Producing my own examples of ᾽του would surely bring a couple more arrows in the back. However, we know that spontaneous 'mistakes' arise in all spoken language.
- We have a great example of something similar in Hebrew between 130 CE and the twentieth century. Today, people say שתיתי ׳ת-קפה shatiti 'taqafe "I drank the coffee," for שתיתי את הקפה shatiti et ha-qafe. In fast speech it is common to drop the little "e" of the particle [et] "definite accusative marker" and to swallow the following 'h'. The surprise came when the Bar Kosiba letters were found around 1960. There were several written examples where the את was written ת and joined to the following noun, just like people speak today. The את phenomenon had previously been documented in antiquity but only for Western Mediterranean Hebrew-Phoenician [a.k.a. Punic]. Because of that evidence it would now be legitimate for someone to write a historical play and period piece where an actor would speak like that. But the actors might speak like that anyway, without incentive from a script writer. ]]

Stephen Hughes
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Re: John's Good Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » July 10th, 2017, 9:42 pm

RandallButh wrote:
July 9th, 2017, 6:09 am
John 19:35 ... αὐτοῦ ... ἡ μαρτυρία,
Is μαρτυρία + genitive always a subjective? Are we bound to read this "of" as "which was given by"?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
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Re: John's Good Greek

Post by RandallButh » July 11th, 2017, 3:22 am

Stephen H, that is a good question theoretically. Certainly contexts could be set up where a genitive could be objective. I'll let you do the searching.

However, in the immediate context only the viewer and one who gave testimony is being tracked explicitly and syntactically. And in the Gospel of John, yes, the genitives all refer to the one giving the testimony. When the object of the testimony is mentioned, the Gospel uses περί+γενικὸς πτῶμα.

So the natural and immediate reference of bare αὐτοῦ for any reader of John 19:35 is to the 'one who has seen'.

It appears that John 21:24 is saying the same thing, with the ἐστίν left to the end of the sentence:
Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ μαθητὴς ὁ μαρτυρῶν περὶ τούτων
καὶ ὁ γράψας ταῦτα,
καὶ οἴδαμεν* ὅτι ἀληθὴς αὐτοῦ ἡ μαρτυρία ἐστίν.
The αὐτοῦ (singular, referring to the author and not the objective "things"!) appears to reinforce ἀληθής as Focus (pragmatically marked salient information), again like in 19:35, but with ἐστίν providing a secondary pragmatic marking of μαρτυρία, as a Contextualizing Constituent. This is one of those examples in Greek where an order Focus--Contextualizing Constituent is used, an order that is relatively infrequent. Communication in many languages uses CC-Focus as the normal/natural order with double frontings. (E.g., look no further than the Hebrew Bible, where double frontings are 99[+]% CC-Focus.)

*Some think the "we" is the honorific author "I", while others think that the "we" includes the disciples of John who posthumously published the Gospel.

Stephen Hughes
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Re: John's Good Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » July 11th, 2017, 8:27 am

RandallButh wrote:
July 11th, 2017, 3:22 am
And in the Gospel of John, yes, the genitives all refer to the one giving the testimony. When the object of the testimony is mentioned, the Gospel uses περί+γενικὸς πτῶμα.
Speaking of πτώματα, "+" is read as "σύν".
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: John's Good Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » July 11th, 2017, 9:14 pm

RandallButh wrote:
July 11th, 2017, 3:22 am
... contexts could be set up where a genitive could be objective. I'll let you do the searching.
There is an implicit question about authourship in my question. The examples of possible objective genitives without prepositional clarification are in the Apocalypse. Even there, there are degrees of uncertanty about subjectivity and objectivity of the genitives with μαρτυρία.
Ap.1:2 wrote:ὃς ἐμαρτύρησεν τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ, ὅσα εἶδεν.
Either he gave testimony which was the same testimony as Jesus did before PP "Judge: Hey, Christian, do you claim Jesus is the son of God. ... John: It is as you say", or he gave a testimony that testified about Jesus (cognate accusative).
Ap.6:9 wrote:καὶ διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν τοῦ ἀρνίου ἣν εἶχον,
Either the testimony the Lamb made, or which the made about It.
Ap.20:4 wrote:καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς τῶν πεπελεκισμένων διὰ τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ, καὶ διὰ τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ,
Either because of the testimony they presented about Jesus, or that they held to the testimony that Jesus presented concerning Himself and other matters. [So too, the things spoken by God that they held to or the things that they said about God.]
Ap.12:17 wrote:τῶν τηρούντων τὰς ἐντολὰς τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐχόντων τὴν μαρτυρίαν Ἰησοῦ.
Either they held to the testimony they made about Jesus personally, or they did not repudiate the things that Jesus spoke to us about.

Perhaps this syntactical usage of μαρτυρία in the Apocalpse is at an idiolectic level, while the usage in the Gospel conforms to the broader standard usage.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
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Re: John's Good Greek

Post by RandallButh » July 12th, 2017, 1:34 am

The usage iin Apokalupsis appears to have roots that go back to the Macabbees and in more than one language

RandallButh
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Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: John's Good Greek

Post by RandallButh » July 12th, 2017, 1:34 am

The usage iin Apokalupsis appears to have roots that go back to the Macabbees and in more than one language

RandallButh
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Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: John's Good Greek

Post by RandallButh » July 12th, 2017, 1:37 am

The usage iin Apokalupsis appears to have roots that go back to the Macabbees and in more than one language

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