Grammars excerpted: von Siebenthal 2019 (this post), Wallace 1996, Porter 1992, Levinsohn 2000, Moule 1959.
First up is the recently translated Heinrich von Siebenthal, Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2019).
von Siebenthal 2019:182-3 wrote: 130 Usage differences between Ancient Greek and English (^ BR §148f)
130a I. Cases in which Ancient Greek does not use the article, while English does:
3. Often before a noun phrase embedded in a prepositional phrase (^ 133a), e.g.:
παρὰ _ θάλασσαν by the sea (Ac 10:6)
ἐκ _ νεκρῶν from the dead (Ac 17:31)
From a pedagogical perspective, I'm of two minds of how much cross-linguistic comparison there should be between the user's L1 and L2 (here, English and Greek) specifically, especially in this case where article usage is often idiomatic. In other words, is it Greek being weird or is it English (or both)? On the other hand, I think it is good to manage the user's expectation that the Greek article does not correspond to the English article one-for-one. On the gripping hand, I'm reluctant to endorse leading off with the cross-linguistic comparison.von Siebenthal 2019:188-90 wrote: 133 Definiteness without the article (^ BR §149.205; BDF §252-259; Z §171-183)
I.Certain types of phrases lacking the article may still refer to something definite:
133a1. This often applies to noun phrases embedded in preposition phrases (^ 184-186), in CG mainly in phrases used as adverbs, in KG/NT, however, more generally, e.g.:
ἀπ' _ ἀρχῆς from the beginning (1Jn 2:7)
ἐκ _ νεκρῶν from the dead (Ac 17:31)
ἐκ _ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν from the hand of our enemies (Lk 1:74)
παρὰ _ πατρός from the Father (Jn 1:14)
ὑπὲρ _ ἁγίων for the saints (Ro 8:27)
πρὸς _ κέντρα against the goads (Ac 26:14)
133f II. In the NT the article with the nouns θεός god/God and κύριος lord/Lord (^ BDF §254) makes clear that the phrase is meant to refer to the one God/Lord, who revealed himself in Jesus Christ and previously to Israel. However, even with such a reference these nouns may be without the article in following cases:
ἐν _ θεῷ / έκ _ θεοῦ / ὑπὸ _ θεοῦ / παρὰ _ θεοῦ etc.
- frequently when embedded in a preposition phrase (^ 133a), e.g.:
133g Important points relevant to text interpretation (^ Z §176ff):
2. When concrete nouns are used without the article, this may be significant: indefiniteness is generally indicated (^ 130a). However, in the following cases something definite may be referred to, even though the NP is without the article:
c) if it is embedded in a preposition phrase (^ 133a);
The only guidance as to the articulation of prepositional objects is that it is "often" anarthrous. This vague characterization of frequency is lacking as a matter of observational adequacy (how often is "often"?), and as a matter of descriptive adequacy it provides no guidance for the user of when to use the article, when to not use it, and what it would mean.
Now let's look at the particular examples of anarthrous definite objects cited in § 133a:
- 1 John 2:7 Ἀγαπητοί, ούκ ἐντολὴν καινὴν γράφω ὑμῖν ἀλλ' ἐντολὴν παλαιὰν ἣν εἴχετε ἀπ' ἀρχῆς· Beloved, it's not a new commandment that I'm writing to you but an old commandment which you had from the beginning -- From what I can tell, ἀρχή is always anarthrous as the object of a prepositional phrase in the NT, but English idiom requires the article. But is it always definite? In other words, is this really referring to some beginning identifiable to the reader? Or, is it better, given the lexical consistency of ἀπ' ἀρχῆς, to see the prepositional phrase as an adverb that means "all along" and thus non-referential and perforce not definite?
- Acts 17:31 ... ἀναστήσας αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν. having raised him from the dead -- NT usage is not consistent (e.g. Eph 5:14 ἀνάστα ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν) but it is usually anarthrous (43/46). It would be good to account for why that is. But does it have to be definite here? It does not seem that the identifiability of the plural νεκρῶν is at issue here.
- Luke 1:74 ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν ῥυσθέντος rescued from the hand of (our) enemies -- Does this have to be definite? It feels non-specific. Again we have a plural ἐχθρῶν (presumably the singular χειρός distributes).
- John 1:14 δόξαν ... παρὰ πατρός a glory ... from the Father -- Good example of an anarthrous but identifiable (or "definite") object. It shows that the article can be omitted but not why.
- Rom 8:27 ... ὅτι κατὰ θεὸν ἐντυγχάνει ὑπὲρ ἁγίων because it is in accordance with God that it intercedes for the saints -- We have another plural here, and the question again is whether it has to be definite? In English, there is an implicature of the failure to use the definite article in this context means that only "some" are in mind, less than the whole. But is this true of Greek as well?
- Acts 26:14 σκληρόν σοι πρὸς κέντρα λακρίζειν it is tough for you to kick against the goads -- This is an idiomatic expression, no actual goads are in view. Thus is hard to buy into the claim that it is definite, even though an idiomatic English translation would use the definite article. This use of the definite article in non-referring, idiomatic expressions is an interesting puzzle in English (see the literature of the "weak definite"), but irrelevant to the Greek of this example.
Aside from warning the user that Greek may not have the article where English expects a definite object, I don't find von Siebenthal's grammar very insightful on this topic.