Syntax Question on 2 John 3

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Brent Elkins
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Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by Brent Elkins » April 17th, 2015, 8:43 am

2 John 3, UBS5 Text:

3 ἔσται μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ.

There are three singular subjects (χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη) and one singular verb (ἔσται) in this verse. I would expect the verb to be 3rd Person Plural since it has three referents, but in this case it is singular. Is there a name for this grammatical construction?

Thanks!
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cwconrad
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Re: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by cwconrad » April 17th, 2015, 9:55 am

Brent Elkins wrote:2 John 3, UBS5 Text:

3 ἔσται μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη παρὰ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ παρὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν ἀληθείᾳ καὶ ἀγάπῃ.

There are three singular subjects (χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη) and one singular verb (ἔσται) in this verse. I would expect the verb to be 3rd Person Plural since it has three referents, but in this case it is singular. Is there a name for this grammatical construction?

Thanks!
It's commonly denoted by the Latin phrase constructio ad sensum or constructio κατὰ σύνεσιν -- in English grammar this is sometimes called a "notional construction" or "notional concord". Here either of two possible explanations is possible: (a) χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη are conceived as a unit, wherefore the verb is singular; (b) the verb precedes and agrees with the first of the three subjects, while the others are "add-ons" ("Grace be with you -- as well as mercy, peace, etc."). The second seems more likely to me and is not uncommon. Cf. Smyth §966 "The verb may agree with the nearest or most important of two or more subjects."
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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: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by Stephen Hughes » April 17th, 2015, 10:02 am

The name of it being the same number as one or other of the three is called "agreement", the fact that it only agrees with the one closest to it, not to all three is a (common) feature of the wider Greek language.

The most important thing is that you don't make a doctrine or form a deeper understanding of the relationship between these three words, out of this point of syntactic vaguarity of the Greek language.
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(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Brent Elkins
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Re: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by Brent Elkins » April 17th, 2015, 10:21 am

Thanks Carl and Stephen!

I'm assuming Ephesians 2:8 would be treated similarly:

8 τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον

It has two feminine nouns and a masculine participle. I assume since "τοῦτο" is a neuter singular demonstrative that it is referring to the whole phrase "τῇ γὰρ χάριτί (Fem., Sg.) ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι (Masc., Pl.) διὰ πίστεως (Fem., Sg.)".

Carl:
I did read Smyth §966 "The verb may agree with the nearest or most important of two or more subjects," but wasn't sure if it applied in this situation, I also wasn't sure how it would be rendered in this case. I like your way of putting it, "Grace be with you -- as well as mercy, peace, etc.". You mentioned two options, with your preference for the latter. Does it exegetically make a difference in the end?

Stephen:

You said, "The most important thing is that you don't make a doctrine or form a deeper understanding of the relationship between these three words, out of this point of syntactic vaguarity of the Greek language." Would an example of what you caution against be something like saying "these three words are acting as synonyms due to this construction"?
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cwconrad
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Re: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by cwconrad » April 17th, 2015, 10:30 am

Brent Elkins wrote:Thanks Carl and Stephen!

I'm assuming Ephesians 2:8 would be treated similarly:

8 τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον

It has two feminine nouns and a masculine participle. I assume since "τοῦτο" is a neuter singular demonstrative that it is referring to the whole phrase "τῇ γὰρ χάριτί (Fem., Sg.) ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι (Masc., Pl.) διὰ πίστεως (Fem., Sg.)".

Carl:
I did read Smyth §966 "The verb may agree with the nearest or most important of two or more subjects," but wasn't sure if it applied in this situation, I also wasn't sure how it would be rendered in this case. I like your way of putting it, "Grace be with you -- as well as mercy, peace, etc.". You mentioned two options, with your preference for the latter. Does it exegetically make a difference in the end?

Stephen:

You said, "The most important thing is that you don't make a doctrine or form a deeper understanding of the relationship between these three words, out of this point of syntactic vaguarity of the Greek language." Would an example of what you caution against be something like saying "these three words are acting as synonyms due to this construction"?
I shall take the liberty of replying for both Stephen and myself: don't imagine that grammarians' lists of usage and the recurrent examples of each usage constitute "laws" of grammar. Think rather in terms of conventional categories and explanations that have been found generally helpful over the course of time; on the other hand, the categories and explanations are subject to change and improvement. As the Greek poet-philosopher Xenophanes once observed,
οὔτοι ἀπ' ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖσ' ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνωι ζητοῦντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον.
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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)

Brent Elkins
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Location: West Michigan

Re: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by Brent Elkins » April 17th, 2015, 10:40 am

Or as Captain Barbossa said, "...the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules." :lol:
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by Stephen Hughes » April 18th, 2015, 12:35 am

Brent Elkins wrote:I'm assuming Ephesians 2:8 would be treated similarly:

8 τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον

It has two feminine nouns and a masculine participle. I assume since "τοῦτο" is a neuter singular demonstrative that it is referring to the whole phrase "τῇ γὰρ χάριτί (Fem., Sg.) ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι (Masc., Pl.) διὰ πίστεως (Fem., Sg.)".
Abstract nouns in Greek are usually feminine as χάρις and πίστις are. τοῦτο (neuter) is probably referring to the thing as it is happening in this concrete (before their very eyes) case, rather than an abstracted principle as the English "this" might lend itself to be interpreted as. The abstraction and application to other communities of Christians is a matter of our interpretation rather than the Greek.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by Barry Hofstetter » April 18th, 2015, 9:00 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Brent Elkins wrote:I'm assuming Ephesians 2:8 would be treated similarly:

8 τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν, θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον

It has two feminine nouns and a masculine participle. I assume since "τοῦτο" is a neuter singular demonstrative that it is referring to the whole phrase "τῇ γὰρ χάριτί (Fem., Sg.) ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι (Masc., Pl.) διὰ πίστεως (Fem., Sg.)".
Abstract nouns in Greek are usually feminine as χάρις and πίστις are. τοῦτο (neuter) is probably referring to the thing as it is happening in this concrete (before their very eyes) case, rather than an abstracted principle as the English "this" might lend itself to be interpreted as. The abstraction and application to other communities of Christians is a matter of our interpretation rather than the Greek.
The best explanation of τοῦτο is that it refers to the entire preceding clause.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Syntax Question on 2 John 3

Post by Stephen Carlson » April 19th, 2015, 12:42 am

τοῦτο in Eph 2:8 is much discussed on b-greek. Here's an old example: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/test-arch ... 17115.html

Here's a recent example: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/vie ... %BF#p19286

I suggest that all further discussion off Eph 2:8 go there.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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