who hears?

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msmith1509
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Joined: June 8th, 2014, 8:10 pm

who hears?

Post by msmith1509 » August 26th, 2017, 3:59 pm

Can someone help me understand why John 10:3 is translated as if the sheep *they* hear when the verb is cast in the third person singular? Here is the beginning of the verse: τούτῳ ὁ θυρωρὸς ἀνοίγει καὶ τὰ πρόβατα τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούει... What am I missing? It would seem that ἀκούει might refer to θυρωρὸς but this doesn't make sense in the context. Is this a case where the sheep, plural, can be referred to as a single group? Thanks for any insights.
/Martin

msmith1509
Posts: 8
Joined: June 8th, 2014, 8:10 pm

Re: who hears?

Post by msmith1509 » August 26th, 2017, 5:01 pm

I see that the same third singular is used for the sheep in 10:4 with ἀκολουθεῖ. It may be that the group is treated as a singular. I know this is a difference between US and UK English, for example, in the UK one says, "Ducati know their customer base," where in the US one says, "Ducati knows their customer base." Or, maybe this is just the case for sheep in Koine.

timothy_p_mcmahon
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Re: who hears?

Post by timothy_p_mcmahon » August 26th, 2017, 6:11 pm

Neuter plural nouns often take singular verbs. It's much more common in NT than a neuter plural subject taking a plural verb.

msmith1509
Posts: 8
Joined: June 8th, 2014, 8:10 pm

Re: who hears?

Post by msmith1509 » August 26th, 2017, 7:46 pm

Ah, ok, thanks Timothy.

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

Re: who hears?

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 26th, 2017, 9:28 pm

msmith1509 wrote:
August 26th, 2017, 3:59 pm
It would seem that ἀκούει might refer to θυρωρὸς but this doesn't make sense in the context. ... Thanks for any insights.
If θυρωρὸς were to be the subject of ἀκούει, then logically, the τὰ πρόβατα and the ἡ φωνὴ would be the double objects of ἀκούει. While there is no simple uniformity of syntactic construction for the verb ἀκούειν, if it were intended that we should take θυρωρὸς as the subject of ἀκούει, the phrase might have been written as καὶ τῶν προβάτων [αὐτοῦ] τὴν φωνὴν [αὐτῶν] ἀκουει, but that is not what is there. The cases of the nouns together with both the implicit and explicated pronominal referents make it pretty clear that τὰ πρόβατα is the subject - and as you say, context also suggests that.

In regard to what you call "insights", which in a humanistic context like this forum could be understood as "informed observations based on wider experience", let me suggest two other points about the word φωνὴ is used here (and elsewhere).

The first is that the meaning of the word describes too non-specific a sound for the for the αὐτοῦ in the genitive to be taken in the sense of "about him". If the noun were to have been something like φημὴν "hearsay" or λόγον "story" - words describing sounds (speech) with intellectual content - then we would have needed to leave open the possibility as to whether the word in the genitive (here αὐτοῦ) could be understood as "about him", but here in this verse we don't.

A second, related point is consider why ἡ φωνὴ is in the genitive, ie τῆς φωνῆς, not the accusative τὴν φωνὴν. In the syntactic construction of ἀκούειν, the genitive, which accompanies it is probably a parative genitive. Theoretically, that means that specifies the source or origin of what is heard, and in practical terms, it tells us where somebody turns their head to listen to (or gives their mental attention to). In this case, considering your question "maybe this is just the case for sheep", timothy has explained the grammar, but in terms what sheep or another dumb (= "not possessed of speech") animal hears, no matter what the shepherd might say to a sheep, it is only capable of giving attention with some limited understanding. That is to say, the φωνὴ is in the genitive because it describes where the sheep should give their attention, ie the sound of their own shepherd attracts their attention. The following comic about what the master says and what the dog hears, sort of illustrates that:

Image
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Jason Hare
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Re: who hears?

Post by Jason Hare » August 27th, 2017, 8:30 am

msmith1509 wrote:
August 26th, 2017, 3:59 pm
Can someone help me understand why John 10:3 is translated as if the sheep *they* hear when the verb is cast in the third person singular? Here is the beginning of the verse: τούτῳ ὁ θυρωρὸς ἀνοίγει καὶ τὰ πρόβατα τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούει... What am I missing? It would seem that ἀκούει might refer to θυρωρὸς but this doesn't make sense in the context. Is this a case where the sheep, plural, can be referred to as a single group? Thanks for any insights.
/Martin
Hi, Martin.

John 10:1-3 (SBLGNT)
Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ μὴ εἰσερχόμενος διὰ τῆς θύρας εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τῶν προβάτων ἀλλὰ ἀναβαίνων ἀλλαχόθεν ἐκεῖνος κλέπτης ἐστὶν καὶ λῃστής· ὁ δὲ εἰσερχόμενος διὰ τῆς θύρας ποιμήν ἐστιν τῶν προβάτων. τούτῳ ὁ θυρωρὸς ἀνοίγει, καὶ τὰ πρόβατα τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούει καὶ τὰ ἴδια πρόβατα φωνεῖ κατ᾿ ὄνομα καὶ ἐξάγει αὐτά.

I'll break it into sentences:

(1) τούτῳ ὁ θυρωρὸς ἀνοίγει
The door-keeper opens the door to him (the shepherd).
(2) καὶ τὰ πρόβατα τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούει
And the sheep hear his voice.
(3) καὶ τὰ ἴδια πρόβατα φωνεῖ κατ᾿ ὄνομα
And he calls his own sheep by name.
(4) καὶ ἐξάγει αὐτά
And he leads them out.

It's not as common for the genitive to be used with the object that is heard, but it does appear like this sometimes. Normally, the genitive is used for the speaker that is heard (ἀκούουσι τοῦ κυρίου) while the accusative is used for the object (ἀκούουσι τὴν φωνήν), but that isn't always the case.

Since τὰ πρόβατα is neuter plural, it is expected that the verb (ἀκούει) will be in the singular.
Jason A. Hare
Tel Aviv, Israel

Wes Wood
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Joined: September 20th, 2013, 8:18 pm

Re: who hears?

Post by Wes Wood » August 27th, 2017, 9:14 pm

You've gotten some really excellent answers! Another thing to consider that might help explain the use of the genitive case in the phrase τὰ πρόβατα τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούει is that the verb ἀκούει could have been intended to convey the meaning "obey" rather than "hear." This verb usually takes the genitive in such contexts, and it seems to make good sense here.
Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

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