Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

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David Lim
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by David Lim » June 8th, 2011, 1:16 am

Jason Hare wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:However, on this whole idea of double negatives contained within the same clause, everyone is agreed that it serves as emphasis or confirmation of the negative. For example, Smyth, #2762:
The negative of one clause is often repeated in the same or in another clause either for emphasis or because of lax structure.
I think the structure in question is actually better fit into Smyth §2761 (rather than §2162):
2761. If in the same clause one or more compound negatives follow a negative with the same verb, the compound negative simply confirms the first negative.
The examples cited there match what we're seeing in the above verses.

For example: οὐδεὶς οὐδὲν πενίᾳ δράσει no one will do anything because of want Ar. Eccl. 605, etc.

I don't see any reason to take the compound negatives as anything more than confirmatory in most cases - rather than emphatic. In other words, I don't see that there's anything particularly emphatic in the verses above, though 1 John 1:5 might come across as more emphatic in tone.
Hmm If I put the two together..:
Smyth wrote: 2761. If in the same clause one or more compound negatives follow a negative with the same verb, the compound negative simply confirms the first negative.
2762. The negative of one clause is often repeated in the same or in another clause either for emphasis or because of lax structure.
Perhaps (2761) is one instance of "lax structure" in (2762), and if there are simpler alternative ways of saying something then the double negative indicates emphasis? The example you cite seems to be like Mark 15:5 and Mark 16:8 in that there does not seem to be any way of saying it with fewer negatives, or is there? Whereas for 1 John 1:5 the "longer construction" seems to give emphasis to "ουδεμια"?
David Lim wrote:In comparison with English, there is a double negative in 1 John 1:5 with "ουκ" and "ουδεμια". For Mark 15:5 and Mark 16:8 the three alternatives are equivalent but the focus is different. I was simply asking because Jason said that in Greek the two ways are equivalent with no difference in emphasis. However for 1 John 1:5 the alternatives in English have indeed different meanings, even though I did precisely the same thing with all three verses. That suggested to me that the equivalence is not due to grammatical structure but to semantic function and context.
Which means that I didn't quite do "precisely the same thing" because 1 John 1:5 is different from the others (based on what you all have mentioned). Hmm as for my question of focus.. if the negatives are grammatically necessary, I am guessing that it is simply the fronted words that are focused on? Is this a reasonable guess?
[Mark 15:5] ο δε ιησους ουκετι ουδεν απεκριθη ωστε θαυμαζειν τον πιλατον
... Jesus no longer answered anything ... (focus on "ουκετι" = "no longer")
[Mark 16:8] και εξελθουσαι εφυγον απο του μνημειου ειχεν δε αυτας τρομος και εκστασις και ουδενι ουδεν ειπον εφοβουντο γαρ
... to no one did [they] say anything ... (focus on "ουδενι" = "to no one")
Jason Hare wrote:
David Lim wrote:I meant "logical inversion" in mathematics or computer science, not that Greek is illogical (hmm maybe it is sometimes, like the neuter plural subject with a singular verb..) Actually I understand the sentence but I was wondering if there is a fixed way that negatives must be used so that the literal meaning (either X or not X) is clear and independent of the context. It seems to be as you said for a negative used with a verb ("N V" = "ου V N"), so how about two negatives as in Mark 15:5 and Mark 16:8?
I don't know nothing about computer science or what you're referring to. 8-)
In mathematics a valid statement, for example "for all real x, x^2 >= 0", is either true or false (unless unprovable). The negation of any statement always has opposite truth-value. In this example the statement is true and the negated (logically inverted) statement "not for all real x, x^2 >= 0" == "for some real x, x^2 >= 0 is not true" is false. In languages however almost all statements do not behave like this. Anyway I must have misunderstood your original comment; I thought you meant that double negatives would only occur when the verb needed "ου" / "μη" in front of it. But it seems from what you quoted that Mark 15:5 and Mark 16:8 are examples of double negatives confirming one another.
Jason Hare wrote:
David Lim wrote:Also, Funk's Grammar only mentions some conjunctions and particles intervening between "ου" and the verb, but can "τις" in Eph 2:9 do that as well, or is it that "μη" negates the whole clause "τις καυχησηται"?
[Eph 2:9] ουκ εξ εργων ινα μη τις καυχησηται
? not out of works so that no one might boast (not out of works in order that no one might boast)
? not out of works lest anyone boast (not out of works otherwise someone boast)
These two in English mean very different things.. (Since this has no double negatives, should I ask it in a separate topic?)
This is brought up by Smyth in §2193 (note b).
b. In order that no one is ἵνα (etc.) μηδεὶς or μή τις, in order that... never is ἵνα (etc.) μήποτε or μή ποτε, and in order that... not is μηδὲ after μή.
In this structure, μή τις is equivalent to μηδείς.
I see. Smyth seems very helpful; is there any place I can read it online (apart from Perseus which nearly froze my computer)? Can I confirm that it implies "lest anyone boast" is inaccurate and "so that no one might boast" is correct? (NKJV and KJV and NASB and ISV among others render as "lest ..." but I read it as "so that not anyone might boast")
Jason Hare wrote:
David Lim wrote:It makes sense to me, but it is quite different from the other, "darkness is not in him", which implies that there is darkness but it is not in him, whereas the standard translation does not take "σκοτια" as the subject of "ουκ εστιν". Why not?
You should take οὐκ ἔστιν as agreeing with σκοτία, but it's not technically its "subject" as we think of it in English. The εστιν in this phrase is existential, and we use "there is" in English to get that idea across. I think σκοτία has been thrown forward to topicalize it (if we say that in regard to Greek grammar). In essense, "And when it comes to darkness, in him there is not any at all."
Well yes I know that the English copulative verb is almost never used with existential meaning, but it is the closest, with John 1:4 ("in him life was" / "life was in him") being another example in which I believe the usual translation fails to get the actual meaning across: life itself was in him; instead "in him was life" simply means "there was life in him" and does not exclude the possibility that "there was life elsewhere". (But of course the second part of John 1:4 does make it clear: "η ζωη ην ...")
Jason Hare wrote:
David Lim wrote:I'm not surprised to see such separations, but the usual separation is because of adjectival or adverbial clauses like the one you quote ("εν λυκειω καταλιπων" functions as an adjective modifying "τας διατριβας"). Isn't 1 John 1:5 different?
I looked all over in Smyth for a specific discussion on the breaking up of noun phrases, and he covers it very quickly in the sections that I read. I didn't find anything that specifically discussed a situation like that in 1 John 1:5. I think I'll leave that for someone else. I don't have any grammars for κοινή, and it may either be an issue within κοινή or something that someone discusses, or it could be something that I'm overlooking.

Hope I've been of some assistance anyway.
Certainly! Thanks to all who replied to my endless follow-up questions haha..
cwconrad wrote:
David Lim wrote:It makes sense to me, but it is quite different from the other, "darkness is not in him", which implies that there is darkness but it is not in him, whereas the standard translation does not take "σκοτια" as the subject of "ουκ εστιν". Why not?
You should take οὐκ ἔστιν as agreeing with σκοτία, but it's not technically its "subject" as we think of it in English. The εστιν in this phrase is existential, and we use "there is" in English to get that idea across. I think σκοτία has been thrown forward to topicalize it (if we say that in regard to Greek grammar). In essense, "And when it comes to darkness, in him there is not any at all."
Rightly or wrongly, I have always thought of adjectives in what old-fashioned grammarians called the alternative predicate position (e.g. ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἀγαθός) as a sort of appositive addition: "the man, i.e. the good one"; some prefer to describe this as a kind of relative clause: "the man who is good." I think that what we see in the way οὐδεμία construes with σκοτία in 1 John 1:5 σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία is similar. "There isn't any darkness in him, none at all." There is something that seems distinct about the way Greek uses these pronominal demonstratives -- I think that's what I'd call μηδεμία -- in a sort of adverbial appositive sense. While this is not by any means a default of construction (it's pretty powerful rhetoric), it also isn't that uncommon. The same is true, I think, of that alternative atrributive position of the adjective, as in Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ μέγας -- which is a rhetorical expression, hardly equivalent to "the great Alexander" (as opposed to any lesser Alexander) but "Alexander, the great one of that name."[/quote]

Thanks, Carl, so along the lines of what I mentioned about John 1:4 "εν αυτω ζωη ην", is it possibly valid that I translate 1 John 1:5 as "darkness is not in him, not any [darkness]" instead of "[there] is not darkness in him, not any [darkness]"? The focus in the second seems to be on "what is not in him" rather than on "darkness being not in him".
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by cwconrad » June 8th, 2011, 10:45 am

David Lim wrote: Rightly or wrongly, I have always thought of adjectives in what old-fashioned grammarians called the alternative predicate position (e.g. ὁ ἀνὴρ ὁ ἀγαθός) as a sort of appositive addition: "the man, i.e. the good one"; some prefer to describe this as a kind of relative clause: "the man who is good." I think that what we see in the way οὐδεμία construes with σκοτία in 1 John 1:5 σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία is similar. "There isn't any darkness in him, none at all." There is something that seems distinct about the way Greek uses these pronominal demonstratives -- I think that's what I'd call μηδεμία -- in a sort of adverbial appositive sense. While this is not by any means a default of construction (it's pretty powerful rhetoric), it also isn't that uncommon. The same is true, I think, of that alternative atrributive position of the adjective, as in Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ μέγας -- which is a rhetorical expression, hardly equivalent to "the great Alexander" (as opposed to any lesser Alexander) but "Alexander, the great one of that name."
Thanks, Carl, so along the lines of what I mentioned about John 1:4 "εν αυτω ζωη ην", is it possibly valid that I translate 1 John 1:5 as "darkness is not in him, not any [darkness]" instead of "[there] is not darkness in him, not any [darkness]"? The focus in the second seems to be on "what is not in him" rather than on "darkness being not in him".
I think that, like many Beginners in Biblical Greek, you're excessively hung up on "how to translate" a construction rather than on "how to understand it." But of course the translations you offer are not any ordinary English at all, I think they are steps in the direction of decoding a cryptogram. But yes, "Darkness is not in him, not any (darkness)" expresses the sense of the Greek although in English that no English-speaker would ever utter. Better might be, "There is no darkness in him, none at all." You're trying to use "translation" as a mode of reformulating the Greek into an algebraic sort of expression that isn't really English although it involves individual units of English discourse. What you need to do is understand how the elements of the Greek discourse contribute sequentially to an integral sense. I would convey the process of understanding thus:

σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία: "Darkness in him -- there isn't any, none at all!"

Now that isn't ordinary English either, any more than your formulation was; I formulated it that way, however, to illustrate how it seems to me the message of this text comes to the reader incrementally. (1) The phrase σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ does not constitute a Greek sentence, but the words construe syntactically with each other, even if only potentially as they await a verb; (2) the verb with its negating qualifier appears immediately thereafter, completing the sense; (3) then follows μηδεμία underscoring the sense of σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν, not with a period, but something more like an exclamation mark.
You can see by the form of μηδεμία (fem. sg. nom.) that it qualifies (i.e. negates absolutely) the nom. sg. fem. noun σκοτία.
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ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by Barry Hofstetter » June 8th, 2011, 12:53 pm

David Lim wrote: In mathematics a valid statement, for example "for all real x, x^2 >= 0", is either true or false (unless unprovable). The negation of any statement always has opposite truth-value. In this example the statement is true and the negated (logically inverted) statement "not for all real x, x^2 >= 0" == "for some real x, x^2 >= 0 is not true" is false. In languages however almost all statements do not behave like this. Anyway I must have misunderstood your original comment; I thought you meant that double negatives would only occur when the verb needed "ου" / "μη" in front of it. But it seems from what you quoted that Mark 15:5 and Mark 16:8 are examples of double negatives confirming one another.
Sorry, I don't get math at all. In fact, I majored in Greek and Latin in college precisely so I wouldn't have to take any math. I just try to read and understand the Greek.


:roll: :o
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by Jason Hare » June 8th, 2011, 6:39 pm

χαῖρε, ὦ Δαυίδ.
David Lim wrote:I see. Smyth seems very helpful; is there any place I can read it online (apart from Perseus which nearly froze my computer)? Can I confirm that it implies "lest anyone boast" is inaccurate and "so that no one might boast" is correct? (NKJV and KJV and NASB and ISV among others render as "lest ..." but I read it as "so that not anyone might boast")
Getting acquainted with Smyth is invaluable to the student of ancient Greek. :)

You can download a PDF copy of Smyth's grammar from Textkit at this link. You have to register with WordPress.com (through Textkit) in order to download their resources, but it's an amazing site with tons of valuable Greek books in PDF form. Well worth the frustration of site registration.

Good luck!

Jason
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by David Lim » June 8th, 2011, 8:43 pm

cwconrad wrote:I think that, like many Beginners in Biblical Greek, you're excessively hung up on "how to translate" a construction rather than on "how to understand it." But of course the translations you offer are not any ordinary English at all, I think they are steps in the direction of decoding a cryptogram. But yes, "Darkness is not in him, not any (darkness)" expresses the sense of the Greek although in English that no English-speaker would ever utter. Better might be, "There is no darkness in him, none at all." You're trying to use "translation" as a mode of reformulating the Greek into an algebraic sort of expression that isn't really English although it involves individual units of English discourse. What you need to do is understand how the elements of the Greek discourse contribute sequentially to an integral sense. I would convey the process of understanding thus:

σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία: "Darkness in him -- there isn't any, none at all!"

Now that isn't ordinary English either, any more than your formulation was; I formulated it that way, however, to illustrate how it seems to me the message of this text comes to the reader incrementally. (1) The phrase σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ does not constitute a Greek sentence, but the words construe syntactically with each other, even if only potentially as they await a verb; (2) the verb with its negating qualifier appears immediately thereafter, completing the sense; (3) then follows μηδεμία underscoring the sense of σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν, not with a period, but something more like an exclamation mark.
You can see by the form of μηδεμία (fem. sg. nom.) that it qualifies (i.e. negates absolutely) the nom. sg. fem. noun σκοτία.
Yes, indeed I was trying to convey the structure and sense of the original with English words even though that would not be common English usage. (But I have heard and read many people using precisely such odd phrases..) Also I do prefer using a direct literal translation rather than whole paragraphs to express what I understand the Greek to mean. But thanks a lot for your explanation above; it really helps! :)
Jason Hare wrote:Getting acquainted with Smyth is invaluable to the student of ancient Greek. :)

You can download a PDF copy of Smyth's grammar from Textkit at this link. You have to register with WordPress.com (through Textkit) in order to download their resources, but it's an amazing site with tons of valuable Greek books in PDF form. Well worth the frustration of site registration.
Oh thanks! :)
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by Jason Hare » June 13th, 2011, 4:00 pm

Regarding the spacing of words from their modifiers, what about this from the Anabasis?

ἀναβαίνει οὖν ὁ Κῦρος λαβὼν Τισσαφέρνην ὡς φίλον, καὶ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἔχων ὁπλίτας ἀνέβη τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον. (Anabasis 1.1.2)

Here we don't have an adverbial or any type of modifier of the hoplites. We have a regular finite verb, the main verb of the phrase, interrupting between a noun and its quantifying adjective.

A word order closer to that of English:
καὶ ἀνέβη ἔχων ὁπλίτας τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον.

Why would "three hundred" be separated like this from "hoplites"? I think this is relevant to the example in question, with the separation of σκοτία from οὐδεμία. I don't think it's something that we should get hung up on too drastically. It just happens in Greek. Don't you think?
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by cwconrad » June 13th, 2011, 4:49 pm

Jason Hare wrote:Regarding the spacing of words from their modifiers, what about this from the Anabasis?

ἀναβαίνει οὖν ὁ Κῦρος λαβὼν Τισσαφέρνην ὡς φίλον, καὶ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἔχων ὁπλίτας ἀνέβη τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον. (Anabasis 1.1.2)

Here we don't have an adverbial or any type of modifier of the hoplites. We have a regular finite verb, the main verb of the phrase, interrupting between a noun and its quantifying adjective.

A word order closer to that of English:
καὶ ἀνέβη ἔχων ὁπλίτας τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον.

Why would "three hundred" be separated like this from "hoplites"? I think this is relevant to the example in question, with the separation of σκοτία from οὐδεμία. I don't think it's something that we should get hung up on too drastically. It just happens in Greek. Don't you think?
I agree that there's nothing irregular in the passage from the Anabasis -- in fact, it's the kind of Greek that students are taught (or used to be taught) to emulate in composing narrative prose. Superficially it does look like 1 John 1:5 (ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία) in that τριακοσίους is a numeral and οὐδεμία is a quantitative word. Nevertheless, I think the genre is different and I think that the formulation in 1 John 1:5 is rhetorically emphatic. Perhaps that's a subjective judgment, but it sure seems that way to me.
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by Jason Hare » June 13th, 2011, 5:12 pm

cwconrad wrote:Nevertheless, I think the genre is different and I think that the formulation in 1 John 1:5 is rhetorically emphatic. Perhaps that's a subjective judgment, but it sure seems that way to me.
Oh, I can't disagree. It would have been enough to say, even, καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν. That would have been enough. The existence of οὐδεμία in the sentence, I feel, makes it automatically emphatic, and the irregular word order stresses that even more. What do you think?
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by David Lim » June 18th, 2011, 2:27 am

cwconrad wrote:
Jason Hare wrote:Regarding the spacing of words from their modifiers, what about this from the Anabasis?

ἀναβαίνει οὖν ὁ Κῦρος λαβὼν Τισσαφέρνην ὡς φίλον, καὶ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἔχων ὁπλίτας ἀνέβη τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον. (Anabasis 1.1.2)

Here we don't have an adverbial or any type of modifier of the hoplites. We have a regular finite verb, the main verb of the phrase, interrupting between a noun and its quantifying adjective.

A word order closer to that of English:
καὶ ἀνέβη ἔχων ὁπλίτας τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον.

Why would "three hundred" be separated like this from "hoplites"? I think this is relevant to the example in question, with the separation of σκοτία from οὐδεμία. I don't think it's something that we should get hung up on too drastically. It just happens in Greek. Don't you think?
I agree that there's nothing irregular in the passage from the Anabasis -- in fact, it's the kind of Greek that students are taught (or used to be taught) to emulate in composing narrative prose. Superficially it does look like 1 John 1:5 (ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία) in that τριακοσίους is a numeral and οὐδεμία is a quantitative word. Nevertheless, I think the genre is different and I think that the formulation in 1 John 1:5 is rhetorically emphatic. Perhaps that's a subjective judgment, but it sure seems that way to me.
Hmmm... This is just my guess, but I feel that when a clause is completed, anything added is emphatic. In the case of 1 John 1:5, "ουδεμια" can be dropped without affecting the original clause, hence its presence signals to the audience an emphasis. However in the example which you quote from Anabasis, "των ελληνων εχων οπλιτας" is incomplete and hence causes the audience to expect something more to describe these "οπλιτας των ελληνων", so when the "τριακοσιους" comes, even if after "ανεβη", it does not create any emphasis. Is my hypothesis possible?
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Re: Double Negatives (was John 14:30)

Post by cwconrad » June 18th, 2011, 7:34 am

David Lim wrote:
cwconrad wrote:
Jason Hare wrote:Regarding the spacing of words from their modifiers, what about this from the Anabasis?

ἀναβαίνει οὖν ὁ Κῦρος λαβὼν Τισσαφέρνην ὡς φίλον, καὶ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἔχων ὁπλίτας ἀνέβη τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον. (Anabasis 1.1.2)

Here we don't have an adverbial or any type of modifier of the hoplites. We have a regular finite verb, the main verb of the phrase, interrupting between a noun and its quantifying adjective.

A word order closer to that of English:
καὶ ἀνέβη ἔχων ὁπλίτας τριακοσίους, ἄρχοντα δὲ αὐτῶν Ξενίαν Παρράσιον.

Why would "three hundred" be separated like this from "hoplites"? I think this is relevant to the example in question, with the separation of σκοτία from οὐδεμία. I don't think it's something that we should get hung up on too drastically. It just happens in Greek. Don't you think?
I agree that there's nothing irregular in the passage from the Anabasis -- in fact, it's the kind of Greek that students are taught (or used to be taught) to emulate in composing narrative prose. Superficially it does look like 1 John 1:5 (ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν καὶ σκοτία ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδεμία) in that τριακοσίους is a numeral and οὐδεμία is a quantitative word. Nevertheless, I think the genre is different and I think that the formulation in 1 John 1:5 is rhetorically emphatic. Perhaps that's a subjective judgment, but it sure seems that way to me.
Hmmm... This is just my guess, but I feel that when a clause is completed, anything added is emphatic. In the case of 1 John 1:5, "ουδεμια" can be dropped without affecting the original clause, hence its presence signals to the audience an emphasis. However in the example which you quote from Anabasis, "των ελληνων εχων οπλιτας" is incomplete and hence causes the audience to expect something more to describe these "οπλιτας των ελληνων", so when the "τριακοσιους" comes, even if after "ανεβη", it does not create any emphasis. Is my hypothesis possible?
Whether or not it's possible, I rather think it is based on few data and takes into account too few factors to judge. τριακοσίους does add significant information to τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἔχων ὁπλίτας ἀνέβη τριακοσίους, but as i noted before, this is a different literary genre: straightforward narrative presentation, whereas the text from 1 John 1:5 is rhetorical exposition
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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