Greek definite article

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.

Greek definite article

Postby Mike Burke Deactivated » June 30th, 2013, 11:27 pm

How does the Greek definite article differ from the English?
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Re: Greek definite article

Postby Mike Burke Deactivated » July 1st, 2013, 12:51 am

I recall a passage where St. Peter (a Jew) says that in the last days there will be scoffers, who will say "where is the promise of His coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning."

I don't recall whether Peter (in the original Greek) used the definite article, but would it have made a difference if he did?

As a Jew, if he used the definite article, would he be talking about "the" Jewish fathers (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), and if he omitted the definite article, would he have been talking about any ancestors (of whatever ethnic origin these "scoffers" happen to belong)?

Is that the way the Greek definite article functions?

When I use the English definite article, and I say "the house," I mean a specific house.

Does the Greek definite article function the same way?
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Re: Greek definite article

Postby cwconrad » July 1st, 2013, 7:05 am

Mike, you've been posting to B-Greek, the old mailing list and the newer Forum, for years. I may be misreading you altogether, but it has seemed to me that your questions in the past have often turned on doctrinal rather than strictly grammatical issues. Just recently you seem to be raising questions about fundamental Greek grammar that ordinarily are dealt with in the opening lessons of a class or textbook. Yet your questions seem to arise from what you've read in commentaries on the Greek text rather than from work in a textbook. Have you in fact ever worked through a beginning Greek textbook or taken a beginning Greek class? If not, it's time you did so.

Regarding the specific question you raise, it's not easy to give a simple answer that is adequate: the fact is that in some respects the Greek article functions as does the English article, but it does not always do so and it has some usages that arent' really comparable to English usages. If you have a first-year textbook, you might look at the lesson about the article -- but it won't tell the whole story about the Greek article, I'm sure. For reference, I'd suggest you look at Smyth, §§249-276. A somewhat different formulation of the same information is in Funk's BIGHG, Lesson 6, "The Article as Structure Signal": http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/project/f ... son-6.html
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω
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Re: Greek definite article

Postby Barry Hofstetter » July 1st, 2013, 7:22 am

Mike Burke wrote:I recall a passage where St. Peter (a Jew) says that in the last days there will be scoffers, who will say "where is the promise of His coming, for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning."

I don't recall whether Peter (in the original Greek) used the definite article, but would it have made a difference if he did?

As a Jew, if he used the definite article, would he be talking about "the" Jewish fathers (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), and if he omitted the definite article, would he have been talking about any ancestors (of whatever ethnic origin these "scoffers" happen to belong)?

Is that the way the Greek definite article functions?

When I use the English definite article, and I say "the house," I mean a specific house.

Does the Greek definite article function the same way?


First, I echo and affirm everything Carl has said to you in his response. If you haven't actually learned Greek, at least through the beginning level, now's the time to start. Contact me in email or in a private message if you want further suggestions. You may also look through the posts to the forum -- this subject comes up regularly. There are many more resources available than there were even a few years ago.

Secondly, the list protocol is that when asking a questions about a specific passage, one quotes the actual Greek:

καὶ λέγοντες· Ποῦ ἐστιν ἡ ἐπαγγελία τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ; ἀφʼ ἧς γὰρ οἱ πατέρες ἐκοιμήθησαν, πάντα οὕτως διαμένει ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κτίσεως.

Yes, the article is here, and seems to indicate that the author has a specific group of Fathers in mind. This fact, however, does not help us understand specifically which group he has in mind -- that's something that must be determined on contextual grounds beyond the scope of the Greek per se.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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