λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

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Stephen Carlson
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λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 17th, 2012, 12:39 pm

Matt 1:19 wrote:Ἰωσὴφ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτῆς, δίακαιος ὢν καὶ μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν δειγματίσαι, ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ ἀπολῦσαι αὐτήν.
The adverb λάθρᾳ sits between two verbs, but almost all translations construe it with the infinitive ἀπολῦσαι instead of ἐβουλήθη. For example: "planned to dismiss her quietly" (NRSV); "desired to put her away secretly" (NASB); "he had in mind to divorce her quietly" (NIV); and "decided to divorce her informally" (NJB). This is true, as far as I can tell, for translations into other modern European languages. BDAG too in its entry for λάθρᾳ indicates that it modifies ἀπολῦσαι.

I don't think this is right.

First, it does not make much sense to have a secret divorce. It is a public act. As a result, translations try to water down the incongruity of the expression by rendering λάθρᾳ as "quietly" or "informally" instead of its more common meaning of "secretly" or "by stealth."

Second, the context supports the notion of Joseph planning secretly. Indeed, v.20 states ταῦτα δὲ αὐτοῦ ἐνθυμηθέντος ("while he was mulling these things over"), showing that Joseph's plan in v.19 was still an internal, i.e. secret, event. Joseph only changes his mind after an angel appears to him in a dream--a private revelation.

Third, the prosody of the verse corroborates the view that λάθρᾳ does not construe with ἀπολῦσαι. After all, αὐτήν is an unemphatic pronoun and its natural position is second within its intonation unit. This suggests that ἀπολῦσαι is in a separate intonation unit from ἐβουλήθη λάθρᾳ. If λάθρᾳ were to construe with ἀπολῦσαι, we should expect λάθρᾳ αὐτὴν ἀπολῦσαι or ἀπολῦσαι αύτῆν λάθρᾳ as more prosodically suitable candidates.

Given the weight of tradition, however, I don't want to dismiss the translations lightly. So is there some reason for the traditional interpretation that I'm overlooking?

Stephen
Last edited by Stephen Carlson on February 17th, 2012, 4:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: fix spelling
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Mark Lightman » February 17th, 2012, 1:16 pm

Hi, Stephen,
...is there some reason for the traditional interpretation that I'm overlooking?
Only the biggest reason of all—our Most Dread Sovereign and Defender of the Faith His Majesty the Right Good Lord King Context. Joseph is called δίκαιος. It would make sense that a δίκαιος man would try to do the divorce secretly, but what would be δίκαιος about the plans being secret but the divorce being public?
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 17th, 2012, 1:55 pm

Mark Lightman wrote:Hi, Stephen,
...is there some reason for the traditional interpretation that I'm overlooking?
Only the biggest reason of all—our Most Dread Sovereign and Defender of the Faith His Majesty the Right Good Lord King Context. Joseph is called δίκαιος. It would make sense that a δίκαιος man would try to do the divorce secretly, but what would be δίκαιος about the plans being secret but the divorce being public?
That was my thought, too, and also especially "μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν διγματίσαι" (should it be δειγματισαι?). He planned to divorce her so that she would not become a public example? No, but rather to divorce with as little noise as possible.
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by cwconrad » February 17th, 2012, 2:51 pm

Mark Lightman wrote:Hi, Stephen,
...is there some reason for the traditional interpretation that I'm overlooking?
Only the biggest reason of all—our Most Dread Sovereign and Defender of the Faith His Majesty the Right Good Lord King Context. Joseph is called δίκαιος. It would make sense that a δίκαιος man would try to do the divorce secretly, but what would be δίκαιος about the plans being secret but the divorce being public?
For my part, I love the language of the KJV, but I do not accept its authority as sufficient per se to overrule any alternative interpretation of the phrasing, especially if the alternative is otherwise quite plausible -- and I think Stephen's suggestion is perfectly plausible.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:That was my thought, too, and also especially "μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν διγματίσαι" (should it be δειγματισαι?). He planned to divorce her so that she would not become a public example? No, but rather to divorce with as little noise as possible.
I think that Stephen's case hasn't been answered. (a) λάθρᾳ surely can construe as well or better with ἐβουλήθη as with ἀπολύσαι; (b) how could Mary not be stigmatized, if she's already μνηστευθεῖσα and he ἀπολύει αὐτήν? She will have born a child out of wedlock and everybody will know it. As a δίκαιος ἀνήρ, Joseph was in a quandary. (Has anybody read W. H. Auden's For the Time Being, in particular the section entitled, "The Temptation of St. Joseph"? -- you can scroll down at http://www.archive.org/stream/religious ... p_djvu.txt and find it there.). I think there's every likelihood that Joseph's resolution was made without communicating it to anyone; he has not yet acted upon the resolution, and that is when the dream-vision comes to him. He really has only two choices set before him: divorce Mary -- or marry Mary. The question he faces: what is it that God's will requires of him as he confronts this irrevocable action?
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 17th, 2012, 4:06 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:That was my thought, too, and also especially "μὴ θέλων αὐτὴν διγματίσαι" (should it be δειγματισαι?). He planned to divorce her so that she would not become a public example? No, but rather to divorce with as little noise as possible.
Sorry for the misspelling. I typed it in by hand and did a "Restored Koine" typo, just like the manuscripts I study!

Thanks for the suggestion. I bet that's probably the reason, and it should be taken seriously. Ultimately, however, I don't think it holds up, for the reasons that Carl suggested, because her out-of-wedlock birth would be a public spectacle plenty enough.

Stephen
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » February 17th, 2012, 6:33 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:Ultimately, however, I don't think it holds up, for the reasons that Carl suggested, because her out-of-wedlock birth would be a public spectacle plenty enough.
Here I would say that if I were a righteous man, I wouldn't want to make someone's situation any more worse, even when it would be bad enough already, but do all I could honestly do to make it easier.

But this discussion is going to sociocultural background information. That can be read in academic commentaries. Linguistics alone isn't enough for exegesis, but our discussion must be limited - so I'll leave this here and just say that I find the traditional interpretation more plausible.
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by George F Somsel » February 18th, 2012, 2:33 am

There is one understanding which has not yet been mentioned—probably because it isn't suggested by BDAG. LSJ gives the understanding "involuntarily" for λαθραῖος. If construed in this way, it could indicate that "He determined involuntarily to divorce her." I'm not saying there is any certainty to this understanding, but it might make sense and tie in with the concept that he was δίκαιος.
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by cwconrad » February 18th, 2012, 7:05 am

George F Somsel wrote:There is one understanding which has not yet been mentioned—probably because it isn't suggested by BDAG. LSJ gives the understanding "involuntarily" for λαθραῖος. If construed in this way, it could indicate that "He determined involuntarily to divorce her." I'm not saying there is any certainty to this understanding, but it might make sense and tie in with the concept that he was δίκαιος.
If one actually looks at LSJ s.v. λαθραῖος, it will be seen that both texts cited for this sense are from Hippocrates and both deal with bodily processes that occur without any known cause -- that is, "for reasons unknown." That is to say, "These things happen for a reason that we cannot discern and therefore cannot explain." I think that's altogether irrelevant to the passage in Mt 1:19. Joseph didn't reach his decision to divorce Mary "for unknown reasons" nor would the divorce be "for unknown reasons." This is a non-starter.

As for Eeli's observation that the question as to whether λάθρᾳ should be construed rather with ἐβουλήθη or with ἀπολῦσαι cannot be decided on grammatical grounds but depends on background information, I don't think Stephen intended anything more than to call attention to the plausibility of understanding λάθρᾳ with ἐβουλήθη -- and I think he has successfully done that.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Louis L Sorenson » February 18th, 2012, 11:39 am

Here are some texts outside the New Testament containing λάθρᾳ and βούλομαι.(Note: Freq. written λάθρα, λάθρη in codd. and Pap). (A TLG search returned about 208 associations between λαθρα and βουλ). There does not seem be be any preferred position for λάθρᾳ. The two words do occur together, but in some cases, I think the meaning (word modified) must be drawn from context. Some writers place λάθρᾳ before or after the phrase to clarify which is emphasized(?). If you can marry λάθρᾳ to verbs of wishing and desiring rather than their infinitive complement, you could make a strong argument.

Basilius Theol., In sanctam Christi generationem
Volume 31, page 1464, line 50
Διὸ, φοβηθεὶς τοιαύτης γυναικὸς
ἀνὴρ ὀνομάζεσθαι, «Ἠβουλήθη λάθρα ἀπολῦσαι αὑ-
τὴν,» μὴ τολμήσας δημοσιεῦσαι τὰ κατ' αὐτήν.
Eusebius Scr. Eccl., Theol., Commentaria in Psalmos
Volume 23, page 1244, line 51
Τί δὲ βούλεται προσκείμενον τὸ, λά-
θρα, φανεροῦ ὄντος, ὅτι πᾶσα κατηγορία λάθρα γίνε-
ται;
Scholia In Sophoclem, Scholia in Sophoclem (scholia vetera)
Play OC, verse 91, line 15
βουλόμενοι δὲ λάθρᾳ τὴν ταφὴν ποιήσασθαι
καταθάπτουσι νυκτὸς ἐν ἱερῷ Δήμητρος ἀγνοήσαντες
τὸν τόπον·
Theodorus Heracleensis vel Theodorus Mopsuestenus Scr. Eccl., Fragmenta in Matthaeum (in catenis)
Fragment 7, line 1
Mt 2, 7
Ὁ <Ἡρώδης λάθρα> ἠβουλήθη ἐρωτῆσαι τοὺς μάγους δεδιὼς μή
πως οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ὡς οἰκεῖον βασιλέα σώσωσιν αὐτόν.
Aristoteles et Corpus Aristotelicum Phil., Topica
Bekker page 149b, line 30
οὐ γὰρ ὁ λάθρᾳ
λαμβάνων ἀλλ' ὁ βουλόμενος λάθρᾳ λαμβάνειν κλέπτης ἐστίν.
Euripides Trag., Fragmenta
Fragment 1132, line 28
εἶθ' ὡς ὁ μακρὸς ηὔξανεν ταύτην χρόνος,
καὶ κάλλος εἶχεν ἔξοχον καθ' Ἑλλάδα,
φίλτροις ἀφύκτοις Ζεὺς κατασχεθεὶς πατὴρ
εὐνῇ συνελθεῖν λάθρᾳ πως ἠβούλετο.
Sophocles Trag., Oedipus tyrannus
Line 619
Ὅταν ταχύς τις οὑπιβουλεύων λάθρᾳ
χωρῇ, ταχὺν δεῖ κἀμὲ βουλεύειν πάλιν.
Plato Phil., Respublica
Stephanus page 566, section b, line 4
Ἐὰν δὲ ἀδύνατοι ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὸν ὦσιν ἢ ἀποκτεῖναι
διαβάλλοντες τῇ πόλει, βιαίῳ δὴ θανάτῳ ἐπιβουλεύουσιν
ἀποκτεινύναι λάθρᾳ.

Φιλεῖ γοῦν, ἦ δ' ὅς, οὕτω γίγνεσθαι.
Aristophanes Comic., Plutus
Line 319
Ἀλλ' εἶά νυν τῶν σκωμμάτων ἀπαλλαγέντες ἤδη
ὑμεῖς ἐπ' ἄλλ' εἶδος τρέπεσθ',
ἐγὼ δ' ἰὼν ἤδη λάθρᾳ
βουλήσομαι
τοῦ δεσπότου
λαβών τιν' ἄρτον καὶ κρέας
μασώμενος τὸ λοιπὸν οὕτω τῷ κόπῳ ξυνεῖναι.
Diodorus Siculus Hist., Bibliotheca historica (lib. 1-20)
Book 14, chapter 32, section 5, line 4
.... φανερῶς μὲν περί τινων
αἰχμαλώτων διαλεξόμενοι, λάθρᾳ δὲ συμβουλεύειν
αὐτῷ [τὸ] διαλῦσαι τὸ συνεστηκὸς φυγαδικὸν καὶ
μεθ' ἑαυτῶν τῆς πόλεως δυναστεύειν ἀντὶ Θηραμέ-
νους προσαιρεθέντα, λαβεῖν δ' ἐξουσίαν δέκα τῶν
φυγάδων οὓς ἂν προαιρῆται κατάγειν εἰς τὴν
Diodorus Siculus Hist., Bibliotheca historica (lib. 1-20)
Book 19, chapter 51, section 2, line 5
ὧν ποιησάντων τὸ προσταχθὲν
καὶ τῆς μὲν Ὀλυμπιάδος οὔτε παρούσης οὔτε ἐχούσης
τοὺς ἀπολογησομένους οἱ μὲν Μακεδόνες κατεγίνωσκον
αὐτῆς θάνατον, ὁ δὲ Κάσανδρος πέμψας τινὰς τῶν
φίλων πρὸς τὴν Ὀλυμπιάδα συνεβούλευε λάθρᾳ φυγεῖν,
ἐπαγγελλόμενος αὐτῇ ναῦν παρασκευάσειν καὶ διακο-
μιεῖν εἰς τὰς Ἀθήνας.
Artemidorus Onir., Onirocriticon
Book 2, chapter 12, line 134
Ἀλώπηξ τὰ μὲν αὐτὰ τῷ λύκῳ σημαίνει, διαφέρει δὲ ἐν
τῷ τοὺς ἐχθροὺς οὐκ ἐκ τοῦ φανεροῦ ἐπιθησομένους ση-
μαίνειν ἀλλὰ λάθρᾳ ἐπιβουλεύσοντας.
Lysimachus Hist., Fragmenta
Fragment 6, line 15
Βουλόμενοι δὲ λάθρᾳ
τὴν ταφὴν ποιήσασθαι
, καταθάπτουσιν νυκτὸς ἐν ἱερῷ
Δήμητρος, ἀγνοήσαντες τὸν τόπον.
Aëtius Med., Iatricorum liber iii
Chapter 25, line 14
δίδοται δὲ καὶ
καθ' ἑαυτὴν μετὰ μέλιτος ἢ χυλοῦ πτισσάνης, ἐφ' ὧν βουλόμεθα λάθρα
διδόναι
.
Historia Alexandri Magni, Recensio γ (lib. 2)
Section 20, line 7
οὕτως οὖν κακῶς βουλευσάμενοι εἰσέρχονται λάθρα
ξιφήρεις Δαρείῳ.
Porphyrius Phil., Quaestionum Homericarum ad Iliadem pertinentium reliquiae
Iliad book 18, section 168, line 3
ἀλλ' ἐπεὶ ὑπέσχετο
Ἕκτορι ἀριστεύειν ἕως ἑσπέρας, διὰ τοῦτο αὐτὸν λάθρα βούλεται προ-
αναστῆσαι
, ἵνα τὸν τοῦ Διὸς ματαιώσῃ λόγον.
Athanasius Theol., Expositiones in Psalmos
Volume 27, page 281, line 32
Διηγήσαντο τοῦ κρύψαι παγίδα.
Ἄνω καὶ κάτω, φησὶν, ἐβουλεύοντο ἀποκτεῖναι λάθρα
τῶν εὐαγγελικῶν δογμάτων τοὺς κήρυκας.
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Re: λάθρᾳ in Matt 1:19

Post by Mark Lightman » February 18th, 2012, 12:51 pm

Louis said that Aristotle said:
οὐ γὰρ ὁ λάθρᾳ λαμβάνων ἀλλ' ὁ βουλόμενος λάθρᾳ λαμβάνειν κλέπτης ἐστίν.
Hi, Aristotle,

καλῶς μὲν οὖν ὦ βέλτιστε φιλόσοφε. ἤδη γὰρ ἔκλεψεν οὖτος ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ! (ἴδε Μαθ. 5:28)
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