Word order in Luke 2:25

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Word order in Luke 2:25

Postby Justin Cofer » April 22nd, 2013, 9:52 pm

Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος ἦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλὴμ ᾧ ὄνομα Συμεὼν καὶ ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος δίκαιος καὶ εὐλαβὴς προσδεχόμενος παράκλησιν τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, καὶ πνεῦμα ἦν ἅγιον ἐπʼ αὐτόν·


I am particularly intrigued by the word order in the clause καὶ πνεῦμα ἦν ἅγιον and its potential significance.
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Re: Word order in Luke 2:25

Postby Stephen Carlson » April 23rd, 2013, 10:35 am

Justin Cofer wrote:
Καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος ἦν ἐν Ἰερουσαλὴμ ᾧ ὄνομα Συμεὼν καὶ ὁ ἄνθρωπος οὗτος δίκαιος καὶ εὐλαβὴς προσδεχόμενος παράκλησιν τοῦ Ἰσραήλ, καὶ πνεῦμα ἦν ἅγιον ἐπʼ αὐτόν·


I am particularly intrigued by the word order in the clause καὶ πνεῦμα ἦν ἅγιον and its potential significance.


Well, the whole clause is καὶ πνεῦμα ἦν ἅγιον ἐπʼ αὐτόν -- don't forget the prepositional phrase.

This is one of those cases where I think the word order would be ambiguous without hearing how it was spoken. As words on the page, there are a couple of possibilities and we have to chose the option that would seem to be most relevant to the context.

With somewhat ordinary prosody and no special emphasis, one's first impression could be that πνεῦμα is the subject and ἦν ἅγιον ἐπʼ αὐτόν is the predicate, as if to say: "and a spirit was holy upon him." But I doubt strongly this is the best option. It is fairly unusual in the same clause to introduce a new participant and to predicate something upon it. Furthermore, it is not clear what this spirit is.

It seems more likely to me that the focus is on the Holy Spirit, which is corroborated by its fronted position and its lack of the article for this definite referent. The light verb ἦν would be deaccented by comparison and, as a result, float to the second position in the clause after the emphatic πνεῦμα and splitting the constitutent πνεῦμα ... ἅγιον. Greek is one those languages that permits discontinuous contsitutents, so there's no problem with it. Thus, to respect this understanding of the clause, I would render in English as either "and upon him was the Holy Spirit" because the default focus position for English is at the end of the clause, or as "and the Holy Spirit was upon him" as with most translations, but the reader has to put the sentence stress on "Spirit" when reading it aloud.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke)
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Faculty of Theology, Uppsala
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Re: Word order in Luke 2:25

Postby Justin Cofer » April 23rd, 2013, 3:10 pm

that's what I was thinking as well ... it seems emphatic.

The commentaries I consulted thought it "probably" was emphatic. I only asked to see if there was good reason for it to not be emphatic.

The word order πνεῦμα ἦν ἅγιον is perhaps for emphasis.

I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 118.



The separation of πνεῦμα (pneuma, Spirit) and ἄγιον (hagion, holy) by ἧν (ēn, was) probably serves to make the statement of the Spirit’s special work slightly more emphatic (Godet 1875: 1.137).

Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), 239.
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Re: Word order in Luke 2:25

Postby Justin Cofer » April 23rd, 2013, 3:15 pm

My gut feeling is that the Holy Spirit is fronted for emphasis in Luke 1:35 as well, Πνεῦμα ἅγιον ἐπελεύσεται ἐπὶ σὲ.
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