THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

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THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby Peter Streitenberger » December 7th, 2013, 6:21 am

Dear friends,

Joh 4,25: Λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή, Οἶδα ὅτι Μεσίας ἔρχεται- ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός· ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν πάντα.

Is it possible that the woman has *a* Messiah in mind, that means not a determined one? If so, it should be translated: "I know that *a* Messiah comes" instead of "*the* Messiah".

What do you think?
Yours
Peter
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Re: THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » December 7th, 2013, 7:40 am

Peter Streitenberger wrote:Dear friends,

Joh 4,25: Λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή, Οἶδα ὅτι Μεσίας ἔρχεται- ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός· ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν πάντα.

Is it possible that the woman has *a* Messiah in mind, that means not a determined one? If so, it should be translated: "I know that *a* Messiah comes" instead of "*the* Messiah".


In the light of the recent discussions about the linguistic explanations for the use of the article it would be very interesting to hear discourse based explanations for this. But the first thing to notice is that "determined" is a wrong term for the Greek article, especially if it bears the baggage of the English articles.
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Re: THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby cwconrad » December 7th, 2013, 8:32 am

John 4:25 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή· οἶδα ὅτι Μεσσίας ἔρχεται ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός

I'm wondering whether the attributive phrase, ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός, doesn't factor into this anarthrous Μεσσίας. Cf. Smyth §1142:
1142. When the name of a person or place is defined by an appositive (916) or attributive, the following distinctions are to be noted:

a. Persons: Περδίκκᾱς Ἀλεξάνδρου Perdiccas, son of Alexander T. 2. 99: the official designation merely stating the parentage. Δημοσθένης ὁ Ἀλκισθένους (the popular designation) distinguishes Demosthenes, the son of Alcisthenes (T. 3. 91) from other persons named Demosthenes. (Similarly with names of nations.).

But perhaps this may be one of those usages of the article that differ between Hellenistic and the older Attic Greek, as Stephen Carlson has mentioned.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby David Lim » December 7th, 2013, 11:13 am

cwconrad wrote:
John 4:25 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή· οἶδα ὅτι Μεσσίας ἔρχεται ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός

I'm wondering whether the attributive phrase, ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός, doesn't factor into this anarthrous Μεσσίας. [...]

I just thought of something. Is it possible that "ο λεγομενος χριστος" was an insert by the writer, rather than spoken by the woman, in light of John 1:41? It doesn't affect the implication that "μεσσιας" was understood to refer to a particular one, but it would mean that it may not be an ordinary "attributive"?
δαυιδ λιμ
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Re: THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby Bryant J. Williams III » December 8th, 2013, 3:05 am

Dear Peter,

The noun, Μεσίας, is used as a definite noun and should have the article. This is further clarified by Jesus Himself when He says, "λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι," Carl has also given the corresponding lexical data as well.

I would also highly recommend the following article:
"THE RELATION OF ADJECTIVE TO NOUN IN ANARTHROUS CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT," by Daniel B. Wallace, Novum Testamentum XXVI, 2 (1984).

This article which documents over 400 uses of 2200 examples found in the NT was written by Dan as part of his master's thesis especially as it relates II Timothy 3:16. It was his first published article. I will quote the first couple of paragraphs below:

Statement of the Problem

In determining the relation of adjective to noun in the Greek New Testament, the exegete should first observe the placement of the article in the construction. With few exceptions, the article, when present, completely solves the problem.1 When the construction is article-adjective-noun (e.g., ó αγαθός βασιλεύς), article-noun-article-adjective (e.g., ό βασιλεύς ó αγαθός), or noun-article-adjective (e.g., βασιλεύς ó αγαθός), the adjective is both in attributive position and attributive relation to the noun. When the construction is adjective-article-noun (e.g., αγαθός ó βασιλεύς), or article-noun-adjective (e.g., ó βασιλεύς αγαθός), the adjective is both in predicate position and predicate relation to the noun. The article in these instances is decisive in determining both the position and relation of adjective to noun.

However, when no article is present the relation of adjective to noun is more difficult to ascertain. Although this wholly anarthrous construction occurs much less frequently than the articular one, there are over two thousand such constructions in the New Testament. The burden of this paper is to determine whether the adjective has an attributive or predicate relation to the noun in such anarthrous constructions in the New Testament. Even though this is in essence a syntactical problem, it affects greatly one's exegesis of certain New Testament texts.

Statement of the Need
This study is needed,for two primary reasons. First, the discussion of this syntactical construction in New Testament grammatical works is inadequate and, too often, inaccurate. Of the thirty-three grammatical works I examined, none had more than a few brief sentences concerning this construction with, at most, a handful of examples.2 Furthermore, only seven of these grammars allowed for the possibility of a predicate relation (a possibility which this paper will seek to substantiate), though only one gave any biblical examples.3 The grammars' neglect is understandable, however.

Their discussion of the attributive and predicate position/relation of the adjective to the noun is, for the most part, under their section on the article.* This is to be expected, for the article, as was mentioned above, normally determines the relation of adjective to noun.

Their inaccurate generalization that the adjective in a wholly anarthrous construction with the noun will be attributive is also to be expected. Because the subject of a clause normally falls within the larger class or description of predicate nominative or adjective,6 the article is normally seen with the subject in order to delineate this relation. When the article is not present, an attributive relation is normally expected. Though the grammars' neglect and inaccuracy concerning such an anarthrous construction can be understood, it can no longer be accepted.
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Re: THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby Stephen Carlson » December 8th, 2013, 2:54 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
Peter Streitenberger wrote:Joh 4,25: Λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή, Οἶδα ὅτι Μεσίας ἔρχεται- ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός· ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν πάντα.

Is it possible that the woman has *a* Messiah in mind, that means not a determined one? If so, it should be translated: "I know that *a* Messiah comes" instead of "*the* Messiah".

In the light of the recent discussions about the linguistic explanations for the use of the article it would be very interesting to hear discourse based explanations for this. But the first thing to notice is that "determined" is a wrong term for the Greek article, especially if it bears the baggage of the English articles.

As Janssen formulated Levinsohn's approach to the article, "the article is used with a noun only if the writer assumes identifiability on the part of the reader, and does not wish to give prominence to the constituent concerned." In this case, the position of Μεσίας before the verb suggests that it is prominent. As a result, this example does not fit the use of the article. Since the non-use of the article here says nothing about the definiteness of Μεσίας due to its prominence, one would have to rely on world knowledge--i.e., how reasonable would it be that there could be two Messiahs at any given time. My sense is that, outside of certain sectarian communities, Μεσίας is inherently definite.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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Re: THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby Stirling Bartholomew » December 8th, 2013, 5:16 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
Peter Streitenberger wrote:Joh 4,25: Λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ γυνή, Οἶδα ὅτι Μεσίας ἔρχεται- ὁ λεγόμενος χριστός· ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, ἀναγγελεῖ ἡμῖν πάντα.

Is it possible that the woman has *a* Messiah in mind, that means not a determined one? If so, it should be translated: "I know that *a* Messiah comes" instead of "*the* Messiah".

In the light of the recent discussions about the linguistic explanations for the use of the article it would be very interesting to hear discourse based explanations for this. But the first thing to notice is that "determined" is a wrong term for the Greek article, especially if it bears the baggage of the English articles.

As Janssen formulated Levinsohn's approach to the article, "the article is used with a noun only if the writer assumes identifiability on the part of the reader, and does not wish to give prominence to the constituent concerned." In this case, the position of Μεσίας before the verb suggests that it is prominent. As a result, this example does not fit the use of the article. Since the non-use of the article here says nothing about the definiteness of Μεσίας due to its prominence, one would have to rely on world knowledge--i.e., how reasonable would it be that there could be two Messiahs at any given time. My sense is that, outside of certain sectarian communities, Μεσίας is inherently definite.


Salience marking of the anarthrous definite noun is a difficult concept for some of us to adjust to. It seems counter intuitive at least to English language natives. But it is affirmed by several of the widely read authors in NT text-linguistics.
C. Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: THE or A Messiah - Joh 4,25

Postby Stephen Carlson » December 9th, 2013, 4:02 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:Salience marking of the anarthrous definite noun is a difficult concept for some of us to adjust to. It seems counter intuitive at least to English language natives. But it is affirmed by several of the widely read authors in NT text-linguistics.

Yeah, though I'd feel better if I could find some study outside of Koine or ancient Greek that addressed this.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D. (Duke, New Testament)
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