Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Grammar questions which are not related to any specific text.

Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby R. Perkins » July 30th, 2013, 12:53 am

Hello All....as you can see, this is my initial post on this forum. I have been taking classes from Mounce on-line & have a question about personal pronoun agreement with it's modifying noun.

Does the personal pronoun generally or necessarily match its antecedent in number & gender? I know this is usually the case with a relative pronoun (though I am confused in I Tim. 3.16 with "hos" or, "Theos" as it relates back to the Greek term translated "mystery"?), but not so sure about the personal pronoun agreement with its antecedent.

Though I have made great strides, I still have quite a ways to go in this "work-in-progress"....So pls. be patient with me (i.e., any forum mishaps & questions) :oops: . I also want to say that I greatly appreciate this site!

Will respond as time allots (rather busy these days). Blessings & thank you in advance!
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby Stephen Carlson » July 31st, 2013, 9:24 am

The rule is not iron-clad, but it generally holds with rare exceptions. It is best to consider particular texts.
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby R. Perkins » July 31st, 2013, 1:14 pm

Thank you for the response. This is just as I suspected.

Next, Mounce states that relative pronouns always match their antecedent in number & gender, but I am having a hard time in I Tim. 3.16 with the relative pronoun "hos" or "Theos" in finding its matching antecedent viz gender & number. It seems to me that the antecedent would be "mystery," but neither Greek relative pronoun "hos" or the noun "Theos" aligns with "mystery" (I realize there's a textual variant here)?

I am probably looking pretty elementary about right now :oops: !

Thank you much.
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby Stephen Carlson » July 31st, 2013, 4:47 pm

Sometimes a relative pronoun will be in the masculine (or feminine) when its antecedent, though technically neuter, is conceived of in personal terms. This goes by the Latin term of constructio ad sensum. So here in 1 Tim 3:16, the masculine relative pronoun is an indication that the author is thinking of the mystery of religion as Christ.
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby Barry Hofstetter » July 31st, 2013, 4:59 pm

R. Perkins wrote:Thank you for the response. This is just as I suspected.

Next, Mounce states that relative pronouns always match their antecedent in number & gender, but I am having a hard time in I Tim. 3.16 with the relative pronoun "hos" or "Theos" in finding its matching antecedent viz gender & number. It seems to me that the antecedent would be "mystery," but neither Greek relative pronoun "hos" or the noun "Theos" aligns with "mystery" (I realize there's a textual variant here)?

I am probably looking pretty elementary about right now :oops: !

Thank you much.


Greetings, R. (Randy? Roy? Rumstead?) It's always best to look at the specific text:

καὶ ὁμολογουμένως μέγα ἐστὶν τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον· Ὃς ἐφανερώθη ἐν σαρκί, ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι, ὤφθη ἀγγέλοις, ἐκηρύχθη ἐν ἔθνεσιν, ἐπιστεύθη ἐν κόσμῳ, ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ.

Part of the problem is that it's a text critical issue. If you research it, you'll see that the ancient manuscripts (prior to the 8th/9th centuries) alternate between ὅς or ὅ, with ὅς being the most likely (see Metzger's Textual Commentary p. 641). It's clear that even in ancient times, the problem you note was felt, and some tried to correct the pronoun to the neuter to agree with μυστήριον. However, the masculine makes perfect sense, "confessedly, great is the mystery of godliness: the one who was manifest in the flesh..."

So no, not too elementary. You are in good company...
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby timothy_p_mcmahon » July 31st, 2013, 9:58 pm

Can ος be used without an antecedent, in the sense of "he who..." or "the one who..."?

I know that's usually done in Greek with a participle, but I've seen it done with οστις, and I'm wondering if the same is true with ος.
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby David Lim » August 1st, 2013, 4:21 am

timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:Can ος be used without an antecedent, in the sense of "he who..." or "the one who..."?

I know that's usually done in Greek with a participle, but I've seen it done with οστις, and I'm wondering if the same is true with ος.

Yes, and I think it is perfectly valid to take it to be without an antecedent in 1 Tim 3:16 as Barry has translated it, but it is still in apposition to "το της ευσεβειας μυστηριον". "ος" is more commonly used with "[ε]αν" (with the subjunctive) to mean "whoever ...", but sometimes it is used alone (with the indicative) to mean essentially an indefinite relative pronoun "he/she/they/one who" / "that which" such as in the following examples:
[Mark 9:40] ος γαρ ουκ εστιν καθ ημων υπερ ημων εστιν
"for he who is not against us is for us."
[Rom 2:23] ος εν νομω καυχασαι δια της παραβασεως του νομου τον θεον ατιμαζεις
"one who boasts in the law, do you through the transgression dishonour the law of God?"
[Rom 8:32] ος γε του ιδιου υιου ουκ εφεισατο αλλα υπερ ημων παντων παρεδωκεν αυτον πως ουχι και συν αυτω τα παντα ημιν χαρισεται
"he indeed who did not spare his own son but delivered him up for us all, how will he not also grant with him all things to us?"
[Rom 14:2] ος μεν πιστευει φαγειν παντα ο δε ασθενων λαχανα εσθιει
"there is one indeed who has faith to eat all things, but the one who is weak eats vegetables."
δαυιδ λιμ
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby Louis L Sorenson » August 2nd, 2013, 12:35 am

If you want to read more on this, you can take a look at Jelf's "A Grammar of the Greek Language" Vol. II, p. 36, §377 "Constructio κατὰ σύνεσιν" which is an English translation of Kuhner's German work (with some added biblical references). Smyth also has a section; see §926.

Apparent violation of the concords is to be explained either by
a. Construction according to sense, where the agreement is with the real gender or number (e.g. 949 a, 950–953, 958, 996, 997, 1013, 1044, 1050, 1055 a, 1058 or by
b. Attraction, when a word does not have its natural construction because of the influence of some other word or words in its clause (e.g. 1060 ff., 1239, 1978, 2465, 2502, 2522 ff.). This principle extends to moods and tenses (2183 ff.).

§979. Agreement in number between the appositive and its noun is unnecessary and often impossible: Θῆβαι, πόλις ἀστυγείτων Thebes, a neighbouring city Aes. 3. 133. So with δῶρα in poetry: γάμος, χρῡσῆς Ἀφροδῑ́της δῶρα, marriage, gift of golden Aphrodite Theognis 1293.


Smyth, H. W. (1920). A Greek Grammar for Colleges (259). New York; Cincinnati; Chicago; Boston; Atlanta: American Book Company.

You can read Smyth online either at Perseus.tufts.edu or at the better University of Chicago Implementation at http://perseus.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/navigate.pl?NewPerseusMonographs.9
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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby ed krentz » August 20th, 2013, 11:34 am

Here we have a case where grammatical analysis will not give any help, in my opinion. The only satisfying solution is to conclude that 1 Tim 3:16 is a citation of an earlier formed hymnic or creedal passage. That would account for the masculine relative pronoun.

This solution was proposed by Eduard Norden in AGNOSTOS THEOS in 1912. Once in a while one must recognize that there is no linguistic or grammatical solution to a problem!

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Re: Personal Pronoun Agreement?

Postby Barry Hofstetter » August 21st, 2013, 7:57 am

ed krentz wrote:Here we have a case where grammatical analysis will not give any help, in my opinion. The only satisfying solution is to conclude that 1 Tim 3:16 is a citation of an earlier formed hymnic or creedal passage. That would account for the masculine relative pronoun.

This solution was proposed by Eduard Norden in AGNOSTOS THEOS in 1912. Once in a while one must recognize that there is no linguistic or grammatical solution to a problem!


Actually, I think the grammar has been adequately explained without the need to resort to form criticism. It's an anacolouthon, here a simple apposition. If an author wanted to express "one who..." to explain τὸ τῆς εὐσεβείας μυστήριον, then the author has done so just fine in the text as we have it in our critical editions.
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