Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

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Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby John milton » June 27th, 2012, 4:00 am

The true light ( τὸ φῶς) that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him (αὐτοῦ), the world did not recognize him (αὐτὸν).


It seems obvious that the antecedent of αὐτόν ( verse 10) is τὸ φῶς (verse 9). Am I correct ? αὐτόν is a masculine pronoun but τὸ φῶς is a grammatically neuter noun. Is this an example of Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John ?

JM,
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 27th, 2012, 8:54 am

I would agree.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby John milton » June 28th, 2012, 6:25 pm

In verse 5 he does not invoke constructio ad sensum:

5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

This seems to suggest to me that the author did not imagine (either consciously or subconsciously) τὸ φῶς to be personal at this time.

JM,
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Barry Hofstetter » June 29th, 2012, 6:56 am

I think we need to be cautious here -- authors don't always do what we might expect from our sense of the rules of grammar in a language, especially if it's a living language to them. John, on the other hand, is very careful author. I think its quite likely that by vs. 10 he is thinking of the "light" as the Logos in a personal sense, whom later in the prologue we learn is Jesus. I would say that this is part of the development of the thought as John progresses in his narrative. There is a kind of studied ambiguity in at first. What is the Logos? How can it be with God and God at the same time? How is he the light that enlightens everyone? And so forth. A the discourse proceeds, john specifies and clarifies what he means, but not before first raising provocative questions for the reader. Perhaps a constuctio ad contextum rather than an ad sensum?.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 29th, 2012, 7:42 am

The inference is asymmetric. When there is constructio ad sensum, you may assume that the author conceives of the noun as somehow personal. When you have ordinary grammatical agreement, you can't assume anything about how the author conceives of the personality of the noun.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby John Brainard » June 29th, 2012, 8:18 am

In John 1:5 φαινει is present tense therefore it seems to include a present idea. Also κατελαβεν seems to suggest a present apprehension or understanding from a present revelation.

I am not sure that I agree with John Milton's position on this.

Is φαινει a timeless present? I do not think so. I believes that there is a close association between verse 5 and verse9-10.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby John milton » June 29th, 2012, 1:52 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:The inference is asymmetric. When there is constructio ad sensum, you may assume that the author conceives of the noun as somehow personal. When you have ordinary grammatical agreement, you can't assume anything about how the author conceives of the personality of the noun.



Thanks for your thoughts Steven.

It is true that when we have normal grammatical construction we can't assume personality or non-personality from the grammar alone.
It is also true that Greek writers tend to [subconsciously] refer to personalities with personal pronouns even when the grammatical gender of the noun they're representing is neuter. Is John being inconsistent in the prologue ( neuter pronoun referring to τὸ φῶς [a personality?] in verse 5, personal pronoun referring to τὸ φῶς [a personality] in verse 10 ) , or did he not imagine τὸ φῶς to be personal at verse 5 ? While the normal construction at John 1:5 does not prove that τὸ φῶς in verse 5 isn't a personality, it seems to strongly argue against it being personal.

JM,
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 29th, 2012, 3:10 pm

John milton wrote: Is John being inconsistent in the prologue ( neuter pronoun referring to τὸ φῶς [a personality?] in verse 5, personal pronoun referring to τὸ φῶς [a personality] in verse 10 ) , or did he not imagine τὸ φῶς to be personal at verse 5 ? While the normal construction at John 1:5 does not prove that τὸ φῶς in verse 5 isn't a personality, it seems to strongly argue against it being personal.


I still feel that Barry's notion of "studied ambiguity" is the better approach. The appeal to consistency is too superficial to account for how carefully John is unfolding the truth he wants to convey.
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby John milton » June 29th, 2012, 7:26 pm

Hi Stephen Carlson,

Thanks for your reply.

Respectfully, I don't see how Barry's notion of "studied ambiguity" answers the question of why apostle John failed to jettison grammatical gender in verse 5 for natural gender . Was τὸ φῶς not personal at this time?

Within a closed circuit such as the prologue grammatical patterns are very significant to proper exegesis. In this regard, we see that every time the author refers to (or relates to) τὸ φῶς he uses personal pronouns, adjectives etc. when τὸ φῶς is personal. We see this in verse 10 clearly, we see this in verse 11 (masculine adjective ἴδιοι), etc.

I can't think of any other valid reason why the apostle would not refer to τὸ φῶς with a personal pronoun in verse 5 except that he did not imagine τὸ φῶς to be personal in this verse.

JM,
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Re: Constructio ad Sensum in the prologue of John

Postby Stephen Carlson » June 29th, 2012, 7:45 pm

John milton wrote:Respectfully, I don't see how Barry's notion of "studied ambiguity" answers the question of why apostle John failed to jettison grammatical gender in verse 5 for natural gender . Was τὸ φῶς not personal at this time?


Maybe, maybe not, but it's irrelevant to the speech-act of v.5. All the use of grammatical gender concord means is that personality is not part of the assertion in v.5. It says nothing about whether it is personal in v.5. It does not deny it; it does not assert it. Don't read more into it than is there.
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