timothy_p_mcmahon wrote:Professor Conrad:
Is it impossible to construe ἐρχόμενον as modifying ἄνθρωπον and understanding to the effect of "He/It was the true light, which enlightens every person as he [the enlightened person] enters the world"?
It is not impossible, obviously -- the KJV translators have done so -- "That
was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
But (a) such a construction is awkward and unusual, and (b) the authority of the KJV translators does not make this way of understanding ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον really meaningful.
Again I cite the text, omitting any punctuation:
Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον.
(a) It is possible to construe ἦν as an existential form of εἶναι, but I would expect the subject, particularly an arthrous noun, to precede the verb. Could ἦν be a copula and τὸ φῶς be a predicate noun? Then what's the subject? The proposal earlier in the thread is that ὁ λόγος is the implied
subject, but there's nothing to suggest that (something like an ἐκεῖνος that might refer back to ὁ λόγος), and by verse 9 ὁ λόγος hasn't been mentioned or referred to since verse 4. The real difficulty, I think, lies in the notion that τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν is a predicate word to ἦν. I don't think you can have an implied
subject of ἦν with τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν as a predicate word. I think that you'd have to have some sort of demonstrative pronoun like ἐκεῖνος indicating the referent expliciltly.
(b) Actually the KJV translators didn't quite take ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον in the way you're suggesting; they took it as an adjectival participle, while you're suggesting that it's adverbial: "illuminates every person when he/she enters the world." What is that supposed to mean? That the illumination takes place at the moment of birth? That sounds very strange to me. On the other hand, the KJV understanding of ἐρχόμενον as adjectival -- i.e. as the equivalent of a relative clause -- seems (to me, at least) a strange expression. Does it mean "every person who is born? Then why not write γεγονότα?
In sum, the sentence is perfectly intelligible if we understand ἦν ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον as the predicate to the subject τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ἄτοπον, ἔφη, λέγεις εἰκόνα καὶ δεσμώτας ἀτόπους.
ὁμοίους ἡμῖν, ἦν δʼ ἐγώ. Plato, Rep. 7 (515a)