History of εις and εν

Biblical Greek morphology and syntax, aspect, linguistics, discourse analysis, and related topics
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Jacob Rhoden
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History of εις and εν

Post by Jacob Rhoden » August 21st, 2018, 7:13 am

I recall reading some time ago (probably in a commentary) about a transition or confusion between these two prepositions. It came up in discussion today following our first year greek class on prepositions, so I decided to research a little more about this to refresh my memory. The main dictionaries that I have access to don't mention this issue. Within the journal's I have access to, I can only find a JBL article from 1966, "A NOTE CONCERNING THE USE OF ΕΙΣ AND EN IN MARK".

So I wonder where one would look to find more information about this?
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Adam Thomas
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Re: History of εις and εν

Post by Adam Thomas » August 21st, 2018, 7:51 am

I'm sure others will have more to add, but Murray Harris has an extended section on this in his Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament, Chapter 8, pp 84ff.
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Jacob Rhoden
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Re: History of εις and εν

Post by Jacob Rhoden » August 21st, 2018, 7:52 am

Thanks. That looks like an interesting read.
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serunge
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Re: History of εις and εν

Post by serunge » August 22nd, 2018, 10:41 am

One of the big problems with the grammars' treatment is a naive treatment of some principles. For example, εν is not supposed to occur with verbs of motion, that would be εις, right? Typically that is true, except when the εν prepositional phrase occurs at the beginning of the clause and sets the parameter within which the motion occurs, though the same sense can be acheived by placement at the end of the clause too. The point is, they are not interchangeabe in the Koine period; each evokes a different conceptualization of the action. The other place where there is confusion has to do with metaphorical usage, where there is no movement. Instead the movement implicit in εις signifies a change in state or a shift of some kind.

There is an article by a LXX scholar addressing this issue, questioning much of the conflation (attached). There is increasing overlap and finally absorption by εν, but that is much later in the history. Many of the apparent conflations can be explained using the principles mentioned above. Too many wrongly begin there without acknowledging the wider historical data showing the change happened much later.

Another chunk (this goes for many other prepositions too) can be accounted for as mismatches with English regarding the preferred metaphor used for a particular concept. For example, do a concordance search on the concept of prayer, especially προσευχή. When it is used to refer generically to the concept (as opposed to specific prayers of an individual), it occurs with prepositions using the container metaphor: εν, εις, εκ, δια. There is a consistency to it, across authors, as though prayer is more like a space or an authority one operates in much like doing something "in the name of X" uses the same container metaphor. However, because of the mismatch with English's preferred metaphorical representation, we end up with an instrumental use of εν because we don't conceptualize prayer as a space. In other words, many of the descriptions of Greek prepositions are Anglo-centric, multiplying senses that are in fact better understood as mismatches between the languages. These mismatches are even found between British, Australian, and American English if you look at prepositional usage. Here is a link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvBfdCRQAtU to a paper I gave a while back applying these ideas to εν.
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Steve Runge

Jacob Rhoden
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Re: History of εις and εν

Post by Jacob Rhoden » August 22nd, 2018, 6:53 pm

Thanks for sharing that article, it is extremely helpful. Much appreciated.

PS: I’m looking forward to reading your discourse book. It’s is on the top of my ‘Things I’m going to read when I finish my thesis’ stack at home :D
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