Punctuation and Luke 2:22

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Matthew Longhorn
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Punctuation and Luke 2:22

Post by Matthew Longhorn » December 6th, 2018, 8:40 am

Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ ⸀αὐτῶν κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως, ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα παραστῆσαι τῷ κυρίῳ

This isn’t a question about the appropriate English punctuation so much as it is about the meaning of the Greek if the punctuation is changed
I have been looking at this passage and was thinking that the shift of the comma from after “Moses” back to after “their” still makes sense of the text without any issues in the syntax. It would be fronting the accordance with the law making it more prominent and related to the following action as opposed to referring backwards to their purification. Am I correct in this?
I don’t think anything theological hangs on this, although I have come across people who do so this isn’t a theology question

Καὶ ὅτε ἐπλήσθησαν αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ καθαρισμοῦ ⸀αὐτῶν, κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως ἀνήγαγον αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα παραστῆσαι τῷ κυρίῳ
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Robert Emil Berge
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Re: Punctuation and Luke 2:22

Post by Robert Emil Berge » December 6th, 2018, 6:53 pm

Punctuation is inserted by editors in order to help readers, so they reflect the editor's interpretation, they are not part of the text, as you obviously realize. The hermeneutic consequence of this, however, if there is some uncertainty of interpretation, is that if there is a possible difference of meaning based on where the punctuation is placed, we should look at which of these meanings is most plausible without any punctuation at all, which is, after all, how the text was meant to be read, and expected to be understood. Here there is little doubt that κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωϋσέως should be taken with what comes before, not what comes after. So what I mean is that although it is possible to create some ambiguity by moving punctuation around, that is not a good way of approaching the text, even if it seems syntactically fine.
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Punctuation and Luke 2:22

Post by Matthew Longhorn » December 7th, 2018, 8:36 am

Thanks Robert. I wasn’t suggesting that such a reading should be used, more wondering if I was off base in my assumption that the movement doesn’t render it syntactically incorrect. Basically, would it be bad Greek to punctuate with the moved comma.

The fact that every translation I have read and the Greek versions I have access to punctuate it with the comma after law would give me cause to not even try to change it.
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Robert Emil Berge
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Re: Punctuation and Luke 2:22

Post by Robert Emil Berge » December 8th, 2018, 1:10 pm

I see. There is nothing syntactically incorrect with the sentence after moving the comma, and not bad Greek, but what you are doing then is creating a new text, with a different meaning than the one Luke wrote. Since Greek writing didn't use punctuation, Luke would have expected his readers to understand the text without any commas, and that is the meaning you get if the comma stays where editors put it, as a help to us readers, not as a way of choosing one of two possible meanings. So the other way of dividing the sentence would have been possible in spoken Greek, since the speaker could indicate where the "comma" should be by a pause, but in writing this meaning would never have occurred to anyone, since commas didn't exist, and one had to assume that the writer wanted to communicate clearly. Of course, writers often express themselves clumsily or (perhaps purposefully) ambiguously, so that it's not always clear which part of the text belongs where, but I don't think that's the case here.
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: Punctuation and Luke 2:22

Post by Matthew Longhorn » December 8th, 2018, 1:14 pm

Thanks Robert, great answer
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