Re: Mark 1:19 "kai autous"

Carl W. Conrad (
Thu, 30 May 1996 07:40:00 -0500

At 10:35 PM -0500 5/29/96, Tom Launder wrote:
> Hello all,
> I have been studying the Gospel of Mark and have come across a grammatical
> question that I have not answered for myself sufficiently.
> In Mark 1:19 We have Jesus seeing James and John and then the text says:
> "kai autous en tw ploiw katartizontas ta diktua."
> NASB "who were also in the boat mending the nets."
> NIV "in a boat preparing their nets."
> NKJV "who also *were* in the boat mending their nets."
> NAB "They too were in their boat putting their nets in order."
> LIVB "in a boat mending their nets."
> RSV "who also were in the ship mending their nets."
> GLIT "And they were in the boat mending their nets."
> BBE "who were in their boat stitching up their nets."
> My question deals with the "kai autous." How is this to be understood?
> Some translate the "kai autous" as a relative pronoun and others supply an
> elliptical "eimi" and seem to make the "autous" the subject.
> I looked up the passage in BDF and it told me that here the "kai" is
> epexegetical (BDF 442[9]).
> How is it that some treat the phrase as if it were a relative pronoun? I
> think that this is the area that I understand least. I just wonder how they
> arrived at "who" from "autous."
> One commentator just went and supplied an elliptical "eiden" and made the
> "autous" the direct object.

The easiest way to understand KAI AUTOUS, I think, is as in apposition to
the direct objects, IAKWBON ... KAI IWANNHN. The several translations are
all accurate expressions of the sense which would be a bit awkward in
English (although not unintelligible) if translated literally, "themselves
also in the boat mending their nets." As for the relative pronoun in some
of the translations, this is simply a convenient translator's ploy to
convey the sense of a Greek participle (here KATARTIZONTAS) when the
participle adds the sort of clarifying information that English tends to
express in a relative clause.

If you are relatively new to Greek, you should be aware that the
characteristic structures in which sense is conveyed in these two (or any
two) languages do not at all correspond in a one-to-one fashion, and that
therefore the translator's task is to understand what the original means in
its own structure, and then figure out what is the best way of rendering
that same sense in normal English structure. Sometimes the Greek may be
translated into English without any alteration of its structure, but
usually, except in the very simplest of concrete statements, even when that
works, there's some violation of the most normal English idiom.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR