Re: John 21:25, hATINA, CWRHSAI, OIMAI

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 08:15:18 -0500

At 7:44 AM -0500 9/17/96, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>John 21:25 (GNT) "Estin de kai alla polla a epoihsen o Ihsous atina ean
>grafhtai kaq en oud auton oimai ton kosmon cwrhsai ta grafomena biblia
>(NASU) And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they
>written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the
>books that would be written."
>There are two things that baffle me here, and one I'm uncertain about:
>(1: baffling) I can't figure out what to do with that ATINA -- what does
>it mean
>in this context? My grammatical database says this is an indirect
>relative, but
>I'm not sure what to do with that...
>BDR references this verse, and gives me the following explanation, which I
>don't understand (which means my translation might be off):
>"From the more educated language comes the occasional inclusion of the
>antecedent noun in the relative sentence, in which the article of the noun
>be omitted and the noun itself is also assimulated in case; the noun does not
>normally occur directly behind the relative clause."
>(2: baffling) How is the infinitive CWRHSAI being used here?
>(3: uncertainty) What is the force of the infinitive OIMAI?

(1) hATINA is simply a fuller form, far more common in classical Attic than
in Koine, for the n. pl. relative pronoun hA; so we have two relative
clauses dependent upon ALLA POLLA, the first being hA EPOIHSEN hO IHSOUS,
the second hATINA EAN GRAFHTAI KAQ' hEN ... being the IF clause of what I
guess is a future-less-vivid condition with the result clause constituted
by the equivalent of OUK OIMAI AUTON TON KOSMON XWRHSAI ...

(2) OIMAI is not an infinitive but rather a very old 1 sg. verb, "I
suppose," "I think," "I guess." Here it governs the acc. + inf.
construction (Indirect discourse) with AUTON TON KOSMON being the subject
of the infinitive [Sorry, I know there are some out there who don't like to
hear talk of the accusative subject of an infinitive, but that's what I've
always called it!] and XWRHSAI being the infinitive; TA GRAFOMENA BIBLIA is
an object of XWRHSAI. It's important to realize also that we have OIMAI
negated here by OUK: this is normal Greek usage for indirect discourse
where the assertive verb is negated rather than the clause stating the
proposition; we would prefer to say, "I think that the world itself cannot
contain the books being written," but Greek says "I don't think that the
world itself can contain the books being written."

The paragraph that you've cited from BDR expresses an important truth about
Greek idiom--that antecedents are often squeezed into the relative
clause--e.g. OIDA hA BIBLIA LEGEIS = OIDA TA BIBLIA hA LEGEIS, "I know the
books that you mean"; however, I don't see how it is applicable to the
passage at hand. Just possibly it may be referring to KAQ' hEN as a
singular neuter substantive standing for BIBLION, but I think I'd rather
understand KAQ' hEN as an adverbial expression with GRAFHTAI.

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