Re: Mt 19:17

On Wed, 26 Oct 1994, Philip L. Graber wrote:
> One of the ways in which Mt's telling of the story about the rich young
> man differs from the parallels is that the man asks Jesus: DIDASKALE, TI
> AGAQON POIHSW... in Mt instead of DIDASKALE AGAQON, TI POIHSW... as in Mk
> and Lk. Jesus' answer in Mt is accordingly different: TI ME HERWTAiS PERI
> TOU AGAQOU; HEIS ESTIN HO AGAQOS. It is this last clause that I am
> interested in. All of the English translations I have looked at render
> this along the lines of: "There is One who is good."  The obvious
> translation, both grammatically and from the context, would seem to be: 
> "The good is one." (Lamar Cope in _Matthew: A Scribe Trained for the
> Kingdom_ is the only published translation I have seen that does this.)
> The man asks what good he must do have eternal life. Jesus' answer is,
> "Why do you need to ask? There _is_ only one good. If you want eternal
> life, keep the commandments" (loose paraphrase). The point of Jesus'
> response in Matthew seems to be that Torah is good, and the only good
> thing to do, in this context, is to keep Torah. My question is this: are
> there GRAMMATICAL grounds for translating the clause in question as the
> English translations all do ("there is One who is good")? 
Here is one possible explanation: "Heis estin" is meaningful in itself 
and is normal Greek word-order, properly translated "One there is"; then 
"ho agathos" is appended more or less as an appositive, as attributive 
adjectives regularly are appended to nouns in phrases such as "ho anhr ho 
agathos"--"the man, i.e. the good one." Now it might seem that our 
phrasing in the NT text is extraordinary in that "Heis" has no article: 
it is not "ho Heis" (has anyone ever seen such? "To hen" is another thing 
altogether, I believe. But "Heis" is like a demonstrative pronoun, and 
the phrasing here really "ekeinos estin ho agathos"--which might be 
understood, to be sure, as "That's the good one," but is more properly to 
be understood as "Yonder one it is, the good one."

If that does not seem sufficiently convincing, it strikes me that there 
may be a Hebraism here. How does the Deuteronomic phrasing go? "YHWH 
elohenu echad ..."?

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu  OR cwc@oui.com