Mat. 19:17

lcope@carroll1.cc.edu (Lamar Cope) wrote:

>Yes, there is a grammatical reason for rendering eis estin o
>agathos as "There is one who is good."  It is simply that
>normally a Greek substantive adjective refers to a person.  
> There
>is, however, no possible personal referent in Matthew and none is
>implied.  I take it that Luke was baffled by Matthew's awkward
>Greek here and did the best he could to correct it.  There is
>much more to Matthew's passage to suggest that he means Torah by
>"the good" than just this line.  The parallels to Proverbs 3:35-4:4
>and its similar use in Pirke Aboth 6:3 (where good, Torah, live
>and perfect are interwoven) strongly suggest that the Matthean
>passage is based on a traditional Jewish treatment of these
>issues.  And we need to remember that we are reading Matthew
>here, not Jesus.  The first gospel has problems with Jesus'
>unkosher behavior but it insists that Jesus' followers must keep
>the Torah better than the scribes and Pharisees or "you will
>never enter the kingdom of heaven."  On balance I take the entire
>pericope to be one of the strongest passages favoring the
>priority of Matthew.

     The immediate context, at least, and some aspects of the larger context
of Matthew do seem to bear out the views mentioned above.  Also, there may be
supporting paralles in the OT.  But the interpretation of E(IS ESTIN O(
AGAQOS as "The good is one." seems strained from a syntactical point of view.
 If I recall correctly, the original question by P. Graber was about the
*grammatical* justification for translating one way or another.  It would be
interesting to know how Lamar Cope understood this clause grammatically and
syntactically.  It would seem, IMO, that he understood it as a predicate
nominative construction on the order of Jhn. 1:1.  But would that be normal
Koine Greek where you have a numeral adjective in the first foot of the
clause and a substantivized adjective in the second?  Maybe it is taken as an
awkward translation of an Aramaic original and so, thought not to have to
conform to normal Greek syntax.

     As a Greek clause, the most normal way to understand it seems to take
the arthrous adjective O( AGAQOS as a personal substantivized adjective and
to see the numeral as probably a demonstrative pronoun as Carl W. Conrad
mentioned (or possibly an auxilary pronoun).  E(IS should be understood as
emphatic because of its position at the beginning of the clause, justifying
the translation "only One is good."  (A woodenly literal translation of it in
this sense would be something like "only one is the Good One.")

     The option of being able to translate it, "The good is one." is
interesting.  But how could it be justified grammatically?

David L. Moore