Levinsohn: The Greek Article and Exegesis

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Jonathan Robie
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Levinsohn: The Greek Article and Exegesis

Post by Jonathan Robie » October 19th, 2018, 7:54 am

I stumbled on this delightfully simple discussion on The Greek Article and Exegesis by Stephen Levinsohn.

Levinsohn argues that the article is +identifiable. The absence of the article does not mean that the referent is not identifiable. He applies this model to 1 Peter and concludes:
Levinsohn wrote:
  1. The Greek article indicates that the entity concerned is cognitively identifiable, rather than definite.
  2. Identifiability is achieved either by relating the entity to something in the context or by appealing to the recipients’ encyclopaedic knowledge.
  3. In the case of 1 Peter, it is possible to argue that the article always indicates that the referent is identifiable, even when it is followed by a participle or an infinitive.
Intuitively, this makes sense to me, and it is a simple model. It fits the examples he gives in the paper. He has this very nice description of what he means by identifiable and how it differs from 'definiteness'. Note the example, which explains why English omits the article and Greek includes it for this passage:
Levinsohn wrote:How does ‘cognitively identifiable’ differ from ‘definiteness’? According to Crystal’s Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics, ‘definite(ness)’ is ‘a term used in GRAMMAR and SEMANTICS to refer to a specific, identifiable entity (or class of entities)’. According to Runge, ‘identifiable’ is ‘broader and less restricted’ than definite because the ‘article’s semantic specificity’ has been bleached out. In other words, ‘specific, identifiable’ has become simply ‘identifiable’.

Rom 5:3b-5 (below) illustrates the difference between definite and identifiable. The passage introduces three new entities, which the NIV translates as ‘perseverance’ (ὑπομονὴν), ‘character’ (δοκιμήν) and ‘hope’ (ἐλπίδα). As each one becomes the topic of the next clause, it is arthrous in Greek, because it is cognitively identifiable from the immediate context. In English, in contrast, all three are anarthrous, because they are abstract and do not refer to specific entities or classes of entities.

3…εἰδότες ὅτι ἡ θλῖψις ὑπομονὴν κατεργάζεται,
4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ δοκιμήν,
ἡ δὲ δοκιμὴ ἐλπίδα.
5 ἡ δὲ ἐλπὶς οὐ καταισχύνει,
0 x

ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;

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