Matthew 5.3: Why is the article not translated in τῷ πνεύματι?

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Steve Page
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Joined: October 1st, 2019, 5:05 pm

Matthew 5.3: Why is the article not translated in τῷ πνεύματι?

Post by Steve Page » October 1st, 2019, 5:14 pm

I checked the various Greek texts, and they all have the article. My impression is that "the spirit" should, by default, translated as the Spirit, yet I don't see that in English translations going back to Wycliffe; in fact, I don't see "the" at all. Any thoughts?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Matthew 5.3: Why is the article not translated in τῷ πνεύματι?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » October 2nd, 2019, 8:42 am

First of all, please contact a moderator so we can change your screen name to match your real name, per B-Greek policy. Feel free also to introduce your self in the "Introductions" subforum.

Whenever I notice something like this, I ask the question "What does everybody else know that I don't?" :lol:

There is no such thing as a "default" usage, only usage properly understood from context. Context here in fact is key -- notice how the phrase τῷ πνεύματι parallels the adjectives and participles used throughout the beatitudes, and especially 5:8, μακάριοι οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ. Do we want to translate τῇ καρδίᾳ "the heart?" The article in both cases is used to generalize the concept, "the generic article," a fairly standard usage. The dative here is practically an adverb, = "spiritually." A nice parallel usage is John 21:8, οἱ δὲ ἄλλοι μαθηταὶ τῷ πλοιαρίῳ ἦλθον, "the other disciples came by boat," not "the boat."

Note: the article in Greek does not map to all the usages of the definite article in English.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Steve Page
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Joined: October 1st, 2019, 5:05 pm

Re: Matthew 5.3: Why is the article not translated in τῷ πνεύματι?

Post by Steve Page » April 20th, 2020, 10:56 pm

Thank you for the response; it was helpful. I'm not sure I fully agree, but it expands my thinking. I'd appreciate a bit of courtesy, however.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Matthew 5.3: Why is the article not translated in τῷ πνεύματι?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » April 21st, 2020, 7:35 am

We do need to change your screen name if you wish to continue to post. Remember that sometimes "unintended meanings" come through electronic communications. No discourtesy at all was intended.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Matthew 5.3: Why is the article not translated in τῷ πνεύματι?

Post by Jonathan Robie » April 21st, 2020, 8:56 am

steve11235 wrote:
October 1st, 2019, 5:14 pm
I checked the various Greek texts, and they all have the article. My impression is that "the spirit" should, by default, translated as the Spirit, yet I don't see that in English translations going back to Wycliffe; in fact, I don't see "the" at all. Any thoughts?
Barry answered well. I just want to say that the use of the article in Greek is subtle, you can't simply translate every Greek article into "the" and translate "a" if a nominal does not have an article. I think his point is that you have to understand the phrase in context first, in Greek, before you can know how to convey that thought in English.

In this case, people have different opinions about what the phrase τῷ πνεύματι means in Μακάριοι οἱ πτωχοὶ τῷ πνεύματι. I imagine it is the same as a very similar usage 5 verses later in verse 8: μακάριοι οἱ καθαροὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ. Translations do not say "blessed are the pure in the heart" either. It wouldn't be good English. But what exactly does it mean?

I think Psalm 38:18 is a useful hint here:
Psalm 38:18 LXX wrote:ἐγγὺς κύριος τοῖς συντετριμμένοις τὴν καρδίαν καὶ τοὺς ταπεινοὺς τῷ πνεύματι σώσει.
The Lord is close to those who are broken in heart and saves those who are humble in spirit. What do you think the article contributes to the meaning of those two phrases? With the dative, I think it means something like "in their heart" and "in their spirit". The realm where they are broken is the heart. The realm where they are humble is the spirit. Does that make sense?
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