Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

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Jonathan Robie
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Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 30th, 2020, 4:11 pm

Mark 2:3 wrote:καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων.
The lack of an antecedent here is striking, especially when the people introduced with this verb are so important to the following dialog. Could this be intentional? If so, what do you think the purpose is?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » July 1st, 2020, 12:28 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 4:11 pm
Mark 2:3 wrote:καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων.
The lack of an antecedent here is striking, especially when the people introduced with this verb are so important to the following dialog. Could this be intentional? If so, what do you think the purpose is?
The syntax is... odd. However, I think it's arguable that the undefined antecedent is meant to call attention away from those who are carry9ing the paralytic, and onto the paralytic himself.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 1st, 2020, 12:52 am

This is usually thought of as an impersonal use of the third-person plural. You're right that it is not anaphoric. It seems to be a feature of Mark's style.
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 1st, 2020, 7:55 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
July 1st, 2020, 12:28 am
Jonathan Robie wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 4:11 pm
Mark 2:3 wrote:καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων.
The lack of an antecedent here is striking, especially when the people introduced with this verb are so important to the following dialog. Could this be intentional? If so, what do you think the purpose is?
The syntax is... odd. However, I think it's arguable that the undefined antecedent is meant to call attention away from those who are carrying the paralytic, and onto the paralytic himself.
That was my first thought, but the next few sentences don't seem to focus on the paralytic:
καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων. καὶ μὴ δυνάμενοι προσενέγκαι αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον ἀπεστέγασαν τὴν στέγην ὅπου ἦν, καὶ ἐξορύξαντες χαλῶσι τὸν κράβαττον ὅπου ὁ παραλυτικὸς κατέκειτο. καὶ μὴ δυνάμενοι προσενέγκαι αὐτῷ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον ἀπεστέγασαν τὴν στέγην ὅπου ἦν, καὶ ἐξορύξαντες χαλῶσι τὸν κράβαττον ὅπου ὁ παραλυτικὸς κατέκειτο.
It's the actions of the people carrying him that are in focus here, and their faith - probably also the faith of the paralytic, but that is not emphasized here. It's not until the end of this that Jesus speaks directly to the paralytic.

And after the part that I just quoted we never hear the paralytic speak. There is a conversation about the paralytic, who is in the background, and in verse 12 the paralytic actually does something, picking up his mat and walking out after Jesus tells him to do so. It's striking that the paralytic is almost a passive recipient of this whole story as told by Mark. More attention is paid to the people who carried him and the people who argued about what Jesus said.
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 1st, 2020, 10:32 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
July 1st, 2020, 12:52 am
This is usually thought of as an impersonal use of the third-person plural. You're right that it is not anaphoric. It seems to be a feature of Mark's style.
Is there a good write-up somewhere?
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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John Kendall
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by John Kendall » July 1st, 2020, 5:34 pm

There's a survey of the phenomenon from a Bible translator's perspective in Paul Ellingworth, "Who Are 'They' in the Synoptic Gospels? What is the Problem?" The Bible Translator 58 (2007): 110-23.
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 2nd, 2020, 5:51 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
July 1st, 2020, 10:32 am
Stephen Carlson wrote:
July 1st, 2020, 12:52 am
This is usually thought of as an impersonal use of the third-person plural. You're right that it is not anaphoric. It seems to be a feature of Mark's style.
Is there a good write-up somewhere?
I'm not aware of one, beyond comments in commentaries with that term ("impersonal"), and I thank John Kendall for the additional reference.
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Robert S. Daniel
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Robert S. Daniel » July 3rd, 2020, 6:40 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
June 30th, 2020, 4:11 pm
Mark 2:3 wrote:καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων.
The lack of an antecedent here is striking, especially when the people introduced with this verb are so important to the following dialog. Could this be intentional? If so, what do you think the purpose is?
I'm not sure I'm following here. Which word is missing an antecedent? Isn't it usually pronouns that take antecedents? I see one pronoun, αὐτὸν, and it is pretty clear who the antecedent of that word is, isn't it? Isn't the subject of the sentence the participial phrase beginning with φέροντες and running to the end of the sentence? The participial phrase doesn't need an antecedent, and besides it is introducing a new set of characters, namely, the four carrying the paralytic. The syntax of the whole sentence does seem odd to me, but I'm assuming that's just because I'm a native English speaker and the syntax here is pretty far from proper English.
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 4th, 2020, 11:36 am

Robert S. Daniel wrote:
July 3rd, 2020, 6:40 am
The participial phrase doesn't need an antecedent, and besides it is introducing a new set of characters, namely, the four carrying the paralytic.
Well, exactly. I'm looking at how new characters are introduced using verbs that have no explicit subject. And there are actually several instances of that in this passage in the first three verses.
Καὶ εἰσελθὼν πάλιν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ δι᾽ ἡμερῶν ἠκούσθη ὅτι ἐν οἴκῳ ἐστίν.
εἰσελθὼν - this introduces Jesus without naming him
ἠκούσθη - this refers to the people in that region, again without saying so

Roughly: when he returned to Capernaum they heard that he was home. When I read this, it's easy to resolve in my mind because the whole Gospel is about Jesus and there's this ongoing sense of "they" being the crowd out there, often in a particular region.
καὶ συνήχθησαν πολλοὶ ὥστε μηκέτι χωρεῖν μηδὲ τὰ πρὸς τὴν θύραν, καὶ ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον.
συνήχθησαν πολλοὶ - refers to the many people gathering at the house, this is clearly specified

Now we come to:
καὶ ἔρχονται φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων.
There's no clear signal that ἔρχονται and συνήχθησαν do not have the same subject. Grammatically, they could, and there's not a clear shift in context. I was surprised to see new characters introduced in this way, and was wondering why it did not, for instance, say something like:

καὶ ἔρχονται τινες φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων

or

καὶ ἔρχονται τινες φέροντες πρὸς αὐτὸν παραλυτικὸν αἰρόμενον ὑπὸ τεσσάρων

or perhaps as Luke does:
Luke 5 wrote:17 Καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν μιᾷ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν διδάσκων, καὶ ἦσαν καθήμενοι Φαρισαῖοι καὶ νομοδιδάσκαλοι οἳ ἦσαν ἐληλυθότες ἐκ πάσης κώμης τῆς Γαλιλαίας καὶ Ἰουδαίας καὶ Ἰερουσαλήμ· καὶ δύναμις κυρίου ἦν εἰς τὸ ἰᾶσθαι αὐτόν. 18 καὶ ἰδοὺ ἄνδρες φέροντες ἐπὶ κλίνης ἄνθρωπον ὃς ἦν παραλελυμένος, καὶ ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν εἰσενεγκεῖν καὶ θεῖναι ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ.
To me, that would make it clear that new characters were being introduced. I don't think this is an attempt to put the focus on the paralytic because the focus seems to be more on what the people carrying him are doing, or at least equally on them - the extent to which the paralytic is not the main focus is also a little surprising to me. Clearly, Mark is introducing new characters without describing them, but there are simple ways to do that, as Mark does earlier (using πολλοί) and as Luke does for the equivalent sentence in the story (using ἄνδρες), or perhaps using τινες.
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Re: Mark 2:3 - could missing antecedent be intentional?

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 4th, 2020, 11:43 am

Robert S. Daniel wrote:
July 3rd, 2020, 6:40 am
Which word is missing an antecedent? Isn't it usually pronouns that take antecedents?
I probably used the wrong word here. I tend to use the word 'antecedent' to mean 'something introduced earlier that is referred to here', which is a little sloppy. Sorry to be confusing.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

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