Lesson 46: Function Words/Relative Clauses


665. Relative subordinators (relative pronouns, pronominal adjectives, adverbs) differ from subordinators of the type of ὅτι and ἵνα in that the former have a grammatical function of their own in the subordinate sentence; the latter merely connect the subordinate clause with the main clause. In the case of relative pronouns, the grammatical function in the subordinate sentence is always that of a constituent element (subject, object, etc.).

666. Relative pronouns link an included or inserted sentence to the main or matrix sentence by replacing, in the inserted sentence, the item the two sentences have in common when taken as separate sentences. An illustration will make this point clear.

The sentence

1n+ 3 3n+ s
(1) ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ παλαιά / ἐστιν / ὁ λόγος / ὅν ἠκούσατε 1 Jn 2:7
The old commandment is the word which you heard

contains a matrix sentence, The old commandment is the word, and an included sentence, which you heard, introduced by a relative pronoun. This complex sentence may be thought of as deriving from two independent sentences:

(1a) ἡ ἐντολὴ ἡ παλαιά ἐστιν ὁ λόγος
(1b) τὸν λόγον ἠκούσατε

The two sentences have the item ὁ λόγος in common (in (1b) in the accusative case). To include (1b) in (1a), the common item, ὁ λόγος, is replaced in the second sentence by a relative pronoun: τὸν λόγον -> ὅν. The relative pronoun ὅν therefore has ὁ λόγος in the matrix sentence as its antecedent. Cf. the example given in §642.

667. The rules for transforming a sentence to be inserted into a relative clause are simple:

667.1 The relative pronoun agrees with the item in the inserted sentence which it replaces and the item in the matrix sentence to which it refers (they are the same item) in gender and number.

667.2 The relative pronoun takes its case from its use in its own clause (the inserted sentence), i.e. it takes the case the item it replaces had in the independent sentence.

667.3 In (1) ὅν is masculine and singular because that is the gender and number of λόγος; it is accusative because τὸν λόγον is the object of the verb ἠχούσατε in (1b), just as ὅν is in (1).

There are important exceptions to the second rule, which will be noted subsequently (§670).

668. Relative clauses introduced by relative pronouns are commonly adjective clauses, i.e. they modify some (nominal) item in the matrix sentence.

668.1 The relative clause may modify the subject:

3a 2 1n+ s
(2) ἀληθής / ἐστιν / ἡ μαρτυρία // ἥν μαρτυρεῖ
περὶ ἐμοῦ Jn 5:32
The testimony which he bears on my behalf is true

s expands the subject, 1n+.

668.2 It may modify the object:

2-1 4d s
(3) ... συνήγαγον / πάντας // οὓς εὗρον Mt 22:10
... they gathered all whom they found

s expands the object, 4d.

668.3 It may modify the predicate nominative in S-II:

C 2 1d 3n+
(4) καὶ ἔστιν / αὕτή / ἡ ἀγγελία //
ἣν ἀκηκόαμεν ἀπ' αὐτοῦ 1 Jn 1:5
And this is the message which we heard from him

s expands the predicate nominative, 3n+.

668.4 Or an item in a prepositional phrase:

p4n+ s
(5) ... μετὰ τὸ βάπτισμα // ὃ ἐκήρυξεν Ἰωάννης Acts 10·37
... after the baptism which John preached

s expands the noun in the p-phrase.

668.5 A relative clause may modify or expand any nominal element in the matrix sentence, of which examples (2)-(5) are merely illustrative.

669. In sentences (1)-(5) the antecedent immediately precedes the relative pronoun. This need not be the case, e.g.

1d D 2 4n+ i
(6) οὐδεὶς / [γὰp] δύναται / ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα / ποιεῖν //
ἃ σὺ ποιεῖς Jn 3:2
For no one is able to do these signs which you do

s is separated from its antecedent (4n+ in this instance) by an infinitive (i).

670. It was stipulated in §667 that a relative pronoun agrees with its antecedent in gender and number but takes its case from its use in its own clause. This is in fact not always the case. The relative is commonly attracted or assimilated to the case of its antecedent, especially where the relative ought to be accusative (by the rule) and the antecedent is genitive or dative. Attraction is understandably more common where other items do not intervene between antecedent and relative.

670.1 Attraction from accusative to genitive:

1d+ D 2 p6n+
(7) ὃς [δ' ] ἂν / πίῃ / ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος //
οὗ ἐγὼ δώσω αὐτῷ Jn 4:14
Whoever drinks from the water which I shall give him ...

οὗ is by attraction to ὕδατος; cf. a comparable construction in the same verse:

C ln+ s
(8) ἀλλα) τὸ ὕδωρ // ὃ δώσω αὐτῷ ... Jn 4:14
But the water which I shall give him ...

In (8) the antecedent (ὕδωρ) is nominative; ὅ may be taken as accusative (the nom. and acc. are identical in form).

670.2 Attraction from accusative to dative:

3g 4n+ p5d
(9) ... αἰνοῦντες / τὸν θεὸν / ἐπὶ πᾶσιν /
οἷς ἤκουσαν καὶ εἶδον Lk 2:20
... praising God for everything
that they had heard and seen

οἷς (instead of ἅ) is by attraction to πᾶσιν. Bl-D §294.

671. In classical Greek ὅς was the definite relative pronoun (who, which, that), ὅστις (ὅς + τις, both parts of which are declined, §259) the indefinite relative (whoever, whichever). This distinction has been largely obscured in hellenistic Greek (Bl-D §293). For most purposes the student may ignore the difference. ὅστις is used in the New Testament only in the nom. sing. and plur. (ὅστις, ἥτις, ὅ τι [written divided in order to distinguish it from the other subordinator ὅτι, to which it is related]; οἵτινες, αἵτινες, ἅτινα (ὅ τι also appears as an acc.) (§271; Bl-D §64(3)).

672. As an adjective clause, the relative clause is often agnate to an articular participle. Observe the sequence in Lk 12:8f.:

(10) πᾶς ὃς ἂν ὁμολογήσῃ ἐν ἐμοὶ ...
ὁ δὲ ἀρνησάμενός με ... Lk 12:8f.
Everyone who acknowledges me ...
But he who denies me ...

The relative clause is here agnate to the participial phrase. This relationship is confirmed by the form of the second word group in the parallel passage in Matthew:

(11) ὅστις δ' ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ... Mt 10:33
Whoever denies me ...

The kinship is also evident in the following two word groups:

(12) ... Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὃς ἔδωκεν ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν Titus 2:14
... Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us
(13) ... Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ
τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν
Gal 1:4
... Jesus Christ, the one giving himself for
our sins

The articular participal in (13) may just as well be translated by a relative clause in English:

... Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins

Further, cf. Mt. 7:24 with Lk 6:47.

673. Relative clauses may also function as substantive clauses, i.e. as an element in the matrix sentence. When they do so, their antecedent is "omitted" (from, the standpoint of English).

673.1 A relative clause may appear as subject:

C 1s
(14) καὶ ) ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ
καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου /
Ν -> 2 6b 3a
οὐκ ἔστιν / μου / ἄξιος Mt 10:38
And [he] who does not take his cross
and follow me
is not worthy of me

The relative clause is subject (1s) of the verb ἐστιν (2). In English it is customary to supply an antecedent (put in brackets in the translation).

673.2 As object:

C Ν -> 2-1 s4
(15) καὶ) οὐ ποιεῖτε / ἃ λέγω Lk 6:46
And you do not do what I say

The relative clause is the object of the verb ποιείτε.

673.3 As the predicate in S-II:

1b 2 s3
(16) Ἰδοὺ / ἐγὼ / εἰμι / ὃv ζητεῖτε Acts 10:21
Look, I am [he] whom you seek

The relative clause functions as the predicate nominative (designated 3).

674. Relative clauses may function as adverbial clauses although they retain the structure of adjective or substantive clauses.

(17) ἔπεμψα ὑμῖν Τιμόθεον ...
ὃς ὑμᾶς ἀναμνήσει τὰς ὁδούς μου 1 Cor 4:17
I sent Timothy to you ...
who will remind you of my ways

The relative clause in (17) is the equivalent of a purpose clause (in order to remind you) with ἵνα or an infinitive (s. §656, 574-575, 833). Structurally, the relative clause is an adjective clause modifying Τιμόθεον.

Similarly, a relative clause may be the equivalent of a conditional clause (if-clause):

(18) ὅς ἂν γὰρ ἔχῃ, δοθήσεται αὐτῷ Lk 8:18
For it shall be given to him who has

ὃς ἂν ἔχῃ is the equivalent of ἐὰν τις ἔχη, if anyone has.

For the variety of relative clauses in the New Testament, s. Bl-D §§377-380.

6740. With the relative pronoun the particle ἄv has a generalizing force, ὃς ἄv = whoever. With ὅστις, ἄv merely heightens the indefiniteness. In hellenistic Greek this ἄv is often written ἐάν (εἰ, -If, plus αν), as though ἐάν did not contain εἰ, if.

Other subordinators are given an indefinite nuance by the addition of ἄv: ἐάν (= εί + ἄν), if ever; ὅταν (= ὅτε + ἄv), whenever; ὅπου ἄv, wherever. Cf. §§858 and 870.

ἄv is also taken to modify the meaning of the moods. Rather than as a means of marking indefiniteness, it is understood to limit the verb to particular conditions or circumstances: in that case, under the circumstances. Smyth §1762.