PRWTH in Lk2:2

From: Stephen Carlson (
Date: Wed Sep 06 1995 - 14:36:38 EDT


In another forum, I came across the claim by someone citing
Nigel Turner, "Grammatical Insights into the New Testament" that
Lk2:2 should be translated as "and this taxing was PRIOR to the
one made when Cyrenius was governor" (emphasis in original).

To me, this passages says something like "This registration was
first [and] happened while Quirinius was governing Syria." So,
is it really possible that we have PRWTH with a genitive of
comparison (hHGEMONEUONTOS) here? I think this unlikely for the
following reasons:

1. Although this construction occurs in other languages (e.g.,
the Italian PRIMA DI), it seems rare in the Koine. BAGD cites
Jn1:15 30 hOTI PRWTOS MOU HN (because he was before me) as an
example of PRWTOS meaning "before" (or "prior to"), but the
Middle Liddell says that this PRWTOS MOU is "first" of Order
with a note that this use of genitive is late. L&S, on the
other hand, does recognize the adverbial use of PRWTOS =
PROTEROS in Attic Greek (Xenophon). However, I would expect
Luke to use PRO (see Lk2:21) or PRIN (see v26) to express
priority of time.

2. The placement of hHGEMONEUONTES after EGENETO instead of
PRWTH suggests to me that it is not modifying PRWTH. Instead,
it would be a commonplace genitive of time within which.

I have two questions: (1) Is Turner's translation grammatically
feasible? and (2) Is this the most natural rendering of the Greek?

Stephen Carlson

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