Re: Some question on Mark 6:35-39

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Sep 22 1995 - 20:17:12 EDT

At 5:39 PM 9/22/95, Kenneth Litwak wrote:
> I have a few questions about the syntax in Mark 6:35ff.

Assuming first of all, Ken, that you offered "Bezerkeley"
(GTU, Bezerkeley, CA) as the provenance of your post intentionally, I think
we need to move you to a more comfortable location. ;-)

>1. At the end of v. 35, HdH horas pollH seems like it is missing
>something. Literally I think it says "already/by that time many hours".
>Does the verb genomenHs also govern this phrase, or is it more like
>an idiom in Greek for saying "it's late".

Your citation is misleading, as you confound the initial part of the verse
with its genitive absolute construction, HDH hORAS POLLHS GENOMENHS with
the simple assertion of the disciples at the end, "HDH hORA POLLH." You
are quite right about the phrase meaning, "It's late" in English, although
the Greek would more literally "It's already a big-number hour"--anything
after noon would be above the sixth hour. But the only thing missing at the
end is an implicit "ESTI(N).

>2. v. 36. Should apelQontes be understood as a telic participle
>"in order that they may go" or an attendant circumstance "in orer that,
>after having departed". I think it's the former, but I'm not certain.
>I'm also wondering stylistically about the use at the end of the verse
>of phagosin. After ti I expected an infinitive: something to eat,
>instead of something they may eat. Is this standard Greek or

I'm not familiar with the term "telic participle" but it should mean a
participle to express purpose; in classical Attic that would be a future
participle with hWS--but I don't recall seeing that construction in the NT.
At any rate, the participle APELQONTES is indeed one of attendant
circumstances, and your version, "in order that, after having departed
...," is accurate enough, provided that you realize the hINA doesn't
construe with the participle but rather with the subjunctive AGORASWSIN,
"in order that they may buy." The second subjunctive is in a clause of
indirect question subordinate to the subjunctive AGORASWSIN and functioning
grammatically as the object of that verb, meaning, literally, "what they
may eat." You cannot attach an infinitive to a pronoun like that: it's not
"something to eat" (note that the TI has an acute accent) but "what they
may eat." Yes, it's pretty standard Greek, inasmuch as even formal Attic
would tend to telescope a pronoun object of AGORASWSIN with a relative
pronoun, in the form hO TI FAGWSIN (where the TI is an unaccented
enclitic): "... in order that they may buy that which they may eat."

>3. V.39 sumposia sumposia, according to BDF, is an accusative of result.
>Unfortunately, in its usual, helpful manner, BDF at this point neither
>tells me where to find out what an accusative of result is, nor how
>to best translate the phrase. It would be helpful if, when citing
>a verse as an example of something, you translated it so others would
>know how that kind of construction ought to be rendered or at least
>point to where the construction is defined. Anyway, I take this to
>be a distributive type of construction: by groups/in groups/group by
>group. I don't know how that would show result. I'd appreciate some
>insight here. Thanks.

Where do these terms such as "telic participle" and "accusative of result"
come from? I do believe that some grammarians have a tendency to re-name
and subdivide grammatical categories endlessly in order to make the domain
of grammar a new Tower of Babel where people can't understand one another.
I hope I may be forgiven by the linguists who at times seem to me to have
gone the way of psychologists and sociologists to speak a language all
their own; I'm trying to understand them, but somehow Greek seems far
easier to me than the language they speak and write.

At any rate, I'd translate, "He instructed them all to lie down
dinner-party-style." That is, I would understand SUMPOSIA SUMPOSIA as an
adverbial accusative qualifying the infinitive ANAKLINAI. I would assume
that the neuter plural SUMPOSIA here means what Latin TRICLINIA would
mean--and arrangement of nine or twelve guests lying down on figurative
couches arranged in a "C" pattern on the ground so that each group of 3 or
4 guests (in each of the 3 sides of the "C") face a common center and can
see each other. Of course, for some reason we always imagine the 5,000 as
seated neatly in rows facing the front and waiting for the disciples to
come to them to serve communion. I have never understood why it is
necessary to translate ANAKLINAI as "be seated," but it's standard in "New
Testament English."

At any rate, that's how I see these particulars in the passage. Now, will
someone explain to me what is supposed to be meant by a "telic participle?"

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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