Re: Ephesians 4:10

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 14 1996 - 11:21:58 EST

On 2/14/96, Northland Bible College wrote:

> Hi folks!
> Before I ask another question, I'd just like to say thanks to those
> who've taken the time to tutor me on a few questions these past few
> weeks. Much appreciated. Another question (a bit tongue in cheek):
> What's a guy like me to do (besides enroll in a 6 year doctoral program
> <:)> when 3 experts arrive at different interpretations of a syntactical
> question? Is classifying still such an evolving art?
> No offense intended. Just wondering.

I don't think there was really any substantive difference over how the text
construes and what it means. But your observation, "Is classifying still
such an evolving art?" is not so far amiss. Although it's not quite so bad
as the old Latin aphorism, QUOT HOMINES TOT SENTENTIAE (viewpoints are as
numerous as people), one might well argue that QUOT GRAMMATICI TOT
SENTENTIAE. Grammarians are among the most stubborn of people; they don't
like the precise language that other people have used and prefer to make up
their own names for the same thing. Sometimes, of course, they analyze a
construction differently. In my own view, there's been too much
sub-categorization of most grammatical categories.

> I've got another question, this time on Ephesians 4:10. We find
> Nominatives separated by ESTIN: HO KATABAS AUTOS and HO ANABAS.
> HO KATABAS as I understand it should be taken as the subject. AUTOS (in
> relation to HO KATABAS) is predicate, but the whole clause HO KATABAS
> AUTOS stands together as the subject of ESTIN. No?
> Would not then HO ANABAS following, be predicate in relation to the first
> clause? Problem: Both nominatives have the article. How to tell which
> is Subjective and which is Predicate?

Yes, I'd say you've construed it quite properly. And you've raised a good
question. Other's might want to bring up the Colwell principle in response
to this, but I'd say two things:

(1) If you have two article-nominative phrases athwart a copula, the second
MAY but NEED NOT be the subject (because Greek word-order has a definite
tendency to put the predicate word first in a noun sentence--BUT rhetorical
emphasis can interfere at any point with that tendency so that the subject
may be first after all for the sake of emphasis.

(2) It may seem a grammatical heresy (at least not a theological one), but
I don't really think it matters so much which one you consider the subject;
the point of the construction is the equation of the two noun-phrases.

(3) However, a third factor in this instance is the AUTOS, which does
indeed belong to hO KATABAS. And the nominative AUTOS/AUTH/AUTO does more
normally (but not always!) go with the subject.

In the context, what is evident is that the writer here wants to identify
the person refered to in the Psalm as having ascended to the height. I
think either of the following versions would suffice:

        "It is the very one who descended that ascended ..."
        "The one who ascended ... is the very one who descended."

Reflecting analytically over this, I guess that I would say the second
phrase, hO ANABAS ... is the subject and the first, hO KATABAS AUTOS, is
the predicate.

> Even worse, I'd followed the rule (first yr Grk) that the Nominative with
> the article is "always" the subject when two nominatives are found with a
> stative verb. But just this morning, re-reading Dana and Mantey, they
> said this is only "usually" true, and that "sometimes" the subject
> nominative will LACK the article whereas the predicate can HAVE the article.
> Can anybody clarify this seeming impasse?

Well, you'll find other grammarians not too happy with that statement. I
think they really ought to display some examples of this last construction
if they insist that it's true. On the other hand, I think it's just as well
not to make apodictic statements about grammatical constructions. And I
think, to revert to the initial discussion in this response, that
grammatical analysis is an after-the-fact descriptive analysis of an
instance of usage, and that grammatical "rules" are somewhat like
scientific hypotheses--explanations that account for most instances of a
behavior that tends to be regular but is sometimes ornery enough to diverge
from the norm. At any rate, one certainly should be aware that grammarians
do not ESTABLISH the norm; rather USAGE does; grammarians come later and
try to make sense of observed usage.

I hope I haven't made the whole issue more confusing than it was before!

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

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