Not "causal EIS" again? Oh, no!

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Sun Jun 02 1996 - 12:30:51 EDT

Dear Colleagues:

For what surely are theological reasons, the so-called "causal" meaning of EIS
is revived regularly on our List. With some regularity, the classic disproof
is re-cited; but since List-members come and go, the task is never over. Jeff
Smelser, who calls himself a newcomer, has done us this service again. (I
quote his message at the end of this posting.) I personally thank him, since
it has usually fallen to me to remind everyone of the easy-to-find literature
(it being mentioned in Bauer's English translations).

The history of this imaginary "causal use of EIS" is short. Julius Mantey
wrote an article arguing for it in 1923 (in The Expositor). Four years later,
in 1927, he listed it as meaning (7) for EIS in his and Dana's _Manual
Grammar_, citing at great length his own article as evidence! No one was
convinced except those whose theology drove them to it; so over two decades
later, he read a paper at the meeting of the SBLE in Cincinnati (at Hebrew
Union College), again arguing for it. I was present, as was Wilbur Gingrich, a
friend of mine whose office was across the street from mine at the University
of Chicago. (He was translating Bauer, for UC Press, and I was a young
Instructor and a member of the Board of Examinations.) Wilbur stood up and
commented that this sort of thing was "grist for our mill, as we edit Bauer for
English readers." Mantey responded that a copy would certainly be sent to him.
I stood up and questioned Mantey's translation of non-NT passages he had cited,
but of course none of us had the texts in front of us, and it ended there.
Upon my return to Chicago, I reported this to Ralph Marcus (whom I was
assisting in his preparing two volumes of Philo for the Loeb Classical
Library), showing him my notes of the Mantey lecture. Marcus, one of the great
linguists of our time, laughed, and dropped it. When Mantey's paper was
published in JBL, I showed it to Marcus with a reminder of our conversation
about it. We sat down and read the passages Mantey had cited; in every single
case, Mantey failed to understand the Greek, and was palming off a
mistranslation. I offered to flesh out Marcus's response, which was sent to
JBL as a rejoinder. Believe it or not, when that came out, Mantey dug up some
more passages, and published a second article defending this non-meaning of
EIS. Marcus himself then penned another reply, exploding these claimed
translations as well. That should have settled it once and for all. One
obvious aspect of this exchange is that Marcus was a Jew, and had no theology
of baptism one way or another!

But Mantey put on the pressure, and Gingrich decided to reference all four
articles in his translation of Bauer--which may have been just as well, since
it gave the references to Marcus's demolition of "causal EIS", for future
readers in English to see. (German readers of the original Bauer had of course
never heard of "causal EIS," for good reason!)

Mantey chose to write ME a hateful letter, in his own handwriting, denouncing
me as a fool, an ignoramus, and a young whippersnapper; Marcus was far too
prestigious to attack in any way. I wrote back to him, telling him how much I
liked his little Manual Grammar except for this one flaw, and assured him that
I had nothing but admiration for him as a person. He never replied.

As several have pointed out, this List is for discussion of the Greek language
of the Bible, not for theological argument. Please, let's not sneak it in
under the rubric of a fantasy-meaning of a Greek preposition.

Edward Hobbs
(who retireth not, neither doth he spin--i.e., spin fairy-tale prepositions)


Jeff Smelser wrote:

Writing in JBL in 1951, J.R. Mantey cited Mt 3:11, along with Mk 1:4 & Lk
3:3, and several other passages as examples of causal EIS. Mantey, whose
denominational creed required belief in forgiveness of sins prior to baptism,
hoped to explain Acts 2:38 in a manner consistent with his theology. Mantey
conceded that

     "None of the Greek lexicons translate EIS as causal. And the only Greek
      grammar that does, as far as we know, is _A Manual Grammar of the
      Greek New Testament_ " [which of course was his own, JS]

Then Mantey proceeded to seek support for causal EIS in the writings of
Polybius and Josephus. Ralph Marcus responded in a subsequent issue of JBL,
showing the error of the conclusion Mantey deduced from these citations.
Mantey tried again, and Marcus wrote a final rejoinder, concluding with this:

  "If, therefore, Prof. Mantey is right in his interpretation of various NT
  passages on baptism and repentance and the remission of sins, he is right
  for reasons that are non-linguistic." JBL LXXI, p. 44.

These four articles are found in JBL LXX, pp. 45-48, pp.129-130, pp. 309-311
and LXXI pp. 43-44. They are very instructive, and, in my opinion, one who
delves into the meaning of EIS would do well to read them.

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