Re: pronoun/antecedent agreement

From: Cal Redmond (
Date: Mon Jun 03 1996 - 15:07:25 EDT

(snip, snip) On the questions of case agreement between pronoun and
antecedent (?), Marion wrote:
> Randy continued:
> Rather than continuing to argue about the verse in question, where
> grammar and theology are getting confused, I think I can make my
> point best with another example. Please look at Matthew 1:18 (I
> simply opened my Greek Testament and looked for the first example I
> could find; it's in the very first verse of actual narrative). Find
> the verb hEUREQH (transliteration possibly in error) - "She was
> found." What's the subject? Grammatically, the subject is unspecified
> except for the personal ending of the verb (just like the Romans
> passage). Now in this context, there can be no doubt about the
> identify of the subject, right? But Mary is in the genitive case, in
> apposition to MHTROS. Marion, are you going to argue that someone
> other than Mary was found with child, since MARIAS does not agree in
> case with the understood subject of the verb? If I understand your
> argument regarding the Romans passage, this is precisely the corner
> you are backing yourself into.
> Marion here again: No, I am not backing myself into a corner. I contend
> that the subject of a verb (sorry the antecedent) can be either explicitly
> stated or elliptical (unstated). I contend that in either case the
> antecedent must be in the nominative case. In Matthew 1:18 the antecedent
> is in the nominative case it is the elliptical word MARIA.
> Randy continues:
> It seems to me that you're confusing the grammatical subject and the
> logical subject. Grammatically, the subject of "intercedes" is
> unspecified; i.e., there is no nominative-case word identifying it.
> The logical subject (i.e., the person doing the interceding) can
> appear in the context in any case whatsoever; its case will depend on
> its usage in its own clause, not on its relationship to a "pronoun"
> in another clause.
> Marion here again. Randy states "there is no nominative-case word
> identifying it." Randy, are you saying that the subject is unspecified? I
> thought it was specified by the word "he" (the verbal ending which serves
> as a pronoun). Randy, you seem to be equivocating on the question of
> whether or not the noun is the subject of the verb.
> In addition, Randy seems to be saying that the antecedent must be in the
> nominative case. This is quite confusing to me. (I cannot determine what
> Randy is saying).
> In addition several others seem to agree with me on points on which Randy
> disagrees with me.

Randy is exactly correct in his argumentation. The antecedent of a
pronoun need not and frequently does not agree with the case of the
pronoun, although it agrees in number and gender.

Marion wrote:
>I contend that in either case the
> antecedent must be in the nominative case. In Matthew 1:18 the antecedent
> is in the nominative case it is the elliptical word MARIA.

This is the logical antecedent, but MARIA can hardly be said to be the
grammatical antecedent, since it never occurs in the prior text of Mt:
1! What does occur, and is the logical antecedent, is MARIAS as found
in 1:18.

Randy draws a useful distinction between logical and grammatical
thought: Marion's thoughts are logical (indeed, many of us have asked
the question raised by Marion. However, grammatically speaking, there
is no need of case agreement between the pronoun and its antecedent. I
randomly opened my NT to 2 Thess. 1:1-3. Verse three, containing the
personal pronoun, reads as follows: EUXARISTEIN OPHEILEN TWi QEWi
PANTOTE PERI hUMWN. The only possible antecedent for the second person
plural genitive pronoun is found in verse 1, THi EKKLHSIAi
QESSALONIKEWN. (My transliteration is uncertain; a vowel followed by a
lower case iota is my attempt to represent a iota subscript).

Here the pronoun is genitive, but the antecedent is dative.

Cal Redmond
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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