Re: John 12:49

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Sep 28 1996 - 15:15:29 EDT

At 12:59 PM -0500 9/28/96, Dale M. Wheeler wrote:
>In chasing the various uses of AUTOS, I ran into another
>interesting structure in John 12:49.
>Starting with the KJV (not criticising, just observing)
>the translations make PATHR the subject and translate
>hO PEMYAS as if it were Adjectival (the one who...) to
>PATHR. Following that logic, the NASB then makes AUTOS
>go with PATHR as well and translates "The Father Himself..."
>(I'm personally more inclined to see AUTOS as redundantly
>picking up the preceding phrase and thus acting as the
>pronomial subject of DEDWKEN; cf., esp., the use of
>EKEINOS in the same structure in John 5:37;

You do raise some interesting questions here. What I'm wondering is whether
the classification of words as "adjectival" or "pronominal" isn't based
more upon how they get translated into English than upon their function in
the Greek. I would understand the above fundamentally in terms of the Greek
word-order as a string of appositional nominative substantives and offer a
"hyper-literal" English equivalent thus:

"The one who sent me, Father, he himself to me a commandment has given ..."

But I don't think AUTOS is simply redundant at all; I think it is
rhetorically powerful in underscoring the identity of the source of the
commandment. So translating more freely in an effort to capture the
rhetorical emphasis as I see it, I'd make it:

"It was he who sent me, the Father himself, who has given me a commandment ..."

>. . .
>But I'm wondering if the article with PEMYAS and the fact
>that PATHR is anarthrous (not to mention the word order...
>so I won't mention it :-) )indicates that the Subst Ptc
>should be read as the Subject with PATHR as either
>Predicate or in Apposition. John has written the same
>or very similar thing with PEMPW in 5:37; 7:28; 8:16,
>18, 26; 14:24).
>If the Ptc is the subject, it seems to me that even in
>an English translation PATHR would become more emphatic;
>viz., "The One who sent me, (namely) the Father, He gave..."

That's it precisely. Perhaps German gets it better: "Der mich gesandt hat,
der Vater selbst, Er hat mir gegeben ..."

>This question/observation relates to the next round of
>electronic text tagging (which we've discussed on the
>Hellenistic Greek forum), namely indicating what each
>word is doing in a sentence, what is related to it in
>that sentence, etc. (this is a simple example of the
>kind of thing that needs exhaustive (or is that
>exhausting) study to determine if there are solid
>patterns or if we are faced with the individual style
>of authors (if I remember correctly, that discussion
>began with a query about thesis topics...).

I really wonder whether this tagging doesn't require a consistent
understanding of morphological and syntactic functions that is not
dependent upon the grammatical structures of a language other than
Hellenistic Greek itself. Or is that too naive a question?. It's not
unrelated to my deep-seated suspicion that our terminology for describing
"voice" in Greek is woefully inadequate and dictated by formulae that
inadequately reflect the actual functioning of Greek verbs in many
instances. I'm beginning to wonder whether the same may also be true of the
way we understand article, adjective, noun, and substantives generally.

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

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