Matt 18:18,19

From: Ronald Ross (
Date: Tue Mar 04 1997 - 23:04:50 EST

Tom Launder wrote:
> Hello all,
> I have been studying Matt. 18:15-20 and have run into a snag. :)
> In Matt 18:18
> hOSA EAN DhShTE . . .
> I have understood the hOSA EAN to be the direct object of the verb
> DhShTE. Am I right? Or is the hOSA alone the direct object and the EAN
> part of a conditional clause?

Tom, I'll give you my view on this. hOSA is, of course, the relative
pronoun of what is called a headless relative clause ('headless' because
it has no antecedent in a preceding main clause) and it is the direct
object of the verb. The EAN for me is a particle indicating that the
relative pronoun has no referent, that is, does not refer to anything
specific. You might say that it changes a 'what' into a 'whatever'. And
it is precisely this non referring nature of the relative pronoun in
this context that triggers the use of the subjunctive. Put another way,
EAN changes the modality of the sentence to 'irrealis' rather than
'realis'. I would appreciate Carl's input here, but it seems to me
that in Classical Greek the use of the so-called 'indefinite' relative
pronouns (hOSTIS, etc.) was much more common that in koine. I suspect
that the combination of the hOS and EAN has come to replace the old
'indefinite' relative pronoun. I personally do not see how EAN could
possibly be part of a conditional clause in this case.

> In Matt 18:19
> Again I am being thrown by the EAN. I believe the hOU is a relative
> pronoun but I do not understand what the EAN is doing. Is this a
> relative clause modifying the main verb? Is this a epexegetic clause
> describing PRAGMATOS? Is this a conditional clause with the hOU being a
> direct object of the verb?

Relative clauses cannot, as far as I know, ever modify main verbs. This
case seems to me to be the same as the previous one, except that here
the relative clause is not headless. The hOU EAN AITHSWNTAI seems to me
to mean simply "whatever they request". Again the EAN determines
'irrealis' modality and so the verb, again, is subjunctive. The catch
here is that the relative pronoun is in the 'wrong' case. This is
frequent in Greek and other languages. The relative pronoun is
attracted to the case of its main clause antecedent, in Greek usually
the genitive. We would expect here the pronoun to be hO, neuter
accusative rather than neuter genitive. Notice, Tom, that earlier in
verse 19, there is another EAN. This one IS part of a conditional

I hope this helps. I'd welcome feedback from other listers.

Ron Ross

> Boy, I have found a glaring weak spot! I really am lost on this one. :)
> Please help. The more you explain the EAN and what is going on, the
> better it will be for me.
> Thanks,
> Tom

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