Re: Acts 4:32 what are the arguments of *hn*?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat May 24 1997 - 20:01:44 EDT

At 7:13 AM -0400 5/24/97, Clayton Bartholomew wrote:
>Acts 4:32 what are the arguments of *hn*?
>This is a simple question. The first clause of Acts 4:32 *tou ... mia*
>begins with a genitive construction. Is this genitive construction one
>of the arguments of *hn*? Rewording the question somewhat, can *kardia
>kai psuch* and *mia* be construed as the two arguments of *hn* and the
>genitive construction be construed as limiting *kardia kai psuch*?
>I guess this is a question about word order in NT Greek. Are there any
>hard and fast rules about the order of the arguments for *eimi*? Also,
>can a genitive construction be separated from the substantive it
>limits by a verb?
>The English translations appear to take the genitive construction as
>the first argument of *hn.* Is this the only way to analyze this

Not being a linguist, I'm still not comfortable with this use of
"arguments," but I think the answer to all the above questions is "Yes." In
more traditional terms I would have said (still would!) that KARDIA KAI
YUCH is the subject of HN, that MIA is the predicate adjective, and that
the genitive string opening the clause is dependent upon KARDIA KAI YUCH.
Regarding the word-order I offer gut-feeling rather than anything I am
aware of as acknowledged principle: it is not at all uncommon for a
genitive string to stand out in the forefront of a clause like this,
particularly where its rhetorical force is very emphatic as it undoubtedly
is here (one of Luke's programmatic emphases that occasionally seem to
threaten the facts he reports--he likes to say the primitive community
enjoyed a perfect harmony but provides abundant evidence to the contrary).

One of the translation exercises I've sometimes suggested to my students
when the Greek word-order so sharply differs from that of normal English is
a two-step process: (1) preserve the structure of the Greek as well as the
word-order, even if it means that your English is not recognizable as
authentic English; and then (2) restructure the English in such a way that
you retain, as much as possible, the word-order of the Greek. Thus:

(1) Of the community of those who had believed was heart and life one ...
(2) The community of those who had believed was in heart and life united.

Of course the diction here is as wooden as can be, nor would I try to argue
that (2) is an acceptable "translation" of the Greek, although it does
convey the sense, after a fashion; rather it is intended to convey the
rhetorical impact of the word-order, and I do think it is worth while to
endeavor to appreciate the rhetorical force of the original sequence--or in
effect to read and construe the elements--words and/or phrases--of the
Greek clause one by one in the sequence in which they are perceived by eye
or ear. I guess that what we have here is a very deliberate chiasmus
underscoring the antithesis of the many and the one in PLHQOUS and MIA.

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

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