Re: Mark 4-3- a sower/the s

From: Carlton Winbery (
Date: Tue Jun 17 1997 - 05:12:15 EDT

Lance Crimm wrote;
>>In Mark 4:3 (parr) it says:
>>Question: how can I be sure this has to be translated by "a sower went out to
>>sow" (RSV). What about: "the sower went out to sow"?
>>If the second possibility is incorrect I would like to know in which way I
>>can put that into Greek.

Michael Palmer replied;
>It is important to remember that the article in Greek does NOT function
>exactly like the article in English. Just because there is an article
>present in the Greek text does NOT mean there should be one in an English
>translation (though you are likely to get some responses from readers with
>little experience who will argue that it does). [And your question implies
>that you do remember this.]
>The presence of the article in this context may be a literary device used
>to bring about a desired effect. Using the article on the first mention of
>the sower would give the impression that Jesus was starting in the middle
>of the story. This could be a very useful implication for drawing interest
>(either at the time the parable was told, if Jesus told it in Greek, or at
>the time it was read in the early church). If I remember right, it's a
>device used in several of the parables.

I would say that the article is used here to distinguish one group from
another, eg., Lk.10:7 "A laborer (hO ERGATHS) is worthy of his hire." The
article denotes a group. In this situation, it is not always necessary to
use the indefinite article in English, eg. Mt. 18:17 "Let him be to you
like Gentiles (hO ETHNIKOS [sg]) and tax collectors (hO TELWNHS [sg]). The
two groups are indicated even by the singular article.

>>Of course this has exegetical implications. If it is "a sower" we are dealing
>>with a "Gleichnis" (Bultmann): something that can be repeated several times.
>>If we translate "the sower", we are dealing with a parabel (Bultmann): a
>>unique event occurring only once.
>I would be very cautious about basing this kind of exegetical conclusion on
>the presence or absence of the article in the English translation. I DON'T
>think "a sower" implies that the event portrayed in the parable can be
>repeated while "the sower" implies that it can't. Why couldn't "*the*
>sower" sow again on other occasions?

I would agree with Michael that this is a lot of exegetical weight for an
article. In this case this is surely a "Gleichnis", "a sower (one of a
group) went forth to sow."

Carlton L. Winbery
114 Beall St.
Pineville, LA 71360
Fax (318) 442-4996
Phone 318 487-7241 Home 448-6103

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