Re: Luke 7:43 reworded (one more time)

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Tue Sep 16 1997 - 10:59:08 EDT

Rereading my message to Clayton Bartholomew yesterday, I realized that I
sent it without providing English translations of the Greek texts I cited.
I like to include those for the benefit of readers who are just getting
started, so I'm resending the message with translations added. If you've
already read it, just delete this (unless, of course, you want to read my
wonderful translations! :-). I've also taken the opportunty to correct a
few typographical errors, edit out a few things that didn't need repeating,
and rewrite a few sentences to make my argument clearer.

If in responding to this message you wish to distinguish it from the
earlier one, just refer to it as the 'corrected version' of my message.

At 12:22 PM +0000 9/14/97, Clayton Bartholomew wrote:
>In Luke 7:43 Simon answers Jesus question by saying:
>Now let's assume that Simon had been more loquacious and had
>replaced the string enclosed in asterisks with:
>My first question is, would this longer response make sense in NT
>Greek? If not, where does the fault lie in this response. (Is AUTON

It would make sense only if the reader assumed that the author meant
something like

        The one to whom he forgave more will love him more

Here the relative clause is a modifier of the SUBJECT [which I have added
here as EKEINOS to make this relationship clear]. Even so, it would be very
odd Greek. In order for it to be normal Greek the subject [EKEINOS], which
is also the antecedent of the relative pronoun, would need to be explicitly
written rather than implied. In the book which Clayton is citing here (as
he makes clear below), I omitted EKEINOS to simplify the discussion.
Obviously, that was a bad decision!

Clayton continuted:
>Now assuming that the previous example makes sense in NT Greek
>would the following change in word order be acceptable? If not,
>where does the fault lie with this word order?

Again, this would be legitimate only if EKEINOS or OUTOS were added between
AUTON and the rest of the clause--making it clear that the relative clause
modifies the SUBJECT, not AUTON:

        The one to whom he forgave more will love him more

Of course, this wording would have to occur in a context where it would be
appropriate for AUTON to be extraordinarily emphatic. It would be something
like "The one to whom he forgave more will love HIM more."

Clayton also wrote:
>Now assuming that both of these examples make sense in NT Greek
>we have established that the word sequence *AUTON hWi TO PLEION
>EXARISATO* is a movable unit. If it is a movable unit then it is
>probably also a *constituent* is it not?

Well, actually all that would be demonstrated is that the movement test
(one of the syntactic tests I discuss in _Levels of Constituent Structure_)
does not eliminate the sequence from *potential* constituent status. Other
criteria may (and I believe would) show that it is not in fact a
constituent. The sequence could be generated by two movement operations,
one moving EKEINOS plus the relative clause, and the other moving AUTON.

Then Clayton said:
>If all of this discussion seems rather off the wall then look at page 44
>of *Levels of Constituent Structure in New Testament Greek*,
>Micheal W. Palmer, (Peter Lang 1995) where this example appears.
>Micheal Palmer states that the word sequence *AUTON hWi TO PLEION
>EXARISATO* is not "a phrase level constituent (or a constituent of
>any kind) of any possible sentence."

And I will stand by this statement. I know of no syntactic test which would
demonstrate that AUTON hWi TO PLEION ECARISATO could serve as a constituent
of any clause. Perhaps Carl, with his wide knowledge of earlier Greek
texts, has seen an example of a sentence fragment consisting only of the
direct object plus a relative clause whose relative pronoun is dative case,
but even if he did, it would clearly not function like the sequence in this
sentence. Let's look at the sentence again (in the order in which it
appears in _Levels of Constituent Structure in New Testament Greek_, but
with the addition of the necessary EKEINOS):

        The one to whom he forgave more will love him more

Here AUTON serves as the object of AGAPHSEI. The relative clause, however,
does not modify AUTON, but the SUBJECT of AGAPHSEI, that is, EKEINOS. Of
course, in the book I omitted EKEINOS, but even so the relative clause
would have to be understood as modifying the subject (expressed only by the
verb ending) in order for the sentence to make sense in the context in
which its fragmentary counterpart appears in Luke 7:43. If it modified
AUTON (as Clayton appears to have assumed that I intended), it would mean
something like
        "He will love more the-one-to-whom-he-forgave-more"
This, of course, would make no sense in the context.

Clayton also wrote:
>. . . I am raising three questions
>for discussion. Are word sequences (1) and (2) intelligible NT Greek?
>Is the word sequence *AUTON hWi TO PLEION EXARISATO* a movable
>unit? If it is a movable unit does it qualify as a *constituent* of some

First, the word sequences in (1) and (2) are only marginably intelligible
NT Greek (with an elided subject EKEINOS or OUTOS understood). I should
have included the EKEINOS in my book, but I wanted to avoid the
complication of explaining where it came from. I clearly should have
included it, though, since without it the sentence does look very

Second, the word sequence *AUTON hWi TO PLEION ECARISATO* should not be
seen as a movable *UNIT*, though both AUTON and [EKEINOS] hWi TO PLEION
EXARISATO could conceivably be moved independently of each other.

For those of you who have some difficulty following this discussion, I
wrote _Levels of Constituent Structure_ with the assumption that the reader
would have no previous exposure to linguistics. The book introduces the
relevant linguistics concepts (like 'constituent') before the reader gets
to the example we are discussing here. You might ask Clay (off-list,
please, so that he won't feel inhibited by the posibility of offending me)
for an evaluation of how effectively I do that.

Thanks, Clayton, for raising some issues that need clarification. If I
reprint the book at any point, I will revise the way this example is

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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