Re: John 1:3 Who is AUTOU?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Sep 19 1997 - 08:45:59 EDT

At 6:52 AM -0500 9/19/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>At 03:30 PM 9/18/97 -0700, lakr wrote:
>>The subject of John 1:1 is hO LOGOS. At John 1:2 John continues
>>talking about the Logos as the subject as hOUTOUS (this one)
>>still refers to the subject of verse 1. While TON QEON occurs in
>>closer proximity to AUTOU in verse three, the subject of verse three is still
>>the Logos. I think that Greek is the same as English here, in that
>>a subject cannot be found in a prepositional phrase like the PROS TON QEON,
>>in verse 2.
>I've been looking for a rule like this - unfortunately, I haven't been able
>to find a rule like this stated in my Greek grammars, perhaps because I'm
>looking for the wrong terms in the index, perhaps because they just gloss
>this over. Lars suggests that only the subject of a previous sentence can be
>the antecedent of a pronoun.

        [There follow several illustrations wherein the antecedent
        of the pronoun is ambiguous]

>What syntactic rules can we use to help us find the antecedent for a
>pronoun? Are there any clear-cut rules that are not syntactic? (E.g., the
>main subject of a passage is more likely to be the antecedent?)

Unfortunately, so far as I know, there are no hard and fast rules governing
antecedents of pronouns in general, although there are some common patterns
(as, e.g., that a form of hODE generally refers forward to something about
to be mentioned, while a form of hOUTOS generally refers backwaards to
something just previously mentioned, and if you have forms of both hOUTOS
and EKEINOS in sequence, hOUTOS refers back to the most recently mentioned
("the latter") while EKEINOS refers back to the more remote previously
mentioned antecedent.

BUT these are general patterns rather than absolute rules. My own feeling
is that it is the mark of a more careful Greek writer NOT to be ambiguous
about pronoun reference,

BUT: the text of Aristotle is quite notorious for the ambiguity of
antecedents of pronouns, particularly when there are neuter singular
pronouns (like TOUTO or hO\) that may very well represent masculine or
feminine, singular or plural antecedents. And I think this fact about
Aristotle's text is one of the reasons that some have felt that these are
"lecture notes" rather than careful prose compositions meant for general

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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