Re: Neuter article in Rom 9:5

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Mar 15 1998 - 10:38:25 EST

At 7:03 PM -0600 3/13/98, Jack and Lynn Painter wrote:
>George Blaisdell writes:
>>KATA SARKA is introduced in 9:3 describing the Israelites, then
>>reappears in 9:5 with TO as an emphatic that gives it much greater
>>power as an attribution of the Christ. I think Paul might write like
>>he talks, and if that is true, reading him aloud, as a orator almost,
>>in the Greek, could be helpful...
>The difficulty with this interpretation is that the article is neuter and
>as far as I can see does not agree in any way with what precedes and if
>intruducing an adjectival prepositional phrase would usually agree in case,
>gender and number. In fact the very next article does agree with HO
>If one looks beyond 9:5 to 9:7 two possibilities arise, SPERMA, used twice,
>and TEKNA both neuter. SPERMA is the most likely choice since it is neuter
>singular (and agrees with Paul's point in Galatians 3:16). This would then
>make the article kataphoric, or pointing forward to what it agrees with.

As I noted in my original post when I forwarded the message that came to
me, there's a tendency in the Greek language to substantivize notions that
are expressed in just about any manner whatsoever by sticking a neuter
article in front of them; the effect is about the same as when we put
quotation marks around a phrase and use it as a substantive, e.g.:

        1. It's not right to give the children's food to the dogs.
        2. In the sentence above "children" refers to Jews, while "dogs"
        to "gentiles."
        1. Hit him again harder! Let's go to town.
        2. "going to town" is a slange expression for carrying to completion
        whatever action the context indicates one is referring to.

The strangest such expression I think I've ever run into is a recurrent
formula in Aristotle, who creates a substantive by sticking a TO in front
of the indirect question TI HN EINAI, "to be what it was"--so TO TI HN
EINAI becomes a noun that Aristotle manipulates as the subject or object of
a verb or the object of a preposition.

Similarly as far back as Attic Greek adverbial phrases of more than one
word were being "enclosed" (as it were) within an articular construction to
turn them into a substantive--and then the substantive is used in the
neuter accusative and functions as an adverb, e.g.

        The prepositional phrase KATA MEROS = "in part"
        The phrase becomes a substantive with TO --> TO KATA MEROS
        Used as an accusative the phrase TO KATA MEROS is itself an adverb =

Now we readily understand that there's no significant difference of meaning
between TO KATA MEROS, the substantival adverb, and KATA MEROS, the
prepositional phrase used adverbially. It's just that in the course of
linguistic change these articular adverbs tended to grow ever more
common--and I'm not really convinced that the form with TO is really any
more emphatic than the form without it.
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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