Re: "a" or "the" ??

From: Dale M. Wheeler (
Date: Thu Mar 26 1998 - 11:40:12 EST

Allison Sanders wrote:

>I have just completed an assignment for my Mark class, and am
>interested to know what other people think of this question. We were
>asked to write a brief paper discussing whether the centurion
>considered Jesus to be THE son of God, or A son of God in Mark 15:39.
>There is no definite article preceding hUIOS so that is wherein lies
>the diffciulty.
>We had to present the options, and then make a decision for ourselves
>based on what we studied. I have made my decision, but I would love to
>know what the general concensus would be concerning this (if there is

This is actually a very simple problem of Greek grammar called
Apollonius' Canon, ie., a head noun and one associated to it in the
genitive will frequently BOTH have or BOTH lack the article, however
NO conclusions can be drawn in such situations about the definiteness
or indefiniteness of either noun based on the presence or absense of
the article...I think I've written this in a bgreek post before.

Mark 15:39 reads: hO ANQRWPOS hUOIS QEOU HN.

hUOIS is anarthrous because its the predicate ("the man" is articular
subject). QEOU is then written without the article for symmetry. Thus
this phrase could be understood any of the following ways, apart from
a context to guide you (context includes the whole of Mark's Gospel !).

son of god
son of a god
son of the god
a son of god
a son of a god
a son of the god
the son of god
the son of a god
the son of the god

I think that's all of them...

At this point the contextual and theological materials given in some of
the other posts come into play (though there's some of it I personally
disagree'll have to sort that out... (-; ).

This construction, and a couple of others (eg., Indirect discourse) are
ones I'm ALWAYS asking my first and second year students about as they
read the GNT. These features of Greek are so dissimilar from English
that the GNT reader has to constantly be aware of them and force oneself
to get familiar and comfortable with them. I frequently find incredible
amounts of nonsense about the article in places one would never suspect
simply because the writer/speaker didn't notice that they were looking
at Apollonius' Canon.


Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail:

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