Re: Mark ch 15, v. 2

Date: Tue Jun 09 1998 - 01:43:29 EDT

Dear George,

Thank's for your e-mail. I had brought up the SU LEGEIS of Jesus to Pilate in
Mark 15:2.

To answer your question as to whether my question had been answered: Edgar
Foster suggested a book by Earle, and Ben Crick suggested a book by CFD Moule,
"An Idiom Book of NT Greek." Ben Crick pointed out the prosecutorial import
of Pilate's question, and that that could affect Jesus' answer, which
consideration I also am concerned about. Ward Powers did an excellent job
comparing the other three gospels and how they illumine Mark's SU LEGEIS, and
Ward's argument was compelling I thought. I also acknowledge the truth of the
point of Carl Conrad and others, that idioms are hard to pin down.

I still have a few questions about SU LEGEIS:
(1) What is the significance of the grave accent on SU in Mark 15:2? For in
the paradigm of SU (or EGW), SU has the acute accent, not the grave.

I think most anyone would agree with the following statement: If we could hear
the intonation of the speech of the subjects, it would make a great difference
in our perception of their meaning. If we heard Jesus uttering SU LEGEIS (or
rather either of Mark or Peter when translating in his mind), what intonation
would it have?

As illustration of how intonation can change meaning almost 180 degrees,
consider these two different intonations of the English "You said it." If
the intonation of the 3 syllables was hi-lo-lo, and with "you" also louder
than the words "say it," that would be taken by me as non-affirmative. But if
it was mid-hi-mid, with volumes equal, then that would be an affirmative
response, similar to our "you've got it."

I understand that the meaning of the grave accent, that is, a line descending
from left to right, originally meant something similar to how intonation marks
are used in phonetics today: the grave accent would be either a descending
intonation or a lower pitch, the acute either a rising intonation or a higher
pitch, and the circumflex a rising-descending intonation. I base this partly
on a recorded lecture I heard 10 years ago by a Professor Stanford (of
Cambridge U., I think). I remember he said the total tonal range was a
musical fifth interval. But I'm not clear on what he said about the grave-
was it the 3rd interval, musically speaking, or the 5th? In other words, was
it starting high pitched dropping a 3rd to medium? Starting medium and
dropping a 3rd to low pitch? Starting high pitch and dropping a 5th, all the
way to low pitch? If I remember right, the grave was a 3rd interval, starting
from mid and dropping to low. Does this lecture ring a bell with anyone?

I just looked at all the occurrences of SU in the gospels, and out of the 113
occcurences, 93 have the grave accent, and only 20 the acute. There are 2
acutes in Matthew, 1 in Mark, 3 in Luke, and 14 in John. I think I can
report a few trends. There are as many acutely accented SU's in Jesus' prayer
in John 17 (six of them) as in all three synoptic gospels combined. The
occurrence in John 11:42 is also in a prayer. Interestingly, the only SU in
Mark with an acute accent, is also in a prayer, Mark 14:36. Matthew agrees
with Mark on this, Mt. 26:39. Could there be more to the expression "lifted
up his voice" in prayer than meets the eye? In prayer, perhaps the words were
spoken in a higher pitch. I know that in many cultures people speak in a
higher pitched voice when they pray. (Come to think of it, I myself do, when
making entreaty. And when I am entreating my fellow human, I also do this.
But when I am calmy stating facts, my voice is lower in pitch.)

Matthew and Luke agree (Mt. 11:23, Lk 10:15) about the acutley accented SU
when Jesus addresses the town of Capernaum and inveighs against it, condemning
it to Hades.

Consider also the word "acute" itself. It implies sharpness. And feelings
more keenly felt. Would one not feel and speak more keenly in an earnest
entreaty, and when inveighing against a wicked city? And when feeling fear?
(John 19:9, Pilate is afraid, and maybe Jn 4:19 where the woman is perhaps
afraid, perhaps surprised.) And the word "grave" clearly indicates a lower

Now, of the 20 acutely accented SU's in the gospels:

Nine, or 45%, are in a prayer. Mt 26:39, Mk 14:36, Jn 11:42; 17:5, 8, 21, 21,
23, 25. Possibly also Lk 22:32, and if so, would make 50%.

Eight, or 40%, are in an interrogatory sentence. Mt 11:23, Lk 10:15, 17:8,
John 1:21, 1:21, 13:6, 18:37, 19:9

Seven, or 35%, are the last word of a sentence. Mt 26:39, Mk 14:36, Lk 17:8,
Jn 1:21, 1:21, 4:19, 18:37a, 19:9

Five, or 25%, are the last word in an interrogatory sentence.

Four, or 20%, are in some sort of rebuke. Mt 11:23, Lk 10:15, Jn 13:6, 21:22.
Plus maybe Lk 17:8 and 22:32

I also noted that there are only 4 other acutely accented SU's in all the the
rest of the NT. One is Acts 10:33 where Cornelius is entreating Peter. All
of the remaining three are quotes of Psalm 2:7. (Acts 13:33, Heb. 1:5, 5:5)

In Jesus' answer to Pilate in all synoptic gospels, the grave accent is
present on the SU, and also in John 18:37. By the way, I noticed consistency
and agreement among the various gospels as to when EGW was acutely accented.
For example, even though EGW had the acute accent only 22% of the time, all
three gospels that have the saying agree that EGW had an acute accent when
Jesus assured the frightened disciples EGW EIMI when they saw him walking on
the water. (Mt 14:27, Mk 6:50, Jn 6:20) All three synoptics agreed that when
false prophets appear and claim, EGW EIMI, that EGW has the acute accent.
These are but a few examples of such consistency.

If there is a Greek scholar out there who is also an SIL linguist, who has
done a intonation analysis of ancient Greek, I would love to see such a
person's input. I know it is possible to know the tones of the accents. For
example, couldn't one study Aristophanes' Birds poem, in which the calls of
known species of bird are imitated and written down? By comparing the accents
in that poem to how the birds still call today, as to where the pitch rises
and falls, shouldn't we be able to deduce the pitch of the three Greek
accents? I think I am remembering this also from Professor Stanford.

I see some other hints in the NT that the acute accent still, at least
sometimes, indicated a raising of the pitch of the voice. By this I mean a
raising of the pitch of the voice, musically speaking, and not necessarily
accompanied by the raising of the volume as we tend to think as English
speakers. For example, I noticed in Luke 11:27 where he says that a woman in
the crowd "lifted up her voice," EPARASA TIS PHWNHN GUNH EK TOU OCLOU, Luke
even on the word for "raise" adds an extra acute accent on the last syllable
that is not called for to indicate grammatically the word's part of speech.
The nom. sing. fem. aor. 1 active participle form in a paradigm would have
only one acute accent, on the second syllable. But Luke puts a second acute
accent also on the last syllable. This must be for pitch effect? In the same
way, in the quote of the woman following, on the word BASTASASA, Luke added a
second, grammatically unnecessary acute accent to the last syllable. So Luke
even when he states that she "raised her voice," raises his own pitch in
mimicry when he says the word "raise." And when he quotes the woman, he has
her speaking more high-pitched syllables than usual.

So I am beginning to think that the SU in Mark 15:2 is less emphatic than I
formerly thought. Yet, the presence of the pronoun is not necesary for the
sense, or the completeness of the sentence, right? So to some degree, its
very presence is emphatic? In Jesus' response to the Sanhedrin in Matthew
26:64, there is some emphasis on SU because of contrast to what Jesus says he
himself says: "SU EIPAS. PLEEN LEGW hUMIN..." In John 18:37 when Pilate
asked him the second time if he was a king, Jesus answered, SU LEGEIS hOTI
BASILEUS EIMI. EGW EIS TOUTO..." Here again SU has the grave accent. Jesus
contrasted Pilate's idea of his being a king, versus what Jesus said he came
for, to testify to the truth. Jesus wasn't necessarily denying kingship, in
fact he had already said "My kingship is not of this place."

Regards to all,
David Palmer

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