Re: Mt 12:6

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Aug 13 1998 - 07:26:43 EDT

At 6:36 AM -0400 8/13/98, Lena Lybaek ( wrote:
>I am new to the list, and prefer to remain in the background to read and
>learn. I would, however, very much like your response to the following:
>My question is: what does MEIZON actually refer to. I have, even in print,
>supported R. Gundry, in reading it christologically. He states "The neuter
>gender of MEIZON stresses the quality of superior greatness [ie. of Jesus]
>rather than Jesus' personal identity." (Gundry, Matthew, Grand Rapids, 1982)
>U. Luz however (EKK 1) reads the adjective in correspondence with ELEOS in
>the next sentence.
>I have understood the use of MEIZON in Mt 12:6, to be related to the use of
>comparison definately is made between two male figures and that something
>which is greater, but still using a neuter form. The neuter makes Luz
>sceptical to a christological interpretation here as well.
>Could perhaps someone explain the use of the neuter to me on these two

So far as the use of the neuter is concerned, this is a relatively simple
matter (I think) of the substantival use of the adjective, which in this
instance is a neuter comparative nominative functioning as the subject of
the subordinate clause. We generally start off understanding such
substantival adjectives by supplying "thing" with the sense of the
adjective; so here: "a greater thing than the temple." PLEION is used in
the same way in Mt 12:41,42. One COULD argue that the neuter is used
because the TERTIUM COMPARATIONIS is hIERON, a neuter noun, but I don't
think that explanation would work. Classical Attic would probably have used
a TI with the the MEIZON here (something like: "hOTI TOU hIEROU MEIZON TI
ESTIN hWDE"), but it isn't really strictly necessary. There may be a
Semitism behind this expression here, and the introduction with the IDOU
certainly suggests that.

As for Gundry's and Luz's remarks, I frankly don't think either one is
warranted, although Gundry's appears to me to be interpreting a correct
interpretation of the grammar, while Luz appears to be (without seeing his
commentary I may be misjudging what he actually says) construing the text
implicitly as 'hOTI TOU hIEROU MEIZON ESTIN ELEOS.' If that's the case, I
don't see any warrant for it, but if he means that when Mt's Jesus says,
"There is something greater here than the temple," he is referring to the
divine requirement to show compassion, I think he is more nearly on target
regarding what Matthew intends this pericope to mean. Although one might
reasonably suppose that a Christological element is present in Mt's
formulation of this pericope, I personally think that the center of gravity
in the teaching of the rabbi Jesus here is rather on the insistence on
compassion: that is a leitmotif in Matthew's gospel, coloring even the
Christology in the recurrent motif of a PRAiOS BASILEUS.

>(And even better: how does it relate to the masculine form MEIZWN in Mt
>11:11 in the comparative sentence with John the Baptist: OUK EGHGERTAI EN

Here too, I think we must say that the masculine (actually common MF)
gender is occasioned by the fact that the substantive adjective implicitly
refers to a PERSON: "There hasn't arisen among those born of women a
(person/man) greater than John the Baptist."

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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