Re: Concord of Gender and Number

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Aug 20 1998 - 08:20:16 EDT

At 10:31 PM -0700 8/19/98, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>> >
>> The fundamental rules are not complex. Normally an adjectival modifier or
>> pronoun is going to agree with its noun or antecedent in number, gender,
>> and case, although a pronoun will take its case primarily from its function
>> within its own clause. Normally a singular subject will take a singular
>> verb and a plural subject will take a plural verb (in older Greek a dual
>> subject may take a dual verb, of course).
>What about apparent lack of concord in gender with a neuter adjective? Let's
>revisit the Matt 12:6 question about the referent of MEIZON/MEIZWN. Let's
>assume just for the sake of the concord discussion that this adjective refers
>the Christ. If we knew without a doubt that this referred to Christ, would the
>neuter form cause us consternation?
>Apparently it did cause a number of scribes consternation or we would not have
>the alternate reading MEIZWN. But was their consternation justified? Simply
>stated, is the use of MEIZON to refer to Christ a violation of concord because
>of gender?
>For what it's worth (not much), I do not think the scribes consternation was
>justified. I read MEIZON as an indirect and somewhat figurative reference to
>Christ which is intentionally vague. The neuter gender is appropriate to the
>purpose, it provides vagueness. It is quite possible that MEIZON may have a
>broader referent like the King and his Kingdom. There are also other
>alternatives worth considering.

Well, for my part, I don't think there's anything abnormal in the Greek
about the MEIZON, even if some of the scribes may have had a problem. If
one cared to
examine the whole range of variants in the entire GNT, my guess is that one
would find a great abundance of instances of want of concord in them.
Personally, I DON'T care to undertake such an examination, and I'd be ready
to explain them away as human error rather than as real violations of the
grammatical rule. I am appalled often enough on re-reading what I myself
have written (particularly in e-mail!) that violates grammatical rules in
one way or another or shows some sort of anacoluthon that is clearly
occasioned by failure to think through the whole construction before
starting to write.

There are some other passages that have been discussed on this list at one
time or another that appear problematic because of the distance between an
adjective or participle from its referent noun, as, for example, John 1:14,
where the adjective PLHRHS can only be construed with LOGOS back at the
beginning of this rather long verse, or Mark 7:19, where the participle
KAQARIZWN can only be construed as agreeing with the implicit subject of
LEGEI at the beginning of 7:18. Instances like this last one have triggered
complex controversies regarding Kompositionsgeschichte and wild (or
not-so-wild) explanations of the relationship of the extant Greek text and
its variants to some conjectured Hebrew or Aramaic original upon which the
Greek is theoretically dependent. I rather doubt that such controversies
will find ultimately satisfying resolution in the eyes of all who engage in
them. And there are always those who will want to claim that Mark's Greek
was not really very good (although it's certainly better than my French or
German and often enough better than my English) and that the author of
Revelation was literate enough to compass a vast tradition of symbolism and
literary allusions but not literate enough to observe the norms of Greek
grammar very consistently.

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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