Re: PRWTH in Lk 2:2

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Sep 27 1998 - 18:48:30 EDT

At 8:16 AM -0500 9/27/98, Ricardo y Judith Garrett wrote:
>Denny Diehl writes:
>Thanks to Carl and Jonathan for such helpful
>comments on Lk 2:2. Last night I was doing some
>reading and ran across an F. F. Bruce comment
>on this very topic:
> "Luke 2:2, which mentions Quirinius in
> connexion with an earlier census, is best
> translated: "This enrollment was before
> that made when Quirinius was governor
> of Syria." (cf. N. Turner, Grammatical
> Insights Into The Greek New Testament
> [ Edinburgh, 1966 ], pp. 23f).
>This is found in Bruce's, New Testament History, p32
>note 1.
>My comment is that this is also the translation adopted by Nolland in the
>Word Biblical Commentary on Luke.

I hope that someone will go beyond offering us this translation as "best"
and explain to us, whether from Turner's Grammatical Insights into the
Greek New Testament, or elsewhere, just what the justification for this
translation on the basis of the Greek text might be.

I shall not repeat the arguments I offered in response to the original
query on Friday, which I see no reason as yet to alter. What amazes me
about the above is that the Greek of Lk 2:2 offers nothing corresponding to
the phrase "that made." Apparently hHGEMONEUONTOS THS SURIAS KURHNIOU is
even in this view understood as a genitive absolute functioning as an
adverbial time reference for hAUTH APOGRAFH PRWTH EGENETO--so that PRWTH
EGENETO is somehow being understood as "was made before" without any
genitive hanging upon the PRWTH. I would very much like to see how Turner
is understanding the Greek text here, because it certainly appears to me
that there's a missing link between the Greek text of UBS4/NA27 in this
verse and the translation, "This enrollment was before that made when
Quirinius was governor of Syria." That is to say, it looks like PRWTH must
be understood absolutely to mean "before X" without any expression in the
Greek of what X is.

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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