Re: PRWTH in Lk 2:2

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Sep 28 1998 - 08:50:05 EDT

<x-flowed>At 8:20 AM -0500 9/28/98, wrote:
>Denny Diehl here
>I retrieved my copy of Turner's Grammar and will note
>his comments.
>>> "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).
>>I hope that someone will go beyond offering us this translation as
>>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.
>The above reference to Nigel Turner's A Grammar Of New Testament
>Greek, Vol III Syntax will be found on page 32 in the section The
>Comparison Of Adjectives And Adverbs. I will quote him as follows:
> "8. Superlative for Comparative
> "To complete the picture, PRWTOS and ESCATOS must
> be mentioned here. PRWTOS = PROTEROS ... Mt 27.64
> 15:18 BEFORE US. PRWTOS meaning FORMER and
> ESCATOS meaning LATTER occur in Mt 27:64. Thus
> PRWTOS in Ac 1:1 is ambiguous: either Luke is guilty of
> a popular Hellenistic mannerism or he intended to write
> three volumes. Similarly difficult is Lk 2:2 hAUTH hH
> APOGRAFH PRWTH. It is the first census of a series
> (if class. Greek); or first of two (if Hellenistic). And if
> Hellenistic it could mean either the first census of the two
> made by Quirinius, or the census before the (greater)
> census made by Quirinius"
>Carl, your comments please. All the best.

Thanks very much, Denny. I think actually that all I had to say about this
matter was pretty well set forth in my initial response on Friday. My
thanks to Mark Goodacre for calling attention to Dan Wallace's online
discussion of this passage at

As I noted originally, the text of Lk 2:2 reads hAUTH APOGRAFH PRWTH
is to say, PRWTH is not attribute to APOGRAFH but predicative and to be
construed with EGENETO. The sense must therefore be, "This census first
took place ...," not "This the first of (two) censuses took place ..." (and
even if this latter sense had been what the author meant, how could the
real point of the assertion be that the census in question, at which time
Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem, is DIFFERENT from the census about which
the author is giving us information here?

I think it is quite evident that this explanation is an agenda-driven
exegesis of Luke 2:2. The problem of how this indicator of date (6 A.D.) is
to be squared with the indication in Luke 1 (no later than 4 B.C.) cannot
be resolved by distorting the Greek text. There are other suggestions that
have been made for resolving the chronological discrepancy, but they
concern historical facts about the military career of Quirinius, not the
Greek text. My concern in this discussion has been focused strictly on how
the Greek text of this passage may be legitimately understood.

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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