Re: Direct / Indirect Speech

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Nov 25 1998 - 10:57:50 EST

<x-flowed>At 9:43 AM -0500 11/25/98, James C. Williams wrote:
>>At 3:12 PM +0000 11/24/98, Jim West wrote:
>>>>Take for instance these two sentences.
>>>>1. Many will come and say I am the Christ and decieve many.
>>>>2. Many will come and say: "I am the Christ"; and decieve many.
>>>I dont see any difference between these 2 sentences.
>>I think Juan means to say:
>>1. Many will come and say I [meaning Jesus] am the Christ ...
>>2. Many will come and say I [meaning themselves] am the Christ ...
>>The differentiation between these two interpretations
>>is made clear by the context. It seems obvious that
>>Jesus is not warning us against those who come and
>>point to the true Messiah, doesn't it? That would be
>>an outrageous interpretation of Jesus's words.
> I don't see how the context drives that conclusion. Just tune in to TV
> preachers and you are likely to hear someone pointing to Jesus as the
> Messiah and yet leading many astray ("your faith is a force; if you use the
> force correctly, you will change your reality" and other such stuff). It
> is outrageous, but it happens all the time, so it is possible that Jesus
> could mean that.
> But I still have not seen an answer to Juan's question about the ability of
> Greek text to distinguish direct and indirect quotation.

I think everything that's been said hitherto is correct, but it clearly
hasn't cleared up the problem. I'm not sure I can either, but I'll try.
Here's the text in question:

Mt 24:5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I(Jesus) am Christ; and

(a) To start with, I'll note that in UBS4 and UBS3 the editor indicates
that direct quotation begins with EGW EIMI by printing EGW with upper-case
E; in NA27 the editor indicates this by using the raised dot, the normal
Greek punctuation equivalent of a colon, immediately after LEGONTES. It is
clear, therefore, that the editors of the standard GNT texts understand EGW
EIMI hO CRISTOS as a direct quotation.

(b) Nevertheless, since the judgment of an editor or editorial committee is
always open to question--although one ought to have done one's homework
before questioning that judgment, I'd say--, the question is: what are the
criteria on the basis of which the editor(s) have understood the EGW EIMI
clause to be a direct quotation? And here we can tick off the standard ways
in which this is done:
        (1) In classical Attic there are two common ways of indicating direct
quotation: a) by putting a hOTI in front of the direct quotation; this is
still a standard way in the NT era, and I think beginning Greek students
are commonly taught that a hOTI before a clause may often be translated
with a quotation mark introducing a direct citation; b) another way is to
sandwich a common verb form meaning "I said" or "s/he said" in the middle
of a direct quotation (e.g. HN D'EGW or H D' hOS). As I recall, one
sometimes sees this in Acts, but it's not really common in the GNT.
        (2) In Mt 24:5 there's no introductory hOTI and there's also no
sandwiched form equivalent to "they will say"; nevertheless there is a
clear indicator in the changed person and number of the verb: THEY will
come, saying--but--I AM THE CHRIST. This, I think, is the real answer to
the question of how we know this is a direct quotation.
        (3) Indirect quotation is more clear-cut in classical Attic: an
introductory verb will be followed by an accusative-subject (a nominative
if it's identical with the subject of the cited clause) and
infinitive-predicate along with any modifiers; and one sees indirect
quotation often enough in the GNT, although it doesn't fall as neatly into
standard patterns as in classical Attic. Nevertheless, this is the pattern
we would have, I think, if Matthew had meant, "Many will come in my name
and say to you that I (i.e. Jesus) am the Christ"--and it would be phrased

I hope this helps.

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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