Re: Mark 6:2 Question about TI"

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Feb 16 1999 - 08:30:15 EST

At 7:54 AM -0600 2/16/99, Jay Adkins wrote:
>TI" is used in 493 passages in the NT according to a search in Gramcord.
>According to BDB/Thayer it is translated in the "AV - what 260, who 102,
>why 67, whom 25, which 17, misc 67; 538". Every single translation I have
>checked has used the word ╬what' in Mark 6:2. Can someone please tell me
>why it can not be translated ╬why'? Using Gramcord to search the NASU NT
>for every use of the term ╬why' produced no uses of the form ╬TI"' only
>╬TI.' There were a few other terms used, but never ╬TI".' If the reason
>is that only the neuter singular accusative can be translated ╬why', please
>tell me why that is. The context of Mark 6:2 would seem to support the
>question, "why is wisdom given to him?"
>Thank you for helping an idiot who dosn't like to agree just because
>everyone else does. Sure would save time if I did though. I just like to
>understand why.

The first problem here is that you've evidently pasted the form <TI"> from
Gramcord into your e-mail message. While I use the Macintosh version of the
same program, Accordance, myself, I still had to look up the passage in Mk
6:2 to find out that you were talking about the m./f. interrogative pronoun
TIS rather than the neuter interrogative TI. In the introductory welcome
message that is sent out to new subscribers there are several suggestions
for transliteration schemes to represent Greek in Roman ASCII characters;
pasting from a program that uses a Greek font directly into e-mail may
yield something that shows up correctly on your screen, but it is not
likely to appear correctly on the screens of other list-members. I would
urge list-members please to endeavor to transliterate Greek for
intelligibility to others.

Now to the question itself. The Greek word here is TIS in Mk 6:2:


Literally, supplying the verb ESTI which is commonly understood in Greek of
all eras, this is: "Whence to this one (are) these things? And what (is)
the wisdom (that has been) given to this one?"

The only form of the interrogative pronoun TIS/TI that will ever take the
sense "why?" is the neuter TI, and it is usually pretty clear from the
context when we should understand it that way. In Mk 6:2 we have the common
m/f gender form TIS to agree with the subject of the clause, hH SOFIA; if
the sentence were talking about a woman named Sophia, then the TIS might
even be translated "who?" here, but in fact the context makes it perfectly
clear that the speakers recognize powers and insight present in Jesus and
that they are asking about the source and nature of these powers and this
insight. Since SOFIA is feminine gender, the form of the pronoun needed to
agree with it is TIS, not TI--but since "wisdom" is not a person but a
thing and the TIS can't be conveyed with "who?" in this instance, "what?"
is the only ordinary English appropriate. I would understand the syntax of
the clause as "And the wisdom having-been-given to this one (is) what?"

This is pretty basic Greek grammar, an item that can indeed be confusing to
new learners of Greek, but the real answer to this question lies, I think,
in understanding how the gender forms must function in agreement here.

I hope this will clarify WHY the translators are right in using "what?" here.

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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