Re: The Nature of Greek Definite Article in Mk 2:23

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Apr 17 1999 - 06:16:08 EDT

At 12:25 AM -0500 4/17/99, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>Dear B-Greekers,
>In Mk 2:23, I read EN TOIS SABBASIN. It is translated to "In One Sabbath".
>I wonder why definite article is used if it means "a certain sabbath day"?
>Is it related to the nature of Greek definite article, which is not
>found in English?
>Also, why plural SABBASIN?

(a) It could and often is translated, "on the Sabbath"--i.e., on the
Sabbath day of the week. I don't think "in one Sabbath" is very clear, but
I think what's intended is that there's no specification of when in the
year this is but only that the day of the week happens to be the Sabbath. I
would say that the article is used here because the writer intends the
particular day of the week to be understood; It's noteworthy that SABBATON,
whether singular or plural is accompanied by an article in 105 instances in
the GNT, while it is unaccompanied by an article only 21 times (acc. to
AcCordance); evidently usage WITH the article is more or less standard: it
is THE Sabbath day, distinctive as other days of the week are not,
therefore is given the article.

(b) As I recall, when this has come up before, there have been two or three
answers suggested as to why the plural is used--as it often is (see the
lexica) for this one day of the week. I'm not sure that any was definitive;
I recall having offered my own guess (nothing more than that, and probably
to be doubted since this is Jewish practice, not Greek): Greek words for
festivals or rituals are regularly neuter plurals.

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

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