Re: Mk 3.28

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Apr 19 1999 - 06:45:56 EDT

At 10:56 AM +0100 4/19/99, Maurice A. O'Sullivan wrote:
>At 20:52 18/04/99 -0400, you wrote:
>>There's a construction in Mk 3:28 that isn't making sense to me: KAI HAI
>>BLASPhHMIAI HOSA BLASPhHMHSWSIN. For the whole verse I have the following:
>>Amen, I say to you that all sins will be forgiven the sons of men and the
>>blasphemies whatever they should blaspheme. "The blasphemies" should be the
>>subject of "should blaspheme," since one would expect the neuter plural HOSA
>>to take a singular verb. I suspect there's a sense to the relative HOSA
>>that I'm missing. None of the major English translations has helped.
>I think the NRSV translation should help:
>"3:28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and
>whatever blasphemies they utter;
>This concentrates on "people" lit. 'sons of men'.
>Surely it is only because AFEQHSETAI is a passive that what is forgiven
>to the _person_ becomes the subject, with the person forgiven going into
>the dative.
>But with the aorist subjunctive which follows "as many as" the verb is
>plural because now we revert again to the "sons of men" as the 'people' who
>Does this make sense?

Maurice is, of course, absolutely right about the subjects and agreements
in these clauses of this verse, but I think there remains the slightly
awkward relative pronoun hOSA in the neuter plural though having the fem.
nom. plural hAI BLASFHMIAI as its antecedent. If one looks carefully at the
sentence as a whole, KAI hAI BLASFHMIAE hOSA BLASFHMHSWSIN is a gloss or
secondary addition to a sentence that reads much more easily without those
don't mean to say that KAI hAI BLASFHMIAI hOSA BLASFHMMSWSIN was added
later by a scribe or redactor, but simply that the construction of PANTA
... hAMARTHMATA is logically complete; but then there follows KAI hAI KTL
in the sense, "and also the blasphemies, whatsoever ones they
blaspheme/utter." Although the author could have written hOSAS EAN
BLASFHMHSWSIN, he has assimilated in structure the second relative clause
to the first with its neuter plural subject. This is not at all uncommon in
Greek; it's sometimes called "constructio ad sensum," and one can find it
in Greek all the way back to Homer: a first subject and a predicate are
stated, and then a second subject is appended, but the gender or number
remains governed by the number and/or gender of the first subject.

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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