Re: Does Mark 8:7 use an imperative infinitive' ?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun May 09 1999 - 08:54:27 EDT

At 8:45 AM -0400 5/9/99, Jay Adkins wrote:
>Dear Mr. Carl W. Conrad:
>Please forgive my ignorance, but I am unsure I understand your response.
>You said;
><<The only problem I see is in transcription: the infinitive is PARATIQENAI
>(AI, not IA).>>
>Sorry for the typo.
><<Here EIPEN must be understood to have the sense EKELEUSEN, "he
>bade/ordered (them) to serve these also." In English we can use "tell" this
>way, but Greek does not that commonly use LEGW in the sense of "order" with
>an infinitive.>>
>I had noticed that the other major translations seem to also agree that "he
>bade/ordered (them) to serve these also."
>7 They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered
>these to be served as well. (NASB)
>7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told
>the disciples to distribute them. (NIV)
> 7 And they had a few small fishes: and he blessed, and commanded to set
>them also before [them]. (KJS)
>The fact that none of the 18 translations I checked translated that last
>clause the way I did was the reason for the question in the first place.
>While I translate for myself first, my lack of confidence in my skills is
>such that I always check it against what others have done to see if there
>is any agreement at all. In this case I found no agreement with what I had
>written, but still do not understand why not. Most of the time when there
>is not agreement from someone else's work, I am able to understand my
>So if I change from;
>8:7 They also had a few small fish, having blessed them, He said, "Now
>serve these."
>8:7 They also had a few small fish, having blessed them, He commanded them,
>"Now serve these."
>Would that fix the problem?

My only question is why you want to change what is an INDIRECT command in
the Greek to a DIRECT command in your version. I grant that it has the same
sense, but it is altering the text to the extent that there's a difference
of sorts between "I'm telling you to do this" and "I tell you, 'Do this'."
Not a great difference, perhaps, but an INDIRECT command, such as is
achieved by the infinitive after EIPEN or after EKELEUSEN, does not pretend
to give the exact words of the command but to indicate their intent. And
that's what we have here in Mk 8:7. And you will note that all the versions
you have cited are careful to preserve that INDIRECT command in the format
that it is in in the Greek.

>Also let me ask one more question. Why "EIPEN must be understood to have
>the sense EKELEUSEN"? I do not question you are correct, I just want to
>understand why you are correct. Why not 'He instructed them' for example?

As I said originally, this is not at all common in older Greek but it seems
to be more common in Hellenistic Greek, to use the verb LEGW (in all its
varied forms in different tenses) to mean not simply "say" but "tell" in
the sense of "tell somebody to do something"--in English "tell" is the
equivalent of "command" in that idiomatic expression. I think that EIPEN in
Mk 8:47 is being used exactly like "told them to serve that also" in the
English versions.

>I had considered asking this off the list so as not to further embarrass
>myself, but decided to put it on the list so as to encourage others like
>myself to be bold. It often helps me when I read others' questions that
>may seem simply to many of the scholars on the list. I feel there are more
>ĪLittle Greeks' like me who are often hesitant to ask questions, even when
>they fail after doing all the research they are capable of.

I approve. And I hope we can continue to make this a welcoming and helpful
list for learners of Greek at all levels.

Regards, Carl

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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