Re: Mark 3.1

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue May 11 1999 - 13:41:12 EDT

At 9:16 AM -0400 5/11/99, Moon-Ryul Jung wrote:
>Dear B-greekers,
>I am puzzled by Mark 3.1:
>Most translations render it as
>There was a man who had a withered hand. (a)
>It indicates that the participle EXHRAMMENHN is taken to be
>attributive, and the article THN is taken to refer to a particular
>kind of hand, "THE withered hand". I sort of remember that someone
>on the list said Greek article does not necessarily refer to a
>definite object, but it can refer to a particular kind (which is
>not so common in English, I guess). Is rendering (a) good enough in
>terms of Greek grammar?

Yes, I think so. I think THN here is not so much a definite article as such
but rather the common usage of the article with something belonging to the
subject, so that THN = 'his.'

>What about the literal rendering as follows?
>Was there a man having the (ie., his) hand withered. (b)

The only problem with this is that, if you start a sentence with 'was' in
English, it looks like it's interrogative. Generally when forms of EINAI
are existential in Greek, however, they do come first in the clause. In
English however we have to supply an "expletive" (the kind that MUSTN'T be
deleted!) to satisfy the English-speaking mind's requirement for something
in the place of a subject ahead of the verb in a declarative sentence.
Therefore we must say, "There was there a man having his hand withered" --
in which instance the first "there" is an expletive with nothing
corresponding to it in the Greek other than the fact that HN is
existential, while the second "there" is for EKEI, the demonstrative adverb.

>I would have no problem with this rendering, especially because
>Carl taught me to consider participles without article "predicative"
>without clear evidence to the contrary.

Yes, at any rate, I wouldn't assume it's attribute, although I wouldn't
want to say that you can't have an attribute adjective with an anarthrous
noun; I just think that the THN in this instance is idiomatic for the
pronoun AUTOU.

>The above rendering reminds me of a sentence I memorized when I learned
>English grammar:
>I had my hair cut (c).
>This implies that I let SOMEONE cut my hair, and "have" in this
>context has meaning similar to "cause".

Properly speaking, I think one might say that "cut" here is a shortened
form of the passive infinitive "to be cut" where "cut" is actually the
participle of a periphrastic infinitive.

>I guess that we might have
>sentences like (c) even when the agent that caused the state
>is not clearly in view. Does ECW have such a causative
>meaning? If not, the literal rendering would mean
>"There was a man possessing the (his) hand withered" (d).
>(d) does not make sense to me. Any comments?

No; actually I think a different Greek colloquial idiom is in play here,
one that I've observed frequently but that I don't recall ever seeing
discussed in a grammar: the participle of ECW is frequently used in Greek
to express the notion of accompaniment or association with the subject of a
verb. That is why the most common idiomatic translation of Mark 3:1 is "And
there was a man there WITH a withered hand." The instance of this that
comes most readily to my mind is a sentence in a speech from
pseudo-Demosthenes (KATA NEAIRAS) appearing in _Reading Greek_, the
textbook I use to teach Beginning Attic. It is as follows:

        AUTHN PANTACOI EPOREUETO ... " ... but upon arriving in Athens, he kept
        treating her abusively and would go anywhere to dinner parties with
        her." ECWN AUTHN is the expression I'm referring to.

Here's another:

        PANTA ... APODIDRASKEI EIS MEGARA. " ... she gathered up everything of
        Phrynion from his house and ran away with them to Megara." In this
        instance the relevant expression is ECOUSA TAUTA PANTA.

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

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