Re: PLEIW in Matt 26:53

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri May 21 1999 - 06:56:00 EDT

<x-rich>At 8:46 PM -0400 5/20/99, Jean-Francois Racine wrote:

>In Matt 26:53, one finds the clause PLEIW [H] DWDEKA LEGIWNAS


>1. Is PLEIW a comparative here? If it is the case, what is the point



>2. What is the grammatical explanation of the presence of [H] in

>MSS such as C E W Delta Pi Omega fam1 fam13 33 565?


>3. Blass/Debrunner/Funk par. 185 speaks of genitive of comparison,

>still, I have difficulty to see what is the point of comparison.


>Could someone shed some light on this point?


>Jean-Francois Racine

(1) Yes: PLEIW is indeed comparative--neuter plural accusative, I think
(contracted from PLEIOSA after loss of intervocalic sigma, -IOS- being
the alternative comparative infix equivalent to what we are
taught--wrongly--is the more common comparative infix -ION-, which
would have yielded the form PLEIONA for neuter plural nom./acc. One of
my peeves about the standard teaching of Greek grammar is that these
alternative forms of comparatives in -IOS- are alluded to in footnotes
in the grammars as poor relations, when in fact the -IOS- forms are
really more common in Attic and Ionic than the -ION- forms--and Koine,
it should be remembered, is essentially Ionic dialect with a somewhat
lax Attic grammar.

(2/3) The phrase has to mean, does it not, "more THAN twelve legions of
angels"? Then "twelve legions of angels" is the element of comparison;
the standard grammatical construction for comparison is to put H
(originally and literally "or", but used as a disjunctive conjunction
in comparison also) if both items in the comparison are in the same
case, or to put the second item of comparison into an ablatival
genitive "of comparison."

There remains a question here about why the comparison doesn't need the
H; here's what Smyth (1920) at the Perseus site says:

<color><param>0000,7777,0000</param>1074. In statements of number and
measure may be omitted after the adverbial comparatives pleon (plein)
more, ela_tton (meion) less, which do not alter their case and number:
pempei ouk ela_tton deka pherontas pur he sends not less than ten men
carrying fire Xen. Hell. 4.5.4, polis pleon pentakischi_lin andrn a
city of more than 5000 men 5. 3. 16. Even when is kept, pleon
(plein), etc., remains unchanged: en plein ( = pleiosin) dia_kosiois
etesin in more than 200 years Dem. 24.141, toxota_s plein eikosi
mu_riadas more bowmen than 20 myriads Xen. Cyrop. 2.1.6.

Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics, Washington University

Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243



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