Re: Pros

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun May 23 1999 - 06:21:22 EDT

<x-rich>At 6:45 PM -0500 5/22/99, Mitchell Gray wrote:


>I am not a student in Greek, but I plan to be as soon as I am able. I

>having a discusion with someone about something, and they brought up

>Greek word "pros". Which is commonly translated as "with", I suppose.

>Does "pros" convey something more than just "with"?

I've looked at other answers to this, and although none is really
wrong, there's a dimension of PROS that, in my opinion, throws the
differences into a context: nobody has asked why this
preposition/adverb/prefix may mean "with" in one context, "to" or
"towards" in far more contexts. Nobody has consulted a dictionary or
grammar on this one, and yet it's a good and worthwhile question to
which most students of Greek, at whatever level, think they know the
answers without checking any reference source. To me it is a bit ironic
that this question seems to have originated exactly as did my own first
puzzlement over this everyday Greek preposition: how to explain that in
John 1:1 most versions find "with" the most meaningful way to convey it
in English?

I think that a careful perusal of the entry for this word in LSJ or in
Smyth's grammar is particularly instructive, but a couple little facts
strike me as worth noting even before asking why PROS can take so many
different senses and be used (although not commonly in Koine) with
three different cases: genitive, dative, and accusative.

(a) Aristotle, "the master of those who know," as Dante called him, may
have known more of the inner workings of Greek than anyone else who
ever analyzed them. Even if that may be debatable, I think it
significant that one of his "categories of understanding" is TO PROS
TI, usually conveyed as "the category of relation." One might say, of
course, that ALL prepositions seem to involve relationship, but this
one is distinct from others in underscoring 'contextual association' as
one of the factors defining anything precisely. And in fact, that's
helpful in understanding John 1:1b and 1:2: hO LOGOS HN PROS TON QEON:
the BEING of the LOGOS is defined by its 'contextual relationship' to
God, and was so defined, says John, EN ARCHi.

(b) Etymology is a perilous science, leading down blind alleys as often
or more often than not. Still, it is fun to speculate on etymology and
it often enough really is illuminating, however often it obfuscates.
PROS, PARA, PRO, PRIN, PROTEROS,and PRWTOS are all related. In fact,
PROS appears to be related to PRO ('in front') much as EIS (originally
ENS) is related to EN: the -S is a directional suffix, much like
English "-ward/s." Since the vowel -A- works with the semivowels -L-
and -R- in a curious symbiosis (-A- seems to ooze through the wall of
an L or R, or sneak beneath it, and wind up on the other side (there
are four forms of ARA in Homer: AR, hRA, ARA, and hR, depending on the
initial vowel or consonant of the word following). An older form of
PROS may have been PAROS, but the A preceding the R yields to the O as
the disyllabic form gives way to the monosyllabic. And there is a
curious duality in fundamental meaning of this PR/PAR/PARA/PRO: on the
one hand it means "in front" of one or more things (in relation to one
thing or group the comparative PROTEROS comes into play, while in
comparison with several we have PRWTOS, from PRO-ATOS, "foremost" =
"first"); on the other hand it means "facing," "confronting." I
remember puzzling once over how Xenophon can say that so-and-say went
"FROM the king" (PARA BASILEWS) or "TO the king" using the same
preposition with the different cases. Of course, PARA really does
'mean' the same thing in both, namely 'before' or 'the presence
of'--PARA BASILEWS means "from the king's presence" while PARA BASILEA
means "to the king's presence"--PARA BASILEA ERCESQAI = 'go before the
king.' Of course, ultimately PARA comes to be used in senses in which
PROS is not used, such as "alongside of" or "passing in front of" (with
verbs of motion). From the etymological perspective, then, hO LOGOS HN
PROS TON QEON is going to mean something like, "the Logos continued to
be in the presence of God," or "the Logos was always face-to-face with
God" (where 'face-to'face' is the real sense of PROS, while 'with'
simply assists in linking 'face-to-face' with its English object.

(c) As I suggested earlier, if one really does want to gain something
more than a superficial grasp on Greek, dictionaries and grammars need
to be studied rather than merely consulted; one may, of course, hunt
for a meaning that works in the context in which you find the word in a
passage, but if you study what you may learn in an unabridged
dictionary, you'll learn what that word may mean in a variety of other
contexts--you will have become 'intimate' with the word as an explorer
becomes 'intimate' with a terrain that is unique but that will be
recognizable whenever seen again, no matter the direction from which
that terrain is approached. Here (with minor deletions) is the web page
from the Perseus site on PROS in Smyth's first edition, #1695. It will
repay some study, and even if the examples cited are mostly classical
Attic, they are instructive; it is worth pondering, for each cited
instance, why Smyth has chosen the particular mode of converting PROS
for the context even while discerning that this unique preposition,
"plus a change, plus c'est la me^me chose."




<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros</color></bold> (Hom. also
<italic>at</italic>, <italic>by</italic>
(<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>fronting</color>). Of like
meaning, but of different origin, is Hom.

1. <bold><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros
</color></bold><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>with the Genitive


</color><bold>a.</bold> Local (not common in prose):
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>to pros </color>hespera_s
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>the wall facing the west
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Hell. 4.4.18</color>,
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>ta hupozugia echontes pros tou
potamou </color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>having the
pack-animals on the side toward the river
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Anab. 2.2.4</color>.

<bold>b.</bold> Other relations: Descent:
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros patros
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>on the father's side
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Aeschin. 3.169</color>.
Characteristic: <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>ou gar n pros
tou</color> Ku_rou <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>tropou
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>for it was not the way of
Cyrus </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Anab.
1.2.11</color>. Point of view of a person:
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros anthrpn aischros
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>base in the eyes of
men</color> 2. 5. 20. Agent as the source, with passive verbs (instead
of <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>hupo</color>):
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>homologeitai pros pantn
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>it is agreed by all</color>
1. 9. 20; <color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to the advantage of;
</color>sponda_s <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>poisamenos pros
Thbain mallon pros </color>heaut n
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>making a truce more to the
advantage of the Thebans than of his own party
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Hell. 7.1.17</color>;
in oaths and entreaties: <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros then
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>by the gods
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Hell. 2.4.21</color>.

2. <bold><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros
</color></bold><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>with the Dative


</color>In a local sense, denoting proximity (generally, in prose, of
towns or buildings, not of persons):
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros ti polei tn machn
poieisthai </color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to fight near
the city </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc.
6.49</color>; sometimes like
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>en</color>, as
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros hierois tois koinois
anatethnai </color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to be dedicated
in the common shrines </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc.
3.57</color>. Occupation: <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>n holos
pros ti lmmati </color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>he was
wholly intent upon his gain
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Dem. 19.127</color>.
<italic>In addition to:
</italic><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros autois
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>besides these
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc. 7.57</color>.
<italic>In the presence of:
</italic><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros ti </color>diaitt
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to speak before the
arbitrator </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Dem.
39.22</color>. <bold>[p. 385]

</bold>3. <bold><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros
</color></bold><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>with the Accusative


</color><bold>a.</bold> Local (direction toward or to, strictly
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>facing</color>): hu_mas
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>axomen pros autous
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>we will lead you to them
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Anab. 7.6.6</color>,
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros noton</color>
(<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>toward the</color>)
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc. 3.6</color>,
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>ienai pros tous polemious
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to go against the enemy
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Anab. 2.6.10</color>.

<bold>b.</bold> Temporal (rare):
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros </color>hmera_n
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>toward daybreak
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Hell. 2.4.6</color>.

<bold>c.</bold> Other relations: friendly or hostile relation:
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros eme legete
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>speak to me
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Cyrop. 6.4.19</color>,
philia_ <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros </color>hu_mas
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>friendship with you
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Isoc. 5.32</color>,
echthra_ <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros tous Argeious
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>enmity to the Argives
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc. 2.68</color>, but
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>h pros hmas </color>echthra_
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>our enmity</color> 6. 80,
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>h apechtheia pros tous Thbaious
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>our enmity to the
Thebans</color> and <color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>the enmity of
the Thebans to us </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Dem.
18.36</color>. With words of <italic>hating</italic>,
<italic>accusing</italic>, and their opposites,
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros</color> is used either of the
subject or of the object or of both parties involved. With words
denoting <color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>warfare
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros</color> indicates a
double relation, and the context must determine which party is the
aggressor or assailant: naumachia_
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Korinthin pros
</color>Kerku_raious <color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>a sea-fight
between the Corinthians and the Corcyreans
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc. 1.13</color> (here
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>kai</color> often suffices, as
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>ho Lakedaimonin kai lein polemos
Xen. Hell. 3.2.31</color>). Relation in general:
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>ouden auti pros tn polin estin
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>he has nothing to do with
the city </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Dem.
21.44</color>, <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros tous theous
eusebs echein </color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to be pious
toward the gods </color>Lyc. 15. Purpose:
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros ti</color>;
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to what end?
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Cyrop. 6.3.20</color>,
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros charin legein
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to speak in order to court
favour </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Dem. 4.51</color>;
<italic>with a view to</italic> (often nearly =
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros tauta bouleuesthe eu
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>wherefore be well advised
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc. 4.87</color>,
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros ta paronta
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>in consequence of the
present circumstances</color> 6. 41. Conformity:
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros tn </color>axia_n
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>according to merit
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Xen. Cyrop. 8.4.29</color>.
Standard of judgment: <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>oude pros
argurion tn </color>eudaimonia_n ekri_non
<color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>nor did they estimate happiness by
the money-standard </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Isoc.
4.76</color>, chra_ <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>hs pros to
plthos tn </color>poli_tn
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>a territory very small in
proportion to the number of its citizens</color> 4. 107; and hence of
comparison: oi <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>phauloteroi tn
anthrpn pros tous xunetterous</color> . . .
<color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>ameinon oikousi </color>ta_s
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>the simpler class of men,
in comparison with the more astute, manage their public affairs better
</color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Thuc. 3.37</color>.
Exchange: hdona_s <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros
</color>hdona_s <color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>katallattesthai
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>to exchange pleasures for
pleasures </color><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>Plat. Phaedo

4. <bold><color><param>0000,0000,FFFF</param>pros
</color></bold><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>in Composition


</color><italic>To</italic>, <italic>toward</italic>
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>drive to</color>,
prostrepein <color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>turn toward</color>),
<italic>in addition</italic>
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>take in addition</color>),
</color><color><param>0000,8080,0000</param>strike against, be angry
with</color>). Often in the general sense of
<italic>additionally</italic>, qualifying the whole sentence rather

Carl W. Conrad

Department of Classics, Washington University

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



This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:28 EDT