Re: Pros

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Jun 01 1999 - 17:28:12 EDT

I'm still having great trouble with this, primarily with what seems to me
to be identification of a particular usage of PROS that is considerably
less common and one might almost say "secondary"--the identification of
that usage with the essential meaning of PROS, coupled with the claim that
PROS has a distinctive semantic implication of unity. I am almost (but not
quite) ready to adopt Jim West's formula that PROS "is a directional
preposition rather than a symbiotic one" except that, of course, I never
said PROS is a symbiotic preposition and would not say so, whereas it seems
to me that that is just about what Donald Shaffer wants to affirm.

I apologize for citation of this whole correspondence because in general I
despise strings having more cited material in them than responsive
material, but I don't really quite see what can be omitted if anyone really
want to understand this current exchange. Perhaps those not interested may
be forewarned to delete now if they feel so inclined!

At 5:36 AM -0400 6/1/99, Donald L. Shaffer wrote:
>On 05/31/99, ""Carl W. Conrad" <>" wrote:
>> At 3:23 PM -0400 5/31/99, Donald L. Shaffer wrote:
>> >On 05/24/99, ""Wes Williams" <>" wrote:
>> >
>> >> Matt 13:55 Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called
>> >> and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And his
>> >> are they not all with (PROS) us?
>> >
>> >It seems that translators are challenged by the word "pros." Sometimes it
>> >is translated as "with" as in Matt. 13:55, but more often "unto," "to,"
>> >"towards," etc. Even "in those things which pertain to." After looking at
>> >the context of various verses using "pros," I would like to suggest that it
>> >means "with" but with an implied oneness. Jesus' sisters were with them
>> >(even though perhaps not in the immediate company of) but there seems to be
>> >an implied oneness. The sisters were each one of them. So the Jews
>> >reasoned that Jesus couldn't have been who He seemed to be. They reasoned
>> >that He was but a carpenter's son. They knew that His brothers were normal
>> >people. Even His sisters were of them. If Matthew meant "with" then he
>> >would have probably used "meta," which is much more often translated as
>> >"with." Mark also chose to use "pros" at 6:3.

Of course it's 13:56 that has the PROS hHMAS rather than 13:55; that Mk 6:3
has it also is hardly surprising, as it is a parallel pericope; I would
hold that Mt built on Mk's version, while others, I realize, hold a
different view. At any rate, it appears that PROS hHMAS stands in both
because the source is common. What bothers me here is the claim that
there's an "implied oneness" of Jesus' sisters with the people of Nazareth.
A relationship, of coursed: the sisters are Nazarenes. They stood in a
relationship to these other Nazarenes, but "one with them"? in what sense?
Certainly not identity, and if not that, in what sense? And I don't think
Mt would have used META here because that would underscore the notion of
accompaniment, going along with.

>> >And if "pros" means "with" with an implied oneness, then John 1:1,2 has a
>> >clearer meaning. In the begining was the Word (God was in the begining).
>> >The Word was one with God. The Word was God. Matt. 1:23 in contrast is
>> >saying that God was with ("meta") us.

And this is where I raised my objection in the first place, because it
seemed to me (perhaps erroneously) that John 1:1-2 is the real source of
this conception of PROS which seems strange to me. I think this
interpretation of PROS is being FORCED onto John 1:2--I simply do not
believe that PROS TON QEON means "one with God" but rather "in a
relationship with God" or "facing God"--I don't think identity with God may
legitimately be read out of hO LOGOS HN PROS TON QEON; I have my doubts
also whether it can legitimately be read out of QEOS HN hO LOGOS--but
that's a matter of interpretation that is all too touchy; it has been
discussed at great length and often on this list, with diminishing returns,
it seems to me, the longer the discussion, because radically different
assumptions are held by the discussants.

As for Mt 1:23 MEQ' hHMWN hO QEOS is not Matthew's composition but is a LXX
citation from Isaiah 8:8--and hHMWN is appropriate there, I think, because
the conception of "God with us" in Isaiah does seem to have its roots in
the wilderness wandering as well as in the "wars of Yahweh" in which Yahweh
traveled with his people Israel and led Israel into battle. Accompaniment
is exactly the right sense there and META is precisely the right

>> I for one don't see any warrant whatsoever for understanding PROS as having
>> as sense "with" with an implied oneness. Most fundamentally it means
>> "facing," or "confronting."
>> SUN means "with" in the sense of association and is only used with the
>> instrumental-comitative dative. META means "with" in the sense of
>> accompaniment/going along with and is only used with a genitive. PROS means
>> "with" in the sense of being in the presence of, but I don't see that any
>> kind of UNITY is ever implied. I simply do not understand what is being
>> said about the "oneness" of the sisters; as I see Mt 13:55, what is being
>> said is: "Aren't his sisters habitually in our presence, amidst us, amongst
>> us?" Presence of rather than unity with, in my opinion.
>If that is all that is meant by PROS, then how does it fit into the context
>of the reasoning of the Jews? What is the significance of the presence of
>Jesus' sisters with them? The reasoning of verse 55 and 56 is in response
>to the question in verse 54: "Where did this [Man] get this wisdom and
>[these] mighty works?" His father wasn't anybody special, just a carpenter
>(a normal person). They knew His brothers, and they were normal. It
>should follow that they were also reasoning that His sisters were normal.
>But the only way that I see that it is saying that they were normal is if
>PROS connects them as being as themselves. The implied oneness could do

I won't argue with the view that PROS hHMAS here does indeed imply the same
relationship of the sisters of Jesus with the Nazarenes as that of Jesus
and his mother and father and his brothers. But I don't think anything is
being affirmed by the speakers about the sisters as being "one with" the
Nazarenes in a sense that goes beyond the relationship which they had with
the rest of their family.

>How should Romans 15:17 be translated?
>Romans 15:17 (KJV)
> I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ *in those
> things which pertain to* (PROS) God.
>Perhaps it could make sense to translate it "... through Jesus Christ *in
>the presence of* God." But if that is what Paul meant, why didn't he use
>"meta?" And the King James translators seem to have supplied their own
>words to make it make sense to them. Consider verses 16, 19, and 20.
> 16 that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles,
> ministering the *gospel of God,* ...
> 19 ... I have fully preached the *gospel of Christ.*
> 20 And so I have made it my aim to preach the *gospel,* ...

When you suggest "through Jesus Christ *in the presence of* God," I think
you are reading 15:17 as if the PROS were NOT part of a substantive phrase
created by the neuter plural article: TA PROS TON QEON, a phrase which does
not lend itself to easy translation into English any more than did TA PROS
THN QURAN in Mk 2:2 where we cannot quite say, "the things facing the
doorway" but must avail ourselves of a periphrasis such as "the area near
the door." The KJV translators, however inept one may suppose their
version, have not added a word that isn't implicit in the Greek by
conveying it as "those things which pertain to God." I would do 15:17 a bit
more freely and make it, "My dealings in relationship to God I have as a
boast in Christ Jesus (reading TA PROS QEON as the direct object of ECW and
KAUCHSIN as a predicate accusative; of course one could read it the other
way around as easily without essentially changing the meaning).

>How many gospels are there? Which gospel did Paul preach? Verse 20 says
>that He preached *the* gospel. It is one gospel, which is the gospel of
>God and the gospel of Christ. Verse 17 is the connecting verse between
>verses 16 and 19, making it one Gospel, since "pros" has an implied
>oneness. Jesus Christ is one with God, which agrees with John 1:1, 2 and

Verse 17 does not limit itself to the gospel in what it affirms; rather
Paul therein claim that he is proud of his dealings with God; certainly his
proclamation of the gospel is a vital part of those dealings, but it is not
the whole. I simply don't understand WHETHER (and if so HOW) you want to
understand TA PROS TON QEON in Rom 15:17 to mean to link EN CRISTWi IHSOU
directly to PROS TON QEON as if there were no TA.

>The implied oneness for PROS is my conclusion. If I am wrong, I want to
>know. But if I am right, I would like everyone to know. It would make a
>big difference in what our Bibles are saying.

And I, for one, still don't discern any basis for drawing such a
conclusion. It strikes me as making a claim for the meaning of PROS that
goes far beyond the precise sense of the preposition even in those passages
where we find it convenient to translate PROS as "with."

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

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