Re: How to recognize hendiadys?

From: Daniel L Christiansen (
Date: Mon Jun 21 1999 - 01:20:47 EDT

Jonathan Robie wrote:

> Let me throw another candidate hendiasys into the pot here, since I'm
> puzzling over this right now. One commentary suggests that in Genesis 2:16,
> "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" is a hendiasys. Is this
> likely? I do not know Hebrew. In the LXX, the phrase is:
> Could this be a hendiasys where KALON KAI PONHRON means something like
> "pleasurable evil" or "attractive evil"?

Daniel replies:

    For Gen 2:17 (not 2:16) we might well ask whether the Hebrew text is hendiadysic
in nature. If it turns out to be so, then we may ask whether the LXX construction
is faithful to the Heb in the sense of also being capable of hendiadysic
interpretation. If the Heb text is an hendiadys, and the LXX representation cannot
be so interpreted, that is of some note; we would then have to resolve the issue of
the LXX translator's departure from the Heb meaning. Let me suggest that to discuss
rhetorical- or logical-syntactic categories such as hendiadys in translated passages
is at best questionable. The results of such a practice tend to muddy the waters
with regard to the examination of those non-translated passages being considered.
    Which brings us into waters more appropriate to B-Greek. The trouble is,
hendiadys is not a grammatical, but a meaning category. The original post in this
thread asked "how to recognize hendiadys." FWIW, it seems to me that such a
construction can almost never be asserted beyond doubt--always there will be a
question of emphasis in the reader's interpretation. And, without the author's
presence to allow for a clarification, we just have to take our best shot at how the
two substantives relate.

    This line of reasoning has caused some to accuse me of interpretative
agnosticism. I suppose that I do have a healthy dose of that attitude. But usually
a larger, contextual reading will smooth out any variations in understanding caused
by different choices regarding "list" versus "hendiadys." I am willing to be quite
uncertain in regard to many particulars, while remaining convinced and certain of
the general whole. (I wonder whether that "convinced and certain" is an hendiadys,
or a two-element list? :>)


Daniel L. Christiansen
Department of Bible
Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street
Portland, OR  97236
(Also Portland Bible College, Prof of Biblical Languages)

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