Re: Incidence of article with NT names

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Mon Jun 21 1999 - 23:15:37 EDT

I have been having problems with my email, so it has taken me quite a while
to get around to answering the following question from Steven Cox. Several
others have already responded, but I didn't see anything that mentioned the
issue of salience in relation to the use of the article with proper names.

At 8:38 PM -0400 6/16/99, Steven Cox wrote:
>Dear b-greekers
>I was sent the following stats on NT article use with names
>Word total %w/o art.
>Abraham 72 16.4 83.6
>Moses 79 16.46 83.54
>David 58 8.6 91.40
>Elijah 29 0 100
>John 34 11.8 88.2
>Petros 92 56.5 43.5
>Satanas 37 86.49 13.51
>Q1. Over this number of samples is there any statistical significance in
>Petros and Satanas?
>(Bearing in mind that Peter often heads the lists of the 12 disciples and
>his name occurs more often on its own in prominence?)

I think there IS a definite pattern here, and it probably has to do with
the salience of the name in each context in which it is used. Steven
Levinson and someone else whose name I don't remember right now have
written an article on the use of the Greek article with proper names in
Luke-Acts. Their work would be very helpful to you here. They argue that
the ABSENCE of the article marks salience. That is, the article is included
when the identity of the person named has already been established earlier
in the context or for some other reason does not stand out as particularly
salient. The article is omitted when the name is first introduced into the
narrative--unless for some reason the name is to be expected--as well as
when for any other reason it should be taken as salient.

>Q2. If it is statistically significant then does the article use tell us
>anything about Petros and (more so) Satanas related to other proper nouns?

No. It probably tells us much more about the status of the particular name
in the context in which it is used.

I am not conviced that Levinson's (and the other author's) thesis works for
the Johanine literature, and it certainly needs more research in the
Pauline letters, but it seems to work pretty well in Luke-Acts and in
Matthew and Mark. It is important to remember that they only intended it to
explain the use of the article with proper names in Luke-Acts, though.

Micheal W. Palmer
North Carolina State University
Philosophy and Religion (New Testament)
Foreign Languages (Ancient Greek)

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