Re: Triglot Question

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Oct 01 1999 - 15:37:19 EDT

At 11:50 AM -0400 10/1/99, Mary Pendergraft wrote:
>As odd as it seems, THEOS is a vocative. To quote that great North
>Carolinian, A. T. Robertson (Grammar of the Grk N.T., p. 261):
>"The Vocative. In the O declension it does not always end in E in the
>masculine singular. THEOS in ancient Greek is practically always retained
>in the vocative singular."
>and on p. 465. "The Article with the Vocative. This idiom is frequent in
>the N.T., some 60 examples. It is a good Greek idiom and not infrequent."

A footnote to the above: As an annual 4-month sojourner in the Tarheel
State (like Persephone in Hades?) and hopefully ere long a permanent
resident therein, I raise no objection to the provenance of A.T. Robertson,
but I think these statements cited from his massive tome are a bit
misleading. While he does say that the vocative of QEOS does not ALWAYS end
in E in the m. sg., he seems in the first passage cited above to be saying
that QEOS as a vocative is standard Greek. I've done a quick AcCordance
search for vocatives of QEOS in the LXX, and I've found 18 instances of hO
QEOS as vocative and 11 of QEE as vocative, several of these latter forms
in what is clearly Hellenistic Jewish texts (3 Mac, 4 Mac, Odes, Wisdom,
Sirach, Tobit). My guess is that it MAY have been used more likely by
Greek-speaking Jews educated in Alexandria or Antioch or some other urban
center of the Hellenistic world.

At any rate, BAGD cite numerous instances of QEE in Hellenistic Jewish
literature--not just the LXX. LSJ-Glare (and actually none of Glare's
appendix on QEOS bears on this question) says that the vocative singular of
QEOS is found only late and then in both forms: QEOS and QEE. But if one
thinks a bit about this, the reason is obvious: Greek polytheists used the
plural W QEOI! often enough, but they would not be addressing an individual
god with the generic noun--they'd be using the god's or goddess's real
name: W ZEU, W POSEIDON, W hHFAISTE, W APOLLON, etc. unless using some
honorific like ANAX: W ANA, W ANASSA (common for invocations of Athena,
Aphrodite, Demeter, etc.)

So while QEOS and QEE are both common vocative forms in Hellenistic
Jewish/Christian texts, I think it may be misleading to say that hO QEOS as
a vocative was ever a standard form elsewhere or earlier in the Greek

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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