Re: Definite noun with anarthous attribute

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Mar 06 2000 - 08:01:21 EST

At 6:49 PM -0800 3/5/00, Daniel L Christiansen wrote:
>Kimmo Huovila wrote [snipped]:
>> "Carl W. Conrad" wrote:
>> > I would like first of all to be sure that there are any instances "of the
>> > type hO ANHR AGAQOS" where the adjective is NOT predicative, i.e. "The man
>> > is competent."
>> Robertson's grammar says that in such cases it can be either predicate
>> (=predicative) or attributive (eg. p. 782, 784). According to him, only
>> the context can decide. He gives as examples of attributive use (p. 782,
>> 783) Luke 16:10 hO PISTOS EN ELACISTW, 1 Tim 6:17 TOIS PLOUSIOIS EN TWi
>> NUN AIWNI, Eph 2:11 TA EQNH EN SARKI, and a whole lot of other examples
>> with a prepositional phrase. (In my question I included adjectives,
>> prepositional phrases and adverbs.)
>I think, Kimmo, that a very important point is being missed in your
>reference to Robertson. You mention that he gives a lot of examples
>"with a prepositional phrase"; indeed, that is Robertson's point in the
>section which you reference. pp 782-784 discuss only such phrases as
>use what Robertson terms "adjuncts"--either prepositions or
>prepositional phrases. It is not appropriate, then, to take Robertson's
>statements and attempt applying them to phrases of the pattern hO ANHR
>AGAQOS, which includes no preposition.
>Of course, the question of support aside, the question still remains as
>to whether hO ANHR AGAQOS is clearly predicative, clearly attributive,
>or subjective as to force. By my count, there are approximately 170
>such constructions in the GNT; I have listed just those 19 which are
>found in Matthew, below:
[Here Dan has discussed several examples the type in Matthew, and I agree
wholeheartedly with his analysis of those cited--that there isn't a single
clear instance there of an attributive adjective of the pattern hO ANHR
>A quick glance at Paul's writings impresses me as being much the same as
>Matthew: those passages with proper names and "verbal nouns" are
>difficult to pin down; those with proper names don't "follow the same
>rules"; apart from those with explicit copulatives, the remaining
>passages are either attributive or in need of contextual determination.
>Of course, Carl has questioned whether any such construction would ever
>be attributive, so it makes me wonder whether we are understanding the
>question in the same manner?

I'm not sure that I understood Kimmo's original question correctly
either--and that's why I asked my question. Without having done comparable
research to what Dan Christiansen has done for Matthew in the rest of the
GNT, my inclination is to say that the burden of proof is on the one who
wants to claim any particular instance of such an adjective in the pattern
hO ANHR AGAQOS is attributive.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the prepositional phrase is a
different matter altogether. That is, as Dan notes, the real subject of
that section in Robertson's grammar. Here, it seems to me, is an area where
Hellenistic practice seems more flexible than classical Attic, although I'm
not so sure that classical Attic is altogether rigorous regarding such a
pattern as hOI EN THi POLEI NAUTAI although I think that (or hOI NAUTAI hOI
EN THi POLEI) is surely more likely to be seen in Attic than hOI NAUTAI EN
THi POLEI. Just over the weekend we had the question raised by Brian
Swedburg and answered by Clay Bartholomew about John 15:2 PAN KLHMA EN EMOI
MH FERON KARPON AIREI AUTO, where EN EMOI must be attributive to PAN KLHMA;
to be sure there's no article with KLHMA but I hardly think there's reason
to argue seriously that EN EMOI is not attributive to KLHMA.

I still remember my shock when I first took a close look at the Greek text
of the celebrated Pauline proof-text for faith-righteousness (Rom 1:17, Gal
3:11, also cited in Heb 10:38): hO DE DIKAIOS EK PISTEWS ZHSETAI. What
shocked me was that Paul surely does seem to understand EK PISTEWS as
attributive to hO DIKAIOS although it seemed to me that in classical Attic
the prepositional phrase EK PISTEWS would ordinarily be understood as
adverbially associated with the verb ZHSETAI--as it does in fact appear to
be meant in Hab 2:4 (LXX). In older Greek I would have expected Paul's
conception to be written hO EK PISTEWS DIKAIOS or hO DIKAIOS hO EK
PISTEWS--yet it is pretty clear (and Robertson loc.cit. explains well
enough) that the Pauline collocation is common enough in Hellenistic or NT


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 WWW:

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