[b-greek] Constituency structure (formerly Smart's rule and John 20:28)

From: Mark Beatty (marksresearch@hawaii.rr.com)
Date: Tue Oct 24 2000 - 05:55:46 EDT

Dear bgreekers,

Having read numerous attempts at Smart's rule, I noticed that no one yet has
discussed the syntax of the phrase. Many have described the syntax (art
noun pos prn KAI art noun pos prn) with the articles optional. Porter
(1995) provides a good start at constituent structure, but the linguistic
framework he uses is about 20 years out of date. Following is an analysis.
(Sorry for all the brackets, but if I did fancy diagrams I'm afraid the
internet would turn it into gobbledygook)

The phrase in question is John 20:28. "hO KURIOS MOU KAI hO QEOS MOU".
What are the other options? How about "hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS MOU".

1. "hO KURIOS MOU KAI hO QEOS MOU" has the constituent structure of two
determiner phrases.
2. "hO KURIOS KAI hO QEOS MOU" has the constituency structure of two
conjoined determiner phrases both modified by a possessive pronoun: [[hO
KURIOS] KAI [hO QEOS]] MOU". Yet there might be another option for this
one, "
3. [hO KURIOS] KAI [hO QEOS MOU] here the personal pronoun only modifies the

What do we get from this? Let us go over some English examples, since
syntax is syntax and it only matters a little what language you are
analyzing. (If one syntax does not work for more than one language, then
probably the syntax theory being used needs to be updated.)

4. my wife and my friend
5. my wife and friend

What about in English, are there two people or one in each phrase? Number 4
is similar in structure to number 1 above. Number 5 is similar to 2 or 3
above. What do you think? What are your language intuitions? My
intuitions are that both 4 and 5 can refer to either one person or two
people. What it does refer to depends on the context. This is one of the
problems of studying Koine Greek. Many answers concern intuitions and it is
hard to did up a Koine Greek speakers. Are there any Modern Greek speakers
reading? Could we say, "yini mou kai adelphia mou" and "yini kai adelphia
mou" (or whatever the equivalent of 4 and 5 would be for a native speaker
of Modern Greek)? One further point about the Greek, the discussion should
not be limited to possessive pronouns. The discussion should include all
genitives in the constituency structure. Thus, the "leading example and
perfect example OF FAITH" of Hebrews 12:2 should also be subject to a Smart
type analysis.

Consider then the following:

6. I said to her, "you are my wife and my friend".
7. I said to her, "you are my wife and friend".
8. I said to her, "you are my wife and my dog".
9. I said to her, "you are my wife and dog".

On all of these I just get one person in the conjoined phrase. 6 and 7 are
positive and 8 and 9 are semantically very strange or an insult. My
argument up to this point is that the determiner phrase is ambiguous, (at
least by my native intuitions of English). If the syntax is ambiguous,
therefore, looking at half a dozen or so examples in the New Testament
really does not answer the question. If the syntax is ambiguous then the
larger context determines which ambiguous syntax was intended.

So what was Thomas saying?

10. Thomas said to him, "my Lord and my God".
11. Thomas said to him, "you are my Lord and my God."
12. Thomas said to him, "you are my Lord and my Father in Heaven is my God."

10 is the ambiguous form we are working with. I think most of us can infer
11 as a possibility. All that is needed here is to provide EIMI in second
singular. EIMI is something commonly left out of in Koine Greek. (It
undergoes ellipsis.) 12 is a little harder to figure out. How would anyone
know that Thomas was intending for "my Father in Heaven is" to undergo
ellipsis. There is nothing in the context that would allow us to guess this.
We seldom (rationally) expect people to understand what we think but do not
say. Why do we think that Thomas is doing this? Why would we think that
John is recording it without clarification? If the whole conversation
depends on Thomas turning away from Jesus before saying "my God" while
looking up to Heaven, why did John not tell us that Thomas did this? If
there is some special understood knowledge that was in the immediate
context, again, why did John not tell us? Is it because we are better
communicators than Thomas or John? Is it because they did not know Greek as
well as us?

There was some discussion about theology in the responses. The logic is
clear and conclusive. If Jesus is NOT Jehovah, creator of the universe,
second member of the trinity, worthy of worship, possessing all the
attributes of God the Father, well if that is NOT the case, of course Thomas
can not be calling Jesus God. Whatever the language says, therefore, Thomas
must have been doing something else. Thus is the problem of interpreting
language, our worldview/theology is part of the context. If an
interpretation challenges our worldview then we often try to put it aside,
ignore it, or look for some other possibility. (Just so I am not
misrepresented, I do believe that Jesus is Jehovah in the full sense of any
Jehovah Witness or in the full sense that Jesus is God with all the
attributes of God the Father.)

But back to B-Greek and our goal in interpretation of solving the
ambiguities at a much lower level. In light of this, David McKay's point
probably is the best clue.

"And the text itself says he addresses his comments to Jesus:

The singular pronoun is the context. The singular pronoun should be the
controlling authority for what follows.

In conclusion, for the "two person" view to work, 1) one would have to
explain away the context of Thomas addressing his comment to a singular
recipient, and 2) one would have to explain how anything but "you are"
undergoes ellipsis. My analysis of the constituency structure of the phrase
itself indicates that it is ambiguous, as it is in English. Therefore we
must go outside the determiner phrase for an answer. Also, if we are going
to look at the syntax, the data base should be extended to all genitives,
not just personal pronouns.

For further research: What is the discourse purpose of repetition of the
possessive pronoun? I think one clue is that it is specific. One could say
"my lord and his God", but to say "my lord and my God" repeats the personal
relationship clarifying ambiguity. Such repetition could be used to clarify
something hitherto unknown to Thomas. If this were the case, then to say
"my God in Heaven" would not fit because it was something every believing
Jew knew.

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