[b-greek] Re: Smart's rule

From: Daniel L. Christiansen (dlc@multnomah.edu)
Date: Wed Oct 25 2000 - 17:23:59 EDT

    Judging from the private (off-list) responses I received after my continued
requests for any documentation and clarification of "Smart's Rule," I wonder even more
strongly whether the "rule" is based on anything other than a desired interpretation of
Thomas' confession in the Gospel, rather than on any close examination of the
syntactical data. This is not to impugn the motives of any member of the list: my
understanding is that this is merely something a list member "heard of." However,
there have been some broad statements/assumptions of methodology made throughout the
discussion which raise "red flags" for me.
    First, a statement was made regarding the cross-language applicability of syntax.
That syntactical norms and patterns are *not* consistent between languages, seems to be
the raison d'Ítre for a great number of list members. After all, if language
differences consisted in vocabulary definition and idiomatic expressions, but stopped
short of syntax, then our students are certainly struggling far too hard to understand
the texts we have them read. The member who posited this "meta-syntax" (sorry--I
deleted the post, so I can't simply append the quote) gave English examples, such as
"My friend and my wife." Arguing from the ambiguity of the English construction, the
ambiguity of a parallel Greek construction was concluded, based on the universality of
    However, even a glance at a limited portion of Greek and English syntax should
prove this assumption false. [Greek]: hO ANHR KALOS An anarthrous adjective paired
with an articular noun, is predicative, and the phrase is acceptable, "normal" Greek;
[English]: THE MAN HANDSOME This "parallel construction" is parallel only in terms of
word order, not meaning (unless the speaker is Tarzan: "Me Tarzan, you Jane. Man
handsome, woman beautiful). Words and phrases simply don't get put together in the
same manner between languages. Therefore, to argue for or against this--or any--Greek
rule based on English observations is a faulty procedure.
    Second, arguments were made based on Smart's development or use of Sharp's second
rule. The basic argument seemed to be as follows: 1) Sharp's is true, 2) Smart's is a
reversal of Sharp's requirements: 3) therefore, Smart's reversal of Sharp's conclusion
is true. But this logic is faulty on a couple of different levels.
    Sharp required that the first substantive be articular, and that the subsequent be
anarthrous: Smart requires that the subsequent be articular, but retains Sharp's first
article. A true reverse would be an anarthrous substantive followed by an articular,
not two articulars. Also, the rest of Sharp's requirements are retained. It doesn't
seem justified, to me, to look at Smart as any reverse statement of Sharp's second.
    As well, it is a logical fallacy to assume that the reverse of conditions will
necessarily produce the reverse of results. "If I stand in the rain without an
umbrella, Then I will be all wet." Even if I were to entirely reverse all the
conditions, the conclusion might remain the same: "If I crouch in the sunshine, under
an umbrella, Then I will get wet." Stupid sprinklers! Of course, some of you may
think that I'm all wet, no matter what I may be doing, and that is your privilege :)
    Also, the statement was made that Sharp's rule was accepted, because no exception
has been found to contradict it; therefore, since no contradiction to Smart's is found,
we must accept it, as well. There are those (including myself) who would not deny
Sharp's validity as a rule, but would deny its usefulness, due to its excess number of
qualifications. Of course, that particular discussion has been had numerous times
onlist. My point, here, is that simply attaching one's position to that which is
generally accepted, does not prove one's own position true or false. It must stand or
fall on its own. I may think that Sharp's rule is overly-conditioned to the point of
un-usefulness, but the amount of research which is extant on the construction demands
my attention. Such research has not been offered for Smart's, so it should not be
granted the title of "rule." As was pointed out by an earlier poster, the verse under
consideration may itself be a prime example of why Smart's "rule" must be considered

    All that having been said, I must admit that I am curious enough to be doing a
study of at least the biblical corpus for examples of the construction under question.
So far, it doesn't appear that there are many passages which would fulfill the
grammatical requirements. When I get through them all, I'll post some results, if
no-one else has done so in the meantime.

(My son's T-shirt reads: "As a matter of fact--I DON'T have a life"
I do, but I also think that some of this stuff actually matters :)

Daniel L. Christiansen
Professor of Biblical Languages, Portland Bible College
Adjunct Professor, Bible Department, Multnomah Bible College
(503) 820-0231

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