[b-greek] Re: law prophesied

From: Mike Sangrey (mike@sojurn.lns.pa.us)
Date: Wed Nov 01 2000 - 09:03:25 EST

Wayne Leman <wleman@mcn.net> said:
> In Mt. 11:13 what is the syntactic relationship between neuter hO
> NOMOS and the 3rd person plural verb EPROFHTEUSAN? Is "the law" simply
> a case of metonymy here (law standing for the authors of the law),
> with gender agreement suspended or based on the semantic, rather than
> syntactic, role of hO NOMOS? Or is hO NOMOS not even considered in the
> person agreement with this verb, but just going along for the ride
> with 3rd person plural hOI PROFHTAI in the conjoined KAI noun phrase?

I don't think it is metonymy although one could go either way. I would
think Jesus is thinking of the various writings and not the authors. That
is, "the prophetic and law writings prophesied", which is anthropomorphic.
 Then the plural number of the verb is perfectly natural. As I said,
metonymy is possible and if that were the case then the nouns would refer
to the authors of both kinds of writings, and again the plural is fine. I
suppose the reason I lean more to the former is that it is easier on my
English ear to think in terms of "books" being "prophets" than to think
the "law" being the "authors".

I don't think Randy's citing of L&N to be without merit. "Law and
Prophets" is somewhat idiomatic and stands for "the writings". If they
are right, then "the writings" would naturally come to the hearers mind
(just as it [note the singular `it'] did to mine).

I have cases in my own writing when I've wanted to use a singular verb
after a short list of connected nouns. I was thinking of the items as a
unit. I had to make the decision to either rewrite the sentence or accept
the subtle semantic difference, between plural and singular, as too little
to worry about.

Bottom line: I would say the gender agreement here is NOT grammatical,
but overridden by the semantic considerations (and frankly, I hesitate
saying "overridden"). To my way of thinking, the grammatical rules are
servants to the meaning: an author/speaker will manipulate them to get
the point across. In fact, the manipulation is a clue to the underlying
Mike Sangrey
Landisburg, Pa.
               It's OK to think differently, just think together.
               Sooner or later that will bring out our faults;
               then we can deal with them...together.

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