From: Iver Larsen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Tue Feb 13 2001 - 03:45:28 EST
> Dear Bgreekers,
> on the thread on the translation of James 2:24, the general issue
> of what OU negates in a given sentence, the verb or other parts, arose.
> I think this is an important issue. I hope that the issue can get some
I agree with you that this is an important issue. I was surprised that both Carl
and Carlton suggested that the negative particle would govern an implied verb. I
was also surprised that Alan interpreted James 2:24 as if the text talked about
two quite separate "justifications", whereas I would agree with Moon. James is
discussing "faith alone" as opposed to "faith proven by action/works" and this
is indicated by the use of the negative particle and the word order.
> The contrast implied in James 2:24 can be visible by the following
> It is by works, not by faith alone that man is justified.
> In summary, I think the following statement of yours should be considered
> an empirical statement rather than a linguistic principle.
> "I find that most of the time in the NT OU(K) negates the verb."
The last statement is correct, but it offers us no help in understanding the
issue at hand. A rough count of times in the GNT when the negative particle
governs the verb showed me about 2000 times. It was a bit difficult to count how
many times the negative governs something else, rather than the verb. A very
rough estimate is 100-300. Someone with more sophisticated search mechanisms or
more time could find a more accurate figure.
However, Moon has given several examples from English of the need to look at
which part of the clause the negative governs. In most cases it is a matter of
CONTRASTING different possible subjects or objects in the clause. Let me add a
few examples from the GNT, starting from Matthew:
Matt 4:4 OUK EP' ARTWi MONWi ZHSETAI hO ANWRWPOS, ALL' EPI PANTI hRHMATI...
"bread" - physical food - is contrasted with "every word" - spiritual food. Not
only food, but words are we to "eat". It is not a matter of "eating" or "not
eating", but what you eat.
Mat 7:21 OU PAS hO LEGWN MOI KURIE KURIE ...ALLA hO POIWN TO QELHMA TOU PATROS
Here two potential subjects for "entering the Kingdom of God" are contrasted.
Not all who say Lord, but those who do the will of God.
Mat 9:13 ELEOS QELW, KAI OU QUSIAN. OU GAR HLQON KALESAI DIKAIOUS ALLA
In the first part, the two objects for what God wants are contrasted: "ordinary
sacrifice" or "mercy". It is true, of course, that the word QELW is implied in
the second part, so a full form would be ELEOS QELW, KAI OU QUSIAN QELW "I want
mercy, and I do not want sacrifice." (A Hebrew way of saying: I would rather
have one than the other.)
The focus in the Greek (confer word order) is on the contrast, and to show that
clearly in English we would have to change it to something like "It is mercy
that I want and not sacrifice."
The second part also has a negative. In this case the negative occurs before the
main verb, and since the main verb is the nucleus of the clause, it is the whole
clause that is negated and contrasted with another potential clause. A full form
of the second sentence would be:
OU GAR HLQON KALESAI DIKAIOUS ALLA HLQON KALESAI hAMARTWLOUS "For I did not come
to call righteous people, but I came to call sinful people." Although there is a
contrast between righteous and sinners, the focus is on the coming of Jesus -
for what purpose did he come. Again, an understanding of the function of word
order in Greek is crucial for a clear understanding of the focus and contrasts.
Matt 12:29 EAN MH PRWTON DHSHi TON ISCURON "if he does not first bind the
It is not binding or not binding that is contrasted, but what is done first. The
binding has to come before entering into the house.
Mat 16:11 PWS OU NOEITE hOTI OU PERI ARTWN EIPON hUMIN
"How could you not-understand that I spoke to you not-about-leaves (but about
There are, of course, lots and lots of examples like this, and it seems to be an
almost universal fact of language, that negative particles can govern various
parts of a sentence. In Greek, the negative governs the word or phrase that
follows immediately after the negative (disregarding discourse connectors like
GAR, DE etc.) If it is the verb or verb phrase that is negated, this may
indicate a negation of the whole proposition.
I have been told that Role and Reference Grammar makes a clear distinction
between "nuclear" and "core" negation, but I am not familiar with this model of
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