[b-greek] Re: Gal. 3:24

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 10:34:37 EDT

When would-be grammarians find themselves in disagreement with each other,
it become all the more important to dot I's and cross T's. So let me try to
make myself clear at least, even if not "agreeable-with."

At 4:20 AM +0100 5/13/01, Michael Haggett wrote:
>Carl has said that these three constructions mean pretty much the same
>... and used the measured tones that I've come to expect from him in the
>remainder of that post.

Of course what I originally said about these three expressions was that any
one of them could be used, more or less interchangeably, to express either
purpose or result. I should add that (a) I don't think every instance in
which we find any one of these three expressions is ambivalent or
ambiguous, and I think that there are usually pretty clear indicators of
which function the construction is serving in a particular instance; (b)
nevertheless, I think that there are indeed instances wherein one of these
three expressions is used and it is quite difficult to decide whether we
should understand an instance of purpose or an instance of result--and I
think, personally, that Gal 3:24 is one of these (others may judge
differently and evidently/obviously DO judge differently--and that, I think
has much to do with the current disagreement between Michael and myself);
(c) the third of the above constructions, hINA + subjunctive, was
apparently, in the Hellenistic era, in the early stages of transformation
into a verbal noun equivalent to an infinitive (the Modern Greek
infinitive, for those who are not aware of it, is the combination of NA
<from hINA> + present or aorist subjunctive of the verb in question: "to
say" is NA PW from ancient hINA EIPW). It is precisely because of this
nascent verbal noun construction of hINA + subjunctive that I asserted in
my earlier post that I don't think it is quite correct to make a sweeping
and universal assertion such as that "the subjunctive always involves an
element of potentiality"--or if one does, one ought to be prepared to
indicate how the Infinitive doesn't also involve an element of potentiality.

>However in his next post he went on to say that he saw no element of
>"potential" in the third of these. I don't often disagree with Carl, but I
>have to say that I most strongly disagree with him on this.

Fair enough. While I welcome consensus wherever it is achievable, I don't
expect to be agreed with and am quite cognizant that I am often enough way
out on a limb and may well be in error--but if I think something is the
case and don't feel I've been refuted, I'll probably go on holding what
I've asserted.

>Although I think it could be said that this and those two alternatives
>express the same GENERAL idea, Carl seems to completely miss the difference
>in TONE between them. It really isn't good enough to be satisfied only with
>understanding something in a general way. Language is far richer than that
>... HOW you say something is as important (if not more important) as WHAT
>you say - any politician, salesman, teacher or preacher knows that!

Fair enough. Language is indeed very rich; it is also very often fraught
with ambiguities that may not have been ambiguities at all where the
interpreter could hear the voice of the speaker or read what the writer
wrote with all the resonance of being the writer's true contemporary. Some
ambiguities are quite intentional, although that depends upon the
rhetorical level and the genre of literary discourse. I think quite a few
ambiguities are the consequence of the speaker/writer not having taken the
effort at clearest possible expression: most people engaged in e-mail
exchanges are quite aware, sooner or later, that they have left themselves
open to misinterpretation by failure to be precise; such is even more often
the case in direct oral exchanges wherein we assume that the other party
understands exactly what we mean and find to our chagrin that the other
party has understood something quite different from what was meant. And I
think such a level of ambiguity is evident in some instances even in the
Biblical text, where different "competent" interpreters see quite different
nuances in a particular text. While I think that theological and
hermeneutical assumptions quite regularly play a role in such differences
of intepretation, I also think it may be "occasionally occasioned" by
different interpretations of the rhetoric and style of the text in
question--and that, I think, is what we have here in Gal 3:24.

>Let me illustrate with these examples:
>Don't say that
>You will not say that
>You do not say that
>You shouldn't say that
>You are not to say that
>The same idea is expressed ... but in different ways. And the TONE you
>choose will very likely affect the response you get. Pick the wrong tone,
>and you'll alienate rather than persuade others.
>Now, I will accept that there might sometimes be some doubt about EXACTLY
>WHAT DIFFERENCE a writer intended when using such Greek constructions (and
>particularly when we might not see how the difference could be reflected in
>translation), but my initial rule of thumb would be to assume that different
>constructions and phraseologies are used to convey things in DIFFERENT ways,
>rather than assume that they interchangeably say the same thing the same
>So I think Mark is right to be sceptical about Carl's assertion.

I think that Clay Bartholomew has already said what I would want to say
about this, and I could toss in the proverbial saying, "it's six of one and
half a dozen of the other," by which I mean simply that rules of thumb are
grounded on probability and probability is less than certainty.

>Turning now to the specifics of Galatians 3:24, I think the element of
>potential is entirely appropriate for what I understand Paul to mean. I
>think Carl has interpreted the "we" to refer only to believers ... for that
>is the only way I can make sense of the justification being a "fact" without
>any element of potential.
>I, in contrast, take the "we" to refer to those to whom the Law was given -
>the Jews (and perhaps those Gentiles who had attached themselves to the
>synagogue as Godfearers). So Paul is therefore saying that the Law became
>something to "paidagogue" us (i.e. the Jews) to Christ. BUT, having
>presented us with Christ as it's end, justification is something that can be
>either accepted or not accepted. Justification is therefore something
>potential rather than certain (leaving aside any predestination/election
>element). And in fact, as we now know with hindsight, most first century
>Jews did NOT accept it ... for them it remained an unrealized potential!
>So to my mind the use of the subjunctive here is not forced or in any way
>unnatural. It is only "forced" if we apply the "we" to the wrong group,
>because it is only by doing this that we can logically remove the natural
>potentiality that the subjunctive conveys.

This is fair enough too. IF one understands the "we" of Gal 3:24 thus, THEN
the subjunctive of DIKAIWQWMEN may legitimately be understood as
potentially; I'd even go so far as to say that this is one of those
instances where earlier Attic Greek would have used an optative
(DIKAIWQEIMEN) rather than the subjunctive (DIKAIWQWMEN). And I should add
that in my original post I made no dogmatic assertion that hINA DIKAIWQWMEN
in Gal 3:24 MUST be understood as a result clause, but that this was a
possibility worth considering. Here, in fact, is what I wrote:

At 7:48 AM -0500 5/12/01, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>(3) The essential assimilation of purpose and result constructions in
>Hellenistic Greek sometimes leaves the interpreter (and here I DON'T mean
>the theological exegete) or translator unsure whether the author's intent
>was to express purpose or to express result--or even whether the author had
>in mind any distinction between purpose and result. Thus, if one determines
>to his/her own satisfaction that the phrasing of the hINA clause in 3:24
>was intended to express result rather than purpose, one might prefer to
>"translate" it as "So the Torah has turned out in fact to be our
>teacher-aide on our way to Christ, and the end-result of this is that we
>are justified/made-righteous."
>I'm not sure but what that's even what Paul meant to say. On the other
>hand, it may not, but I do think that it is a degree of vagueness in
>Hellenistic Greek grammar that makes the clear understanding of this
>passage more difficult for us than we would like it to be.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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