[b-greek] Re: The text of Luke 2:2 and word order

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 26 2001 - 17:46:44 EDT

At 9:34 PM +0200 6/26/01, Iver Larsen wrote:
>Carl wrote:
>> You might want to look at Dan Wallace's discussion of the problems of this
>> text at http://www.bible.org/docs/soapbox/luke2-2.htm I do think that most
>> of the efforts to solve the problems of this text have been triggered by a
>> desire to resolve the anachronism between this datum and that of Lk 1:5.
>> Dan Wallace's note is (IMHO) remarkable in its resistance to tampering with
>> the text from that sort of a motive.
>My starting point is that Luke knew the history of his time much better than I
>do, and that what he wrote made sense. I am not bothered by historical
>inaccuracies, but I try to look at the text from a linguistics and contextual
>point of view.

Well, I personally have my doubts about Luke as a historian but that is not
relevant nor should it enter into a discussion focusing solely upon what
this text means.

>> Personally, I agree that hAUTH hH APOGRAFH is most probably the original
>> form of the subject; I think, however, that PRWTH is adverbial with EGENETO
>> (and that the word-order PRWTH EGENETO is more probable) and that EGENETO
>> does here mean "occurred/took place" (= Latin FACTUS EST), and finally that
>> hHGEMONEUONTOS THS SURIAS KURHNIOU is a genitive absolute explaining PRWTH
>> EGENETO: "This census first took plac/was held when Quirinius was governor
>> of Syria."
>So, we agree on the text. That is reassuring to me.
>I am quite willing to call PRWTH adverbial with EGENETO. That fits well
>with my
>understanding of the text.
>I understand that the genitive absolute is certainly a viable option. But I
>still have a problem trying to make sense of the traditional translation.
>If we
>say "This census first took place" or "This census took place first" at a
>particular time what does that mean? Was it not finished and had to be
>a second time? Is there any contrast with another census? If there is not
>contrast, the word order is wrong.
>Nigel Turner in his excellent book on Grammatical Insights into the NT
>the before option also, and since both are grammatically possible, I am
>to go with the one which seems to make most sense to me.
>Maybe you can explain to me what the word "first" is doing in this
>sentence, if
>it does not contrast with another census? How would the meaning change if we
>left out "first"?

I don't think we are going to resolve the problems of this verse to
everyone's satisfaction or even eliminate all the problems; it may be that
we simply don't have it in the formulation in which it was originally
composed. Nevertheless when I say that I understand it to mean "This census
first took place when Quirinius governed Syria" I mean that I think the
hAUTH enters into play: Luke describes this census as a universal census of
the Roman empire (I'm a little bit skeptical about that too, but again,
it's beside the point); I'm understanding Luke to say that a universal
census of the Roman empire first took place during the governorship of
Quirinius in Syria--i.e. the year we refer to as 6 A.D. That's my view of
this troublesome verse, and beyond that I really don't want to speculate.

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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