[b-greek] RE: PRO-PROTEROS-PRWTOS (was Romans 2:9)

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Tue Feb 26 2002 - 02:53:23 EST

> In this analysis, adverbial PRWTON modifies adverbial EPI YUCHN
> IOUDIAOU. I like it because it makes sense and has a minimum amount of
> "deep structure" analysis.
> Moon
> Moon R. Jung

An adverb can hardly modify a prepositional noun phrase. The term
"adverbial" as a syntactical wastebasket is not particularly helpful.

If we detach grammar, especially syntactical analysis, from semantics, it
becomes more difficult to see what is going on in a language.

Concerning PRWTOS let me quote a bit from BAGD:
PRWTOS, H, ON (Hom.+... Superlative of PRO).
1. PRWTOS first of several, but also when only two persons or things are
involved (=PROTEROS)

So PRO is the basic form, historically speaking, PROTEROS is the comparative
(first of two) and PRWTOS the superlative (first of many).
The Greek word comes from the same Indo-European roots as the English
"first" (Old English: fyrest) which is the superlative of "fyr/fore" now
"before" (with the comparative "former"). Confer The Oxford Dictionary. The
semantic domain and grammatical function of PRWTOS is similar to English

Both words refer to number one in a series.
Both can be used adjectively or adverbially.

If used adjectively it refers to the first ("thing") in a series of semantic
"things". For instance, "The first man on the moon". When used adjectively,
it is part of a noun phrase and modifies the head noun. Sometimes the head
noun, like CHRONOS, is implied, as in TO PROTERON, e.g. John 6:62 hOPOU HN
TO PROTERON (where he was in former time), or as in APO THS PRWTHS hHMERAS
(Phil 1:5 - from the first day (of many days)). When the head noun is
implied, it is customary to say that the word is used as an adverb, but I
would prefer to say that it is still used as an adjective modifying the
implied head noun. However, this is a gray area, and I wouldn't strongly
object to the designation adverb here. It is similar to saying that an
adjective like IOUDAIOS - a Jewish (person) - is used substantively and then
becomes a quasi-noun. An adjective with an implied, missing time word can be
said to be used adverbially and then becomes a quasi-adverb.

If used adverbially it refers to the first event in a series of events, like
"He came first". By nature of its semantic content, PRWTOS cannot function
"adverbially" by modifying an adjective or adverb. It has to be connected to
an event idea, because it refers to the first in a series of events.

Where the confusion easily comes in, ISTM, is when we look at the
participants in the events. Because of the semantic nature of "first" both
the event itself and the participants in the event are important. A race is
absurd without participants in the race. In "He came first" the word
functions as an adverb. It refers to a certain person arriving before other
people arrived. If we say "he was the first runner to arrive" the focus
shifts to a comparison of the people who were racing to come first. It
becomes an adjective because it modifies a noun, but the meaning does not
change significantly, just a shift of focus from the event itself to the
participants in the event. But even in "He came first" there is an implied
comparison to the other participants in the race, even though they are not
made explicit.

When "salvation comes first to the Jew and then to the Gentile" the word
"first" is used as an adverb since it refers to a series of events: 1) The
Jew is saved 2) the Gentile is saved. (One could have used PROTEROS here,
but PRWTOS was fast taking over the turf held by PROTEROS.) One could say
that semantically "first" refers to the Jew, since the Jew arrives at the
salvation goal before the Gentile. But it seems better to maintain that it
primarily - and grammatically - refers to the event as whole and only
secondarily to the participants in the event.

I don't know if this clears up the matter or if I am splitting hairs, but I
find it helpful to look at semantics as an aid to understanding language use
and meaning.

Iver Larsen

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