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

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Tue Feb 26 2002 - 15:39:20 EST

I'm about to "throw in the towel" on this one and admit that PRWTON in Rom
2:9 and elsewhere must construe with the entire predicate, including the
verb, not with the verb alone or with IOUDAIOU alone (or IOUDAIWi alone in
Rom 1:16 and 2:10. While it is certainly linked closely with
IOUDAIOU/IOUDAIWi in these phrases, it is no less dependent upon the other
elements of the predicate.

At 8:53 AM +0100 2/26/02, Iver Larsen wrote:
>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.

I would only note with regard to this that older Greek idiom tends to use
PROTEROS and PRWTOS adverbially--i.e. in predicate position-- though they
are adjectives in agreement with the subject: Iliad 13.592 AINEIAS DE
PRWTOS AKONTISEN IDOMENHOS ("Aeneas first cast a spear at Idomeneus ...")

>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.

In fact, the use of PRWTOS for PROTEROS is as old as Homer:


d. prôtos is sts. used where we should expect proteros, Aineias de prôtos
akontisen Il.13.502 , cf. 18.92: in late Greek folld. by gen., prôtos mou
ên Ev.Jo.1.15 ,30, cf. 15.18; hoi prôtoi mou tauta anichneusantes Ael.NA
8.12 ; prôtê heurêtai hê peri tous podas kinêsis tês dia tôn cheirôn Ath.
14.630c ; gennêtora prôton mêteros eis aïdên pempsei Man.1.329 , 4.404;
alochou prôtos before his

>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.

Yes, I think it has been helpful, but I found it also helpful to peruse the
other instances of adverbial PRWTON in the GNT.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months:: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad@ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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