[b-greek] RE: ERCETAI ... EIS TO MNHMEION in John 20:1

From: Iver Larsen (iver_larsen@sil.org)
Date: Fri Mar 29 2002 - 08:22:57 EST

> John 20:1 says, that Mary:
> "PRWI SKOTIAS ETI OUSHS" I think is clear enough, at least for
> my purposes ("early, while it was still dark" or similar.
> i.e. before sunrise).
> The question I have is to do with the ERCETAI ... EIS TO MNHMEION.
> The NIV translates this "went to the tomb".
> This translation suggests that Mary TRAVELLED while it dark,
> and allows the possibility that it became light during the
> journey (thus allowing a harmonisation with Mark 16:2, which
> has them arriving after sunrise).
> However it seems to me that the use of EIS rather than PROS
> (note that PROS is used in 20:2 when Mary goes back to get Peter)
> means that "came to the tomb" (as in the NRSV) is a better translation,
> carrying the sense that Mary ARRIVED AT the tomb when it was dark.

This is an incorrect inference, see below on the meaning of EIS and PROS.

> So I have two questions:
> 1. Is the sense "ARRIVED AT THE TOMB" the more likely meaning;

Not necessarily.

> 2. Is the sense "TRAVELLED TO THE TOMB" even a *possible* meaning.

Yes, it is.

Let us look at EIS compared to PROS after ERCOMAI. PROS is used with people,
and EIS is used when coming or going towards a place.
Just to check, I looked up the 99 occurrences in the GNT of ERCOMAI followed
within 4 words by PROS.
All those with PROS referred to coming to a person. The only apparent
exception was John 3:20,21 where it is a matter of coming to TO FWS.
However, this is not really an exception, since FWS is a metaphor for Jesus.
All the 105 instances of ERCOMAI followed by EIS referred to a place, not a
There were three instances where both occurred as in PROS A EIS B, and in
these cases A referred to a person or people and B referred to the place
where these people were. (Acts 20:6, 28:23; Tit 3:12).

Both PROS and EIS have a variety of meanings, and at times PROS may indicate
proximity rather than goal.
In Mark 3:7 most mss have ANECWRHSEN PROS THN QALASSHN while a few have
either EIS or PARA. Assuming that PROS is original, the sense would be that
they move away and came down close to the sea. It is tricky to use EIS with
lake, because it could easily be misunderstood to mean "into the lake".

Concerning whether ERCOMAI means coming or going, it is matter of discourse
perspective. If you see them from the vantage point of the tomb, they are
*coming* towards it. If you walk alongside them, then you are all *going*
towards the tomb.

Notice how NRSV translates John 4:45 KAI AUTOI GAR HLQON EIS THN hEORTHN as
"for they too had gone to the feast."
The Brown/Comfort interlinear has 11 instances where they gloss a form of
ERCOMAI as "go, went, had gone" in English.

Iver Larsen

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