ἔσχατον as neuter in Mk 12:6?

July 5, 2010

In Mark 12:6 both the Gramcord and Accordance databases parse ἔσχατον as masculine—I assume because it is parked next to the masculine form αὐτόν (the form is the same for both masc and neut acc sing). Yet syntactically it appears to function as an adverb, modifying ἀπέστειλεν. When adjectives function as adverbs they are usually neuter. If this were masculine, this would suggest, I think, understanding it as substantival in apposition to αὐτόν: “he sent him, the last one.”

I’d put it in English something like this:

“He still had one [to send], a beloved son. He finally sent him to them, saying ‘They will respect my son’.”

Does this analysis make sense? Or am I missing something here?

See BDAG, 397–98.2.b (end) for ἔσχατον as an adverb; for a discussion of adjectives that function as adverbs, see Wallace, 292–93.

7 responses to ἔσχατον as neuter in Mk 12:6?

  1. Rod, I think that this instance of ἔσχατον may fall into the category of predicate usage of adjectives of degree. BDAG seems to list it as such s.v. ἔσχατος 2.a and notes that it is opposed to πρῶτος.
    Cf. John 1:15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν (so also 1:30), John 20:8 τότε οὖν εἰσῆλθεν καὶ ὁ ἄλλος μαθητὴς ὁ ἐλθὼν πρῶτος εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον καὶ εἶδεν καὶ ἐπίστευσεν; 1Tim. 2:13 Ἀδὰμ γὰρ πρῶτος ἐπλάσθη, εἶτα Εὕα.
    Smyth §1042: “Several adjectives of time, place, order of succession, etc., are used as predicates where English employs an adverb or a preposition with its case: ἀφικνοῦνται τριταῖοι they arrive on the third day X. A. 5.3.2, κατέβαινον σκοταῖοι they descended in the dark 4. 1. 10. In such cases the adjective is regarded as a quality of the subject; whereas an adverb would regard the manner of the action. ” He goes on to list: “b. Order of succession: πρῶτος, πρότερος first, ὕστερος later, μέσος in the midst, τελευταῖος last, ὕστατος last. “

  2. Thanks Carl, that’s helpful—esp. the ref. to Smyth. (There’s a pred. genitive in v. 7 too, though its a diff. sort. of predicate.) That still leaves open the question of gender. Smyth goes on to point out that a pred. adj. is often neuter (§§1044-48). Do you think that’s the case here? Or should it be listed as masc. to match αὐτόν?

    • I do indeed think that ἔσχατον is masculine in agreement with the accusative pronoun αὐτόν. Yes, he does talk about neuter forms of pred. adjs. in §§1044-48, but the operative information, it seems to me, is in the note at the bottom of §1042 with the distinctions between usage of the adverbal neuter and the form in agreement with the operative noun or pronoun.

      • Ah. I hadn’t caught the significance of the 3 examples in that note. If I follow it right (rightly?), the first two examples (1 = masc; 2 = fem, both refer to the subject) are intended to illustrate the adj. function of πρῶτος, but the 3d, the neut., is the adv. function in which πρῶτον modifies προσέβαλε as an adverb?

  3. In BibleWorks8, the BibleWorks analysis gives:
    ἔσχατον adverb OR adjective normal accusative masculine singular no degree from ἔσχατος
    The Friberg analysis in BW8 gives:
    ἔσχατον adjective adverb OR (simple) adjective accusative masculine singular from ἔσχατος
    In the Friberg Analytical Lexicon, they explicitly state: neuter ἔσχατον as an adverb finally, last of all (MK 12.6)

    So, I’m with you (and cwconrad) in thinking it is best to regard it as an adverb and hence more rightly analyzed as a neuter and not a masculine.

    • Hmmm. I think Carl’s point was that it was an adj., *not* an adv. (or did I misunderstand you, Carl?); it is interesting, however, that BW & Friberg makes the same analysis as I did initially.

    • I’m always a little bit amused by these parsing tools; perhaps Friberg’s ANLEX does well to list all possibilities, inasmuch as a single designation as one or the other is always someone else’s judgment call. A competent reader ought to be able to do his/her own parsing and not pay any attention to the software’s tags. As I noted in my own reply to Rod above, I do think that ἔσχατον here is accusative singular masculine.