Archives For grammar

(I thought this had been posted a month ago, but just found it in my drafts folder.)

I’ve been hunting for a list of verbs in the NT (&/or LXX) that have both first and second aorist forms. Thus far I’ve come up dry. I know of only three such verbs, but I thought there were more. Anyone know of such a list or can anyone add to this list?


I’ve posted below a pdf that summarizes informal conditions in koine Greek. This is a new section that I’m adding to my first year material for the spring semester. I’ve always had a discussion of conditions, but it’s only ever been the formal conditions, i.e., those explicitly marked as such by the formal categories (1st, 2d, 3d, 4th class by the taxonomy I use). I’ve thought over the years that a beginning student ought to realize that there are other ways in which conditional-type statements can be expressed. So here’s my first shot at it for first year. I haven’t tried to include every possibility, but the major ones are here. Have i missed anything significant? See any problems with what I’ve written? I’d be interested in any comments on the content.


Greek accents

December 22, 2010

How important are Greek accents? There’s an interesting discussion going on over at the Evangelical Text Crit blog just now. Pete Williams has proposed three major reasons why you ought to care about accents.

Grammatical Look-a-likes

December 20, 2010

Bill Mounce’s recent blog post shows a form that will puzzle many students (and perhaps some others!). As we often teach in first year Greek, if it looks like an article, but has both an accent and a breathing mark, it’s a relative pronoun. That’s a bit of an oversimplification for first year pedagogical purposes. The example Bill uses is Heb. 2:11,

ὅ τε γὰρ ἁγιάζων καὶ οἱ ἁγιαζόμενοι ἐξ ἑνὸς πάντες· δι᾿ ἣν αἰτίαν οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται ἀδελφοὺς αὐτοὺς καλεῖν.

My favorite example is from Acts (where this same construction occurs 7 times):

Acts 8:38 καὶ ἐκέλευσεν στῆναι τὸ ἅρμα καὶ κατέβησαν ἀμφότεροι εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ, ὅ τε Φίλιππος καὶ ὁ εὐνοῦχος, καὶ ἐβάπτισεν αὐτόν.

He commanded the chariot to stop and both of them went down into the water, both Philip and the Eunuch, and he [i.e., Philip] baptized him.

In these two examples ὅ (rough breathing and acute accent) looks like the neuter singular relative pronoun, but it’s not. Notice that the following word, τε, is an enclitic, so its accent shift back one word to the article ὁ, resulting in ὅ. In this case (Acts 8:38), it is the article that governs Φίλιππος.

There are other lookalikes in Greek that you need to watch out for also. These include some indicative/imperative forms, the indefinite/interrogative pronouns, the preposition εἰς and the number εἱς, liquid futures which can look like indicatives, etc. Somewhere I ran across a list of these once… now if I could just remember where I put it!

It also reminds me of some other lookalikes…

Chili Totally Looks Like Cat

Or perhaps the one that got the most media attention 2 years ago, Sarah Palin and Tina Fey:

To which some think we should add we can add Cindy Michaels

And there are some other ones that I’ve run across…
Doggy hair
(I will confess to the suspicion of a bit of “Photoshopping” on this one to make the color tones the same!)

One last offering…

Mimas Totally Looks Like Death Star

Here’s an interesting list from Dave Black’s blog today. (I post it here partly because there’s no way to link to a specific or permanent location on Dave’s site since he doesn’t use blog software. Dave, you really should!)

I agree with Dave (except, perhaps, for 1.d—the parenthetical comment). 🙂

9/30/2010, 12:20 PM

The latest issue of The Reader’s Digest has an interesting article entitled “13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won’t Tell You.” Here are “13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You”:

1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it’s only one component in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don’t stop there. (You’ll need, for example, a Hebrew New Testament as well.)

2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what’s possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.

3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don’t believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.

4. Greek had to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its complicated syntax. Truth be told, there’s only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect the notion of “Holy Ghost” Greek. Their view is, in my view, a demonstrable cul-de-sac.

5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, “The word in the Greek means…”? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called “illegitimate totality transfer” by linguists.)

6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I’ll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, “Greek is an easy language; it’s us Greek teachers who get in the way.” The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!

7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the textbook that had been required was mine!)

8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can’t. I tell my students that it’s almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.

9. Greek is fun! At least when it’s taught in a fun way.

10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I’ve embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the Greek. Hence, I thought I had “used Greek in ministry” if I had consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since then I’ve discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.

11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than “another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation” then it loses its power as the Word of God. That’s why I’m so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in humble service to His upside-down kingdom.

12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using my Greek DVDs in the process. If anyone wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a pronunciation CD and a handout called “Additional Exercises.”

13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don’t expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you’ve had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).

Okay, I’m done. And yes, I’m exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things. May their tribe increase!

Now who wants to tackle “13 Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won’t Tell You”?

After discussing second aorist forms yesterday, my TA and I were just looking at BDAG’s entry for φέρω:

φέρω (Hom.+) impf. ἔφερον; fut. οἴσω J 21:18; Rv 21:26; 1 aor. ἤνεγκα, ptc. ἐνέγκας; 2 aor. inf. ἐνεγκεῖν (B-D-F §81, 2); pf. ἐνήνοχα (LXX, JosAs). Pass.: 1 aor. ἠνέχθην 2 Pt 1:17, 21a, 3 pl. ἐνέχθησαν Hs 8, 2, 1.

This listing seems odd to me. Note the items I’ve bolded. Why would ἤνεγκα and ἠνέχθην be listed as first aorist forms? I would think they should be designated as second aorist since they are formed from a different stem (*ἐνεκ). For now I’ll call them an anomaly, but “error” looks more likely–as hesitantly as I am in disagreeing with Danker.

English Second Aorist Forms

August 25, 2010

Well, not technically! English has no aorist, let alone a second aorist, but some English verbs exhibit a parallel phenomenon. Here’s a quick review of the Greek second aorist, and then an extended illustration from English.

There are some Greek verb forms that are not formed from the same root as other forms that are treated as the same word. The root and stem of many (perhaps most) words are the same. But some words have different stems for different tense-forms.
In most cases, the stem will either be: the same in all forms; or different in the present, but the same in other forms; or different in the second aorist and the same in other forms. For example, λύω uses the same root/stem across the board: λυ–. That is why it serves as the “paradigm verb” in most textbooks. On the other hand, γινώσκω in the present uses the stem γινωσκ-, but all other forms use the stem γνω– (which is the same as the root, *γνω). The third common pattern is seen in ἄγω: the present stem is ἀγ– (as is the future, perfect, etc.), but the second aorist stem is ἀγαγ–.

With suppletive forms, words that were originally unrelated etymologically, came to be used as different forms of the same word. For example, the word λέγω is the present form of the word which means “I am saying/speaking, I say/speak,” but the future form is not λέγσω*, but ἐρῶ. The aorist form used for λέγω is not ἔλεγσα*, but εἶπον. These three forms were originally three different Greek words that were only used in certain forms (λέγω in present, ἐρῶ in the future, and εἶπον in the aorist). Eventually they came to be used as if they were different forms of the same word.

The most common words that have multiple roots that were originally unrelated are as follows.

  • λέγω (I say) has three roots: *λεγ- (pres.), *ἐρ- (fut., pf., aor. pas.), and *ἰπ- (aor. act.)
  • ἔρχομαι (I come/go) has two roots: *ἐρχ (pres.) and *ἐλευθ (fut., aor., pf.)
  • ἐσθίω (I eat) has two roots: *ἐσθι (pres.) and *φαγ (fut. and aor.)
  • ὁράω (I see) has three roots: *ὁρα (pres., pf.), *ὀπ (fut., aor. pas.), and *ϝιδ (aor. act.)
  • οἶδα (I know) has three roots: *ϝορα (pres.), *ὀπ (fut., aor.), and *ϝιδ (aor. of εἶδον; technically this is a synonym, not a suppletive form, but it is usually treated the same way.)
  • φέρω (I carry): *φερ (pres.), *οἰ (fut.), *ἐνεκ (aor., pf.)

Less common NT words with suppletive forms include:

  • αἱρέω (I choose; ≠ αἶρω): *αἱρε (pres., fut., pf. m/p, aor. pas.) and *ϝελ (aor. act.)
  • πάσχω (I suffer): *παθ (pres., aor.) and *πενθ (pf.)
  • τρέχω (I run): *θρεχ (pres.) and *δραμ (aor.)

The same thing happens in English!

Go (present) and went (past) are not etymologically related. English used to have a past tense of go (= eode, Anglo-Saxon, and yode in Middle Eng.). It also had a present tense of went (= wend). We now use go and went as if they were present and past tenses of the same word. (There are other English words that have similar histories, but this is one of the more common ones.)

To see some of this firsthand, browse through the following diachronic sampling of older stages of the English language. If you read carefully, you can make sufficient sense of all these examples even though they are usually from Middle English texts (there are a few from the early stages of Modern English as well, and even a few 19th century examples). These examples all come from the Oxford English Dictionary (compact edition, unabridged; Oxford Univ. Press, 1971).

s.v. “yode, yede”

v. Obs. Past tense of Go v. (= went, went away, proceeded, took his course)

‣ Selected examples [date] {pg. col. in OED}

  • Trevisa Higden (Rolls) IV.397. [1387] {61a}
    A lampe .. in þat hevene .. þat ȝede a doun westward as it were þe sonne
  • Hampole Pr. Consc. 4851 [1340] {61b}
    Þat day, þat Loth yhed out of Sodome
  • Ellis Orig. Lett. Ser. 1.1.244 [1524] {61b}
    Saing if he yode awaye she must neds do for her self
  • Ld. Bernes Huon. clxiii.636 [1533] {61b}
    He issued out of the gate and yode towards the tentes of his enemyes
  • Spenser F. Q. 1.x.53 [1590] {61b}
  • Such one, as that same mighty man of God, that bloud-red billowes .. disparted with his rod, Till that his army dry-foot through them yod
  • Glasgerian 46 in Fuvniv. & Hales Percy Folio 1.250 [1650] {61b}
    He did not kisse that Lady gay when he came nor when he youd
  • Scott Marm. III.xxxi [1808] {61b}
    In other place than forth he yode, Returned Lord Marmion

s.v. “wend”

“The original forms of the [past tense] and [past participle] are respectively wende and wended, wend, but the forms wente, went appear beside these from 1200, and latterly become the more usual; in the [reflexive] and [intransitive] senses went finally replaced the older preterites [i.e., past tenses] belonging to go, and from c 1500 is most naturally regarded as the [past tense] of that verb, while wend was provided with the new form wended.

  • Chaucer, Prol. 21 [c 1386] {315c}
    In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay Ready to wenden on my pilgrymage
  • Hist. K. Boccus & Sydrache X j b [?1510] {316a}
    When the soule at the ende Shal out fro the body wende
  • Scott, Ivanhoe xx [1819] {316a}
    Wend on your way, in the name of God and St. Dunstan
  • Chev. Assigne 161 [c 1430] {316a}
    And whenne drowȝe to the þe nyȝte he wendethe to bedde
  • Fairfax Tasso xii. xxxii [1600] {316a}
    Downe from the tree I came in haste, And tooke thee vp and on my journey wend
  • Caryle Fr. Rev. 1.1.ii. [1837] {316a}
    The Merovingian Kings, slowly wending on their bullock-carts through the streets of Paris
  • Shelley Sonn. Dante 4 [1816] {316b}
    Ascend A magic ship, whose charmed sails should fly With wind at will where’re our thoughts might wend
  • Scott Kenilw. xxiii [1821] {316b}
    Adieu, and may the blessing of God wend with you!
  • G. Head Forest Scenes of N. Amer. 109 [1829] {316b}
    We wended our way down the ravine
  • Sladen Poetry of Exiles (2d ed.) 1.27 [1885] {316b}
    Pleasant it was to wend his way back to familiar Kent
  • Maury Phys. Geog. viii §394 [1860] {316b}
    On the Australian side, an ice-bearing current is found wending its way from the Antarctic regions.

‣ Notes on several Old English characters used above

Ȝ ȝ = yogh, a g sound (can actually have several different sounds [e.g., y or ch] depending on the time it was written; this varies from Old English to Middle English, with some internal variations.)

Þ þ = thorn, a th sound
(See the delightful lyric on these letters by Catherine Faber at

Although the word wend is archaic in modern English, it is still used, though primarily in poetic contexts (or by authors who are deliberately stretching for variety—perhaps enabled by a thesaurus!). As one example of modern English poetry, the word wend appears in the work of Robert Louis Stevenson (19th C.).


by Robert Louis Stevenson

Book 1


On the great streams the ships may go
About men’s business to and fro.
But I, the egg-shell pinnace, sleep
On crystal waters ankle-deep:
I, whose diminutive design,
Of sweeter cedar, pithier pine,
Is fashioned on so frail a mould,
A hand may launch, a hand withhold:
I, rather, with the leaping trout
Wind, among lilies, in and out;
I, the unnamed, inviolate,
Green, rustic rivers, navigate;
My dipping paddle scarcely shakes
The berry in the bramble-brakes;
Still forth on my green way I wend
Beside the cottage garden-end;
And by the nested angler fare,
And take the lovers unaware.

By willow wood and water-wheel
Speedily fleets my touching keel;
By all retired and shady spots
Where prosper dim forget-me-nots;
By meadows where at afternoon
The growing maidens troop in June
To loose their girdles on the grass.
Ah! speedier than before the glass
The backward toilet goes; and swift
As swallows quiver, robe and shift
And the rough country stockings lie
Around each young divinity.
When, following the recondite brook,
Sudden upon this scene I look,
And light with unfamiliar face
On chaste Diana’s bathing-place,
Loud ring the hills about and all
The shallows are abandoned. . . .

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.

FWIW observation: The longer I study the serious, exegetical Mark commentaries who actually deal with grammar and syntax,* the more skeptical I’m becoming of some common claims. As just one example, one of my favorite commentaries (and it is that) on Mark is Robert Gundry’s massive tome. It’s really a magisterial work, worth the price just for the introduction. He’s read everybody and interacts with most of them in massive sets of notes on each section. These notes sections may not be the best organized, but they are loaded with helpful material, even if you often disagree with him. But to my point, the more I read Gundry the more leery I am of claims to “emphasis.” If there is as much emphasis in Mark as Gundry finds, then Mark comes across as a writer who always uses his caps lock key for email. (Or maybe like an Oliver B. Greene commentary filled with CAPS, or an A. W. Pink book! —I think Pink got a fire sale special! and bought an entire warehouse full!! of exclamation points!!! 🙂 ) When everything is emphatic, then nothing is, even if you dress it up with fancy names like hyperbaton, aposiopesis, trajection, etc.

*Surprisingly, not all “exegetical commentaries” spend much time on grammar and syntax. So long as I’m naming names in this post, Craig Evans’ WBC vol on the 2d half of Mark is a good example of this. His notes with the translation are almost entirely text critical, and his commentary (about 600 pgs on 8 chs) rarely discusses grammar or syntax. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a helpful work–but its forte is Second Temple backgrounds, not the language.

Grammatical categories

June 18, 2010

I just ran across this comment in BDAG. It was already highlighted, so I’ve read it before, but its point struck home again this morning as I was grappling with getting the right grammatical category term to describe a (fairly familiar) phrase in Mark.

The earliest auditors/readers, not being inconvenienced by grammatical and lexical debates, would readily absorb the context and experience little difficulty. 🙂

The statement is in regard to the word ἐν (p. 326).

There is relatively little written in the grammars on the idiomatic use of εἰ μή. I spent some time working through all the examples in Mark this evening; here’s my summary. It’s limited to Mark and to the use as an idiom (i.e., it does not include use in a conditional statement, etc.).

What have I missed? Or botched?!

εἰ μὴ is an idiom which means “except.” It is used in slightly different ways grammatically. One common construction is seen in Mark 2:7 in which a noun (or sometimes a string of nouns) is appended in either nominative or accusative case which functions as the subject or direct object of an elliptical statement restating the preceding clause and which assumes the same verb, but which states an exception to that first clause. In this verse, the elliptical statement is, “One is able to forgive sin—God.” For other similar statements using a nominative, see 10:18 and 13:32; for an accusative, 5:37; 6:8; 11:13. Other times, but less commonly, the exception is fully stated (e.g., 6:5; 9:9; 13:20), or a prepositional phrase is used (e.g., 6:4), which sometimes repeats the same preposition as the first clause, but specifies a subset excluded from the original statement (e.g., 9:29). (There are other uses of εἰ μή that do not occur in Mark; see Smyth, §2346; BDF, §376; MHT 1:171.)

For reference, here’s Mark 2:7, Τί οὗτος οὕτως λαλεῖ; βλασφημεῖ· τίς δύναται ἀφιέναι ἁμαρτίας εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός;

Following up on Bill Comb’s comment (see comments below), here is an extract from Boyer’s article on εἰ μή in GTJ.


BDAG, s.v. πέραν, 796–97.b.β:

πέραν w. gen. can also be used w. the art. as a subst. (X., An. 3, 5, 2 εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ ποταμοῦ; Jos., Ant. 7, 198) ἦλθον εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης they came to the (land on the) other side of the lake Mk 5:1.

πέραν is technically an adverb, but it can be used as a preposition with the genitive (e.g., Mark 3:8; 10:1). In the portion of BDAG cited above, however, it is listed under “πέραν w. gen.” as a substantive with the article. But in the three examples cited (Xenophon, Josephus, Mark) it is an accusative article—the genitive is a word which modifies the accusative object of the preposition εἰς, not a genitive object of πέραν.

εἰς τὸ πέραν τοῦ ποταμοῦ (X., An. 3, 5, 2)

εἰς τὰ πέραν τοῦ Ἰορδάνου (Jos., Ant. 7, 198) [ref. only, text not cited in BDAG]

εἰς τὸ πέραν τῆς θαλάσσης (Mark 5:1)

I would think that this should be listed as “πέραν w. acc.” and the refs. given here should have been under sect. a, not b.β.

Or am I not awake yet this morning? 🙂

(πέραν also occurs with a dative object in LXX; e.g., Josh 22:11.)

Be sure to see Carl Conrad’s comment below which explains the construction nicely; this is not an error.

I’m puzzling over Mark 9:42.

καλόν ἐστιν αὐτῷ μᾶλλον εἰ περίκειται μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ….

Is it better to explain this as a conditional statement, thus:

Protasis: if a large millstone were hung around his neck …

Apodosis: It would be better for him … [taking εἰμι as expressing an impersonal subject, “it”]

Or should εἰ be taken to introduce a subject clause (as ὁτι might do)? Thus:

For a large millstone to be hung around his neck would be better…


There are three major alternatives for understanding the last phrase of Hebrews 10:20: τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ (“that is, his flesh”). The first is reflected in most standard English translations (ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV). It understands the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place in the OT tabernacle to be typical of the physical body of Christ—the new, antitypical sacrifice that has provided access. Taken in this way the antecedent of σαρκός is καταπετάσματος earlier in the verse.

Lane argues for a different understanding in which the phrase “introduces a clause explicative of the preceding sentence as a whole.” This he supports by an appeal to the parallel structure of vv. 19 and 20 in which each verse speaks of “the new way, its goal, and the sacrificial death of Jesus as the basis for entrance” (Lane, Hebrews, WBC, 2:275). He would translate: “we have authorization for free access … by means of the blood of Jesus … which he made available for us through the curtain (that is to say, by means of his flesh)” (273).

The third alternative understands σαρκός as referring to ὁδόν. It would be translated, “the new, living way which he has opened for us through the curtain, [that is] the way of his flesh” (NEB, REB). This would refer the antecedent of σαρκός, not to the immediately preceding substantive καταπετάσματος, but to the second preceding substantive (ὁδόν). Such a pattern also appears in 7:5 and 13:15. This position is taken by Westcott and by Montefiore (both ad loc). This is an attractive solution to a somewhat awkward statement. Unfortunately, grammar makes it highly unlikely.

A key factor in evaluating the alternatives above is the syntactical pattern of the idiomatic phrase τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν.# “Greek has a special explanatory idiom in which the word or cluster following τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν or ὅ ἔστιν usually agrees in gender, number and case with the word or word cluster for which it is the explanation or interpretation” (McGaughy, Descriptive Analysis/Εἶναι, 117–18)* Based on its use in the NT, this rule can be stated more precisely: whenever there is an explicit antecedent (i.e., there is a specific word that serves as the antecedent; some occurrences of the phrase τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν have a general antecedent in which some phrase or concept serves as the antecedent rather than a specific word), the word following τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν always agrees with its antecedent in case and almost always in gender and number.† When the two words are both nouns, agreement in gender is not always possible since nouns have fixed gender; when one of the words is a pronoun, adjective, or participle, they usually agree in gender.§

This makes the association of σαρκός with ὁδόν very unlikely. The only alternatives are the traditional view (καταπετάσματος as the antecedent of σαρκός) or Lane’s suggestion that the antecedent is the entire sentence. A general antecedent is grammatically possible with τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν (see the examples cited in note † at the end of this article). Such an explanation, however, seems to be forced when there is an explicit antecedent in close proximity with which σαρκός agrees in gender, number, and case. From a grammatical perspective it thus appears that the traditional view is correct.


# BDF §132.2 points out that τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν is literary whereas ὅ ἔστιν is vernacular. The phrase τοῦτό ἐστιν functions, not as an idiomatic, transitional phrase, but as a normal subject/predicate sentence.

* Robertson’s comment that it “has no regard to case, number, or gender” refers to the form of τοῦτ᾿, not to the word that follows ἔστιν (Grammar, 412; cf. 705; cf. BDF, §132.2).

† The following occurrences of τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν have an explicit antecedent with which the phrase following agrees in case: Mark 7:2, χερσίν, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ἀνίπτοις; Acts 1:19, Ἁκελδαμάχ, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν χωρίον αἵματο; 19:4, τὸν ἐρχόμενον … τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν εἰς τὸν Ἰησοῦν; Rom 7:18, ἐν ἐμοί, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου; 10:8, τὸ ῥῆμά…, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν τὸ ῥῆμα τῆς πίστεως; Phlm 12, ὅν…, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν τὰ ἐμὰ σπλάγχνα; Heb 2:14, τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν τὸν διάβολον; 7:5, τὸν λαόν…, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς αὐτῶν; 9:11, σκηνῆς…, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν οὐ ταύτης τῆς κτίσεως; 11:16, κρείττονος…, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ἐπουρανίου; 13:15, θυσίαν…, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν καρπὸν χειλέων; 1 Pet 3:20, ὀλίγοι, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν ὀκτὼ ψυχαί. The following occurrences of τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν have a general antecedent (a phrase or a concept) and thus there is nothing on which to base grammatical agreement: Matt 27:46, ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι; τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν· θεέ μου θεέ μου, ἱνατί με ἐγκατέλιπες; Acts 2:16, ἀλλὰ τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ εἰρημένον διὰ τοῦ προφήτου Ἰωήλ; Rom 9:8, τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν, οὐ τὰ τέκνα τῆς σαρκὸς ταῦτα τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ ἀλλὰ τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας λογίζεται εἰς σπέρμα; 10:6–7, μὴ εἴπῃς ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ σου· τίς ἀναβήσεται εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν; τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν Χριστὸν καταγαγεῖν· ἤ· τίς καταβήσεται εἰς τὴν ἄβυσσον; τοῦτ᾿ ἔστιν Χριστὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀναγαγεῖν.

§ The only instance in which they do not agree in gender is Phlm 12. The same text also varies the number, but this is due to an idiomatic expression that is always plural (τὰ ἐμὰ σπλάγχνα). The only other instance of a variation in number is Heb. 7:5 due to one of the words being a collective term.

The note above is slightly revised and corrected from a paragraph that appears in my article, “The Exhortations of Hebrews 10:19-25,” JMAT 6.1 (spring 2002): 44-62. [I don’t have the published copy at hand, so I can’t reference the exact page.]

Voss calls it mules

January 20, 2010

Here’s a bibliographical perplexity I haven’t been able to solve. Anyone have any ideas?

In Robertson’s “big grammar” he says on p. 1101 in regard to the participle, “Voss calls it mules, which is part horse and part ass.” The footnote is to “Farrar, Gk. Syn p. 169.”

From ATR’s bibliog., that is: Frederic W. Farrar, A brief Greek syntax and hints on Greek accidence: with some reference to comparative philology, and with illustrations from various modern languages. London: Longmans, Green, 1876.

World Cat does not list this book. Princeton Seminary has the 1876 edition, but it is non-circulating on microfiche. The Library of Congress has the 3d ed., 1870. Google Books has an 1867 edition, which does not identify the edition (maybe 4th?). Unfortunately, Voss’s comment is not in the 1867 edition, so it must have been added in a later edition of 1876 that Robertson cites. SBTS/Louisville lists an 1874 edition; not sure if that would have it or not.

So I’m left with two perplexities: who is “Voss”? And what does Farrar say in his 1886 edition?

Anyone happen to have access to a copy of the 1876? Anyone at Princeton or Louisville that has time to take a look next time they are at the library?