Carl W. Conrad
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Dec 8 08:58:13 EST 1998
At 9:17 PM -0600 12/7/98, Terence Miller wrote:
> My first question. Did the Pharisees and Saducees come "to" or "for" the
> baptism in Matthew 3:7? The preposition is EPI with the acc. case. Dana
> and Mantey suggest a remote meaning (p106). Zerwick and others suggest EPI
> with acc. leans towards movement. It does seem to be important to know
> whether the Pharisees came to the baptism or for baptism. English
> translations vary. Most of them translate EPI as "to." The NASB translates
> EPI as "for."
text: IDWN DE POLLOUS TWN FARISAIWN KAI SADDOUKAIWN ERCOMENOUS EPI TO
BAPTISMA AUTOU ...
I've just gone through Louw & Nida and find a wide variety of
idiomatic usages of EPI + accusative in different expressions, but as
we are dealing here with a verb of motion (ERCOMENOUS), I'm going to
fall back upon my general sense for EPI with accusative. EPI means
most literally "down upon" or simply "upon"; an accusative used as
its object indicates the terminal point aimed at by the action. In
classical Attic, my observation has been that EPI with accusative and
a verb of motion more often than not indicates hostile intent,
wherefore I've come to think of it as a "hawk" word indicating the
swooping down of a bird of prey to pounce upon a victim. I know it's
used of armies attacking. There are probably plenty of instances of
EPI + accusative where the situation doesn't really imply hostility,
but in the present instance in Mt 3:7, I'm inclined to think it's
there, especially given the Baptist's polemical response to the
Pharisees and Sadducees who have come to him.
On the other hand ...: the object of EPI here is TO BAPTISMA AUTOU,
and the Baptist asks "who warned you to avoid the wrath ...?"; in
view of that one might suppose that they have indeed come IN ORDER TO
BE BAPTIZED. Yet BAGD in their long article upon EPI do cite EPI +
accusative and this verse as an instance of "for" in the sense of
purpose. I guess that's possible.
Upon reflection, I wonder whether there may not be a deliberate
ambiguity in this phrasing in Matthew's version: perhaps they HAVE
come to be baptized, but consider who they are! Perhaps they have
come with hostile intent, as often enough in the gospel accounts we
see Pharisees or scribes (sometimes even Scribes of Pharisees!)
coming to spy upon the behavior of Jesus and his disciples.
Luke has (3:7) ELEGEN OUN TOIS EKPOREUOMENOIS OCLOIS BAPTISQHNAI hUP'
AUTOU followed by the same GENNHMATA ECIDNWN speech that is usually
deemed a Q passage, since it is identical in Mt and Lk and not
present in Mk. Luke uses the infinitive BAPTISQHNAI evidently as a
complementary infinitive with EKPOREUOMENOIS to express purpose.
Elsewhere in Matthew, however, the phrase GENNHMATA ECIDNWN is
regularly used in passages of implicit condemnation:
Mt 12:34 GENNHMATA ECIDNWN, PWS DUNASQE AGAQA LALEIN PONHROI ONTES?
Mt 23:33 OFEIS, GENNHMATA ECIDNWN, PWS FUGHTE APO THS KRISEWS THS GEENNHS?
To me these passages seem to weight the interpretation of EPI TO
BAPTISMA AUTOU in Mt 3:7 toward the notion of the Baptist's
expectation that these Pharisees and Sadducees have come to him
hypocritically and with hostile intent; and yet, and yet ... the
alternative is plausible enough that it deserves consideration,
namely, that they DID come in order to be baptized.
It was a good question. Moreover, it's another of those questions
which raise the translator's problem: if the Greek text is really
ambiguous, does the translator have the right to make a decision in
favor of one of the alternatives rather than the other? I suppose
s/he's not to be faulted if s/he honestly believes that s/he has
chosen the more likely interpretation to translate--BUT, IMHO, it
would be more honest to use a footnote to explain that the translator
has chosen what s/he thinks is more plausible but that an alternative
understanding of the Greek is also plausible.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cconrad at yancey.main.nc.us
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