Negative particle -> EWS hOU
Alex / Ali
alexali at surf.net.au
Tue Dec 26 10:07:04 EST 2000
Clay Bartholomew introduced the EWS hOU thread with a quote from Leon
Morris'c commentary in which Morris, discussing Matthew 1:25,
>cites A.H. McNeil (Matthew, London 1915) in a footnote saying that in the
New Testament the negative particle followed by hEWS, hEWS hOU, or hEWS
hOTOU "always implies that the negatived (sic) action did, or will, take
place after the point of time indicated by the particle."
When I saw Clay's original post it caught my attention but even yet I've not
had time to check the data because of commitments associated with this time
of year. But it's in defence mainly of McNeile that I'd like to write
briefly, rather than his interpretation of hEWS hOU, especially since his
place in the pantheon of Greek commentators seems shaky in the light of
Clay's later speaking of "Meyer, Alford and several others" as "big
greeks" - from which it might be inferred that McNeile was but a "little
Greek". Now, I'm not suggesting Clay implied that, but only that if we were
to be dismissive of McNeile's work we might deny ourselves the benefit to be
had from a worthwhile commentary.
I read McNeile's commentary perhaps more than a decade ago. I don't
remember his theology at all; what I do remember clearly is that I made many
notes from his interaction with the Greek. Not long ago on the list we were
speaking of the tendency of modern commentators to work mainly with the
theology rather than the Greek; I doubt that McNeile's commentary could be
read without some greater appreciation of the Greek, at least some
sharpening of focus on its meaning. (I'd be jesting if I were to say since
Morris refers to McNeil nearly 40 times - and Morris is not only an
Australian, but was principal of a Bible college here in Melbourne! -
McNeile must be worth a look; I note that other moderns continue to cite
As to McNeile's observation regarding the implication of hEWS hOU, a couple
"In the N.T. a negative followed by hEWS hOU (e.g. xvii.9), hEWS (e.g.
xxiv.39), or hEWS hOTOU (Jo ix.18) always implies that the negatived action
did, or will, take place after the point of time indicated by the particle."
McNeile is writing to "*a negative followed by*" hEWS hOU, etc. This is
rather different (but importantly different) from H.A.W Meyer, (Matthew, pg.
54) when he says (as quoted by Clay; non vidi), ". . . But from hEWS hOU of
itself no inference can be drawn either in favor or against . . . it is not
intended to convey it afterwards took place."
"Contrast, however, Gen. 8:7, cited by Chrys." (McNeile's words, immediately
after the point at which Morris leaves off his quote). In the edition of
the Septuagint I have, this reads:
KAI APESTEILE TON KORAKA. KAI EXELQWN, OUK ANESTREPSEN hEWS TOU XHRANQHNAI
TO hUDWR APO THS GHS.
Thus, McNeile does not suggest that a negative plus hEWS *means* that the
positive is true after the point of time indicate by the hEWS; his
contention is not that it "grammaticalises" such, though he suggests that in
the NT it "always implies" such. We have spoken before of negative
inference fallacies, and my understanding is that when it is said, eg "They
did not do X until Y" it is not logical to conclude, "After Y, they did do
X". Nevertheless, that inference is easily drawn - even if mistakenly. My
reading of McNeile is that he's not speaking of strict logic or essential
meaning of negative plus hEWS, but of what he sees as an implication. In
the present case, he specifically avoids any dogmatic implications, saying
"the words are concerned only with the fact of virginity at the time".
Despite Iver Larsen's saying "The rule by A.H. McNeil that Clayton quoted is
a misunderstanding based on English. There is no such rule in Greek," I
neither believe any misunderstanding of McNeil's on this point was based on
English, nor that he tried to promote anything with so lofty a status as to
be a "rule". I would, though, Iver, be appreciative of any elaboration of
your 1993 article which you had time to give.
In short, if I were to see McNeile's commentary in a second-hand bookshop,
I'd not pass over it.
Alex Hopkins (Melbourne, Australia)
Footnote: For Clay, re PRWTOTOKON in Lk 2:7, which you mentioned, and also
appears as an interpolation in Mt 1:25. McNeile comments that '
'first-born' no more involves later-born' than 'son' involves' daughter' ',
referring his reader to the second of Lightfoot's dissertations appended to
his Galatians commentary. More fully, what Lightfoot wrote was: "The
prominent idea conveyed by the term 'firstborn' to a Jew would be not the
birth of other children, but the special consecration of this one. The
typical reference in fact is foremost in the the mind of St Luke, as he
himself explains it, 'Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy
to the Lord (ii.23). Thus 'firstborn' does not necessarily suggest
'later-born' any more than 'son' suggests 'daughter.' The two words together
describe the condition under which in obedience to the law a child was
consecrated to God. The 'firstborn son' is in fact the Evangelist's
equivalent for the 'male that openeth the womb'."
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