[B-Greek] Luke 2:2 Again
ialarsen at multitechweb.com
Wed Dec 22 11:42:07 EST 2004
> Now that Christmas is near, I figure that it's a good
> time to take yet another look at a well-known crux,
> hopefully giving a different twist to it :--
Yes, it is very difficult verse for various reasons. Many have discussed it
on the list in the past, and I also commented on it on Dec 13, 2000 as well
a another thread starting June 26, 2001. I won't repeat myself much, but
would like to comment below on the new twist introduced.
> Luke 2:2 hAUTH * APOGRAFH PRWTH EGENETO hHGEMONEUONTOS
> THS SURIAS KURHNIOU (* later MSS add hH)
Or rather, a few early MSS left out hH by mistake. It seems that it was left
out in the original hand of Sinaiticus, a mistake that was later corrected
in that MS. The vast majority have the article which makes better sense of
the text. With the article, the subject of the sentence is "THIS census"
with emphasis on THIS because of its fronted position. It must be
contrastive emphasis relating to another census known to Theophilus. Whereas
one can say in English "This census" Greek has to say "hAUTH hH APOGRAFH"
for "THIS census" or "hH APOGRAFH hAUTH" for "this census". The article is
obligatory with the demonstrative. Without the article, hAUTH has to be
analyzed as a substantive use of an adjective with the noun (APOGRAFH)
implied. I think that this is too awkward grammar to be original.
> Apart from all the historical quandries that I don't
> want to or need to get into, this verse is very
> exegetically challenging. When all is said and done,
> translations usually end up rendering this verse as:
> "This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius
> was governor of Syria." (NET)
Yes, from the corrupted text without the hH, but PRWTH should have preceded
APGRAFH if it were to modify it.
> The difficulties in Luke 2:2 have led to a number of
> proposals, but many are worse than the text they are
> trying to interpret. In particular, I disagree with
> the attempt to read PRWTH as a comparative ("before"
> or "earlier") followed by a genitive of comparison to
> get something like "before Quirinius was governing
> Syria" because KURHNIOU has to be the subject of a
> genitive absolute hHGEMONEUONTOS.
I don't see the logic of this argument. KURHNIOU is genitive and the subject
for hHGEMONEUONTOS no matter how we understand the rest of the sentence. The
comparative sense of PRWTOS followed by a genitive of comparison is well
attested, e.g. PRWTOS MOU HN (he was/existed before me) in John 1:15,30.
> Nevertheless, the standard interpretion still leaves me
> cold with a number of problems, the chief among them is
> why would Luke specify that it was PRWTH ("the first").
> If Luke merely wanted to tell when the registration
> happened, presumably under Quirinius (c. AD 6), there
> is little need to use PRWTH. What does that word do
> for the text? Of course, the census under Quirinius
> was hugely important. Josephus had recognized it as
> as a major factor ultimately leading to the Jewish War
> in the 60s. In fact, this census is so important that
> Luke could merely refer to it in Acts 5:37 as "the
> census" THS APOGRAFHS.
These are important considerations, and I suggest we need to go into
pragmatics and make some assumptions about what was already well known to
Assumption 1: The census under Quirinius in AD 6 was so famous and well
known that it could be referred to as "THE census" by the time Luke was
Assumption 2: It was known that this famous census happened under Quirinius,
and in particular Luke assumed that Theophilus knew this fact.
Assumption 3: The census referred to here about 12 years earlier was not
well known and not associated with Quirinius.
If we interpret Luke's statement from this background, it is reasonable to
interpret his comment in reference to the known census, and this explains
the use of PRWTH in the sense of earlier/prior to. It also explains the
contrastive emphasis between the unknown census of v. 1 and the well known
census of Quirinius. One could translate: "THIS census happened before (the
census during) the governing of Syria of Quirinius." The reader will have to
supply the link from Q. to the famous census, that is, to supply the implied
information shown in parenthesis.
> Another problem for me is the rather weak rendering
> of EGENETO as "was." It seems that HN would do a better
> job. Also, it is difficult to figure out what belongs
> in the subject and what belongs in the predicate.
I agree that "was" is a questionable translation of EGENETO here.
"Happen/take place" is much better.
> I would suggest that Eph. 6:2 "TIMA TON PATERA SOU KAI
> THN MHTERA" hHTIS ESTIN ENTOLH PRWTH EN EPAGGALIAi is
> a very helpful syntactic and semantic analogy for Luke 2:2.
> In particular, we have a pronoun + noun + PRWTH + adv.,
> a very similar sentence structure to Luke 2:2, withthe
> chief difference is the location and root of the verb,
> ESTIN vs EGENETO.
There is a big difference between a relative pronoun hHTIS and a
demonstrative pronoun hAUTH. And there is also a considerable difference
between ESTIN and EGENETO. I don't see how Eph 6:2 can help us with Luke
> Eph. 6:2 is usually translated like "'Honor your father
> and mother' [cf. Ex 20:12], which is the first commandment
> with by a promise." (NRSV) But Danker disagrees with
> rendering PRWTH as "first" because it "loses sight of
> the fact that Ex 20:4-6=Dt 5:8-10 has an implied promise
> of the same kind as the one one in Ex 20:12=Dt5:16."
> Danker concludes that PRWTH "here is best taken in the
> same sense as in Mk 12:29 above."
I have looked in vain for the "fact" that Ex 20:4-6 has an implied promise.
V. 6 has a description of the faithfulness of God, but is not formulated as
promise connected to a commandment. One can argue that it is an implied
promise, but Paul apparently did not see it as a promise connected to a
commandment. I don't see adequate reason to reject the sense of "first"
> Mark 12:29 has POIA ESTIN ENTOLH PRWTH PANTWN, which means
> "Which commandment is greatest of all?" and definitely not
> "which commandment is chronologically first of all?" Thus,
> Eph. 6:2 should mean something like "which is the greatest
> commandment with a promise."
> Danker identifies two major senses for PRWTOS: (1) being
> first in sequence, time, number, or space, and (2) being
> first in prominence or importance. Many examples of the
> second sense can be found in Luke's writings, e.g. Luke
> 15:22 STOLHN THN PRWTHN "[my] best robe"; Luke 13:30
> (first vs. last); Acts 17:4 "quite a few prominent women"
> (NET); Acts 13:50 "the prominent men in the city"; Luke
> 19:47 "the prominent leaders of the people" etc.
Yes, there is no question about these two senses of PRWTOS. But BAGD lists
four sub-senses under his point 1, and the first one is "first, earliest,
> This second sense gives full force to the GINOMAI as
> "become" (experience a change in nature) and Luke loves
> using adj. + GINOMAI (e.g. Luke 23:31, Acys 1:19, 9:42,
> 12:23, 16:27, 19:17, and 26:19 [exx. from BDAG]). Thus,
> PRWTH EGENETO would mean "became most prominent"
> Using the sense of "most prominent" in Luke 2:2 hAUTH
> [hH] APOGRAFH PRWTH EGENETO hHGEMONEUONTOS THS SURIAS
> KURHNIOU, we get either, depending on whether APOGRAFH
> goes into the subject or the predicate:
> "This registration became most prominent when
> Quirinius was governing Syria." or "This [decree
> to get registered] became the/a most important
> registration when Quirinius was governing Syria."
It is an interesting twist, but this translation doesn't make sense to me.
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