Matt 6:1 Syntax

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Wed Jan 13 09:22:53 EST 1999

At 11:06 AM +0000 1/13/99, Jonathan Ryder wrote:
>"Carl W. Conrad" wrote:
>> This is an interesting question. My own inclination, I confess, is to
>> understand MH POIEIN as a complementary infinitive to PROSECETE and THN
>> DIKAIOSUNHN hUMWN as object of POIEIN (I've written the whole phrasing out
>> to leave no room for misinterpretation--if I'm wrong on this one, I shall be
>> absolutely wrong!).
>> I don't understand Betz's argument here. A very quick Accordance search of
>> LXX discloses several instances of DIKAIOSUNHN POIEIN: Gen. 2;13, Tob. 4:5,
>> Tob. 14:7, Isaiah 58:2, Ezekiel 18:17, 33:16, 45:9. So I don't
>>understand how
>> he can say that taking DIKAIOSUNHN hUMWN as object of POIEIN is to
>> 'Christianize' Jewish usage or Jewish theology. Moreover, it strikes me as
>> exceeding strange to use POIEIN absolutely in the sense of 'practice'
>> an object; I could imagine PRATTEIN being used absolutely like that, but
>> POIEIN, since it implicitly means to bring something into being rather than
>> to perform an act, seems strange if understood in that sense of 'practice'
>> and used absolutely. Upon checking LSJ/Glare I do find (B) POIEW used like
>> PRATTW, but normally with an object, and then (B.II) POIEW used
>>absolutely as
>> opposed to PASCW or in a medical sense of 'be efficacious'--but neither of
>> these really seems to me to fit here, and given the evidence of LXX usage of
>> DIKAIOSUNHN POIEIN, it still seems to me that the "usual" way of
>> understanding the syntax here is more likely.
>Many thanks for your full reply. I had not thought until your reply of the
>question being whether POIEIN needed an object or whether POIEIN w. or w/o
>DIKAIOSUNH (hUMWN) might be a 'unit' or idiom.

Well, in view of the number of instances of the unit in the LXX, I think it
DOES have a bearing on the validity of Betz's argument. I hasten to add
that Betz may in fact be right in his argument, but I don't see from the
facts available to me how he justifies it.

>However, can I assume that Betz's understanding of the syntax (ie PROSECETE
>taking two objs) is still possible if less likely, ie that it can't be
>discounted outright?

Yes, I guess you'd have to say so; the problem I have (in part, at least)
with this argument is that PROSECW has a history and function very much
like (I've often wondered whether there's direct influence) that of Latin
ANIMADVERTO: PROSECW originally had an appended object NOUN and ANIMADVERTO
originally had an appended object ANIMUM, both objects such as would in
English be conveyed as "attention" in "pay attention" or French REGARDER.
The question in mind is: at what point did awareness of an original object
of PROSECW cease to govern its understood usage? As long as that understood
usage stood, just so long must the verb regularly have been understood with
a double accusative. And yes, I really do feel uncomfortable with POIEIN
understood without an object in this context.

>As to arguments re amending Jewish theology,  they are caught up with his
>thesis that SM existed as a complete unit of Jewish-Christian origin before Mt
>was written and was inserted with little or no alteration into the Gospel by
>final redactor. Not a B-Greek concern I guess.

Curious: to the extent that it is part of the argument for construing the
elements of this construction, it almost 'becomes' a B-Greek concern. To
repeat, he may well be right, but I don't see the justification.

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 OR cconrad at

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