DE in I John 1:3 (was Re: Periphrastic construction in I John 1:4)

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sat Jul 3 06:55:10 EDT 1999

"Longishness" seems to be the doom of this concatenation of question and
responses; if anyone is uninterested in the lowly question of the particle
DE, I would suggest that now is the time to press the delete button, but if
one IS interested in that lowly question, I think the whole sequence hangs

At 3:15 PM -0400 7/2/99, Mike Sangrey wrote:
>cwconrad at said:
>> On 07/02/99, ""Robert R. Monti" <robemon at>" wrote:
>[some text deleted]
>>> ...       I would
>>> also appreciate it if somebody would discuss the use of DE to lend strength
>>> to a statement or argument, as in I John ch. 1, v. 3b:
>> This is a little bit awkward and seems almost like an afterthought in
>> a  sentence that some might well consider a monstrous anacoluthon
>> comparable  in its own way to Ephesians 1:3-10 [No, I DON'T want to
>> start up the "bad  Greek" thread--I think this is intelligible but
>> curiously, awkwardly  phrased].  We have to look at this as a
>> clarification, I think, of the  preceding clause, hINA KAI hUMEIS
>> KOINWNIAN ECHTE MEQ' hHMWN, and I'd be  inclined to put the entire
>> clause of 3b in parentheses: "(even our own  fellowship with the
>> Father and with His son Jesus Christ)".
>> One COULD say that there is an implicit ESTIN in this clause and that
>> it is  declarative: "even our own fellowship is with the Father and
>> with His son  Jesus Christ." I think that's a legitimate alternative.
>> OR alternatively one could say that this clause is an expansive
>> description  of the KOINWNIA that the writer wants the addresses to
>> share; it ought  perhaps, if thus understood, to be set in the
>> accusative to agree with the  KOINWNIAN of the previous verse, but it
>> might be understood as something I  rather despise to acknowledge the
>> existence of: a NOMINATIVUS PENDENS; the  nearest parallel would be
>> the final phrase of GJn 1:14, PLHRHS CARITOS KAI  ALHQEIAS, where one
>> expects PLHRH, an accusative to agree with DOXAN, or  alternatively
>> PLHROUS, a genitive to agree with AUTOU.
>> Of course, I've been talking about a different problem than the one
>> you  have raised, one that seems closely bound up with the function of
>> that DE.  But I think the function of the DE is practically to turn
>> the entire clause  in which it is imbedded into a parenthetical one;
>> to convey its force VERY  LOOSELY, I'd convey the clause thus: "even
>> the fellowship, that is, that we  ourselves have with the Father and
>> with His son Jesus Christ."
>> But there's something grammatically awkward in this phrasing,
>> whichever  alternative explanation one accepts: either the whole
>> phrase ought not to  be in the nominative, or else one must accept an
>> implicit ESTIN. Perhaps  the second alternative is easier, but I
>> rather suspect that the first  alternative may be more in accord with
>> the composition as it stands (that  it's something of an anacoluthon).
>May I share a thought about the use of DE here?  Read this as a question:
>B-Greek being a sounding board to help with my understanding.
>Could DE be thought of as a thoughtful pause?  The DE would tend
>to lightly push the hH KOINWNIA away from the hH hHMETERA.  Or,
>alternatively, one could think of it as connecting the two articular
>words more loosely than they would normally be connected.  We don't have
>a simple "our fellowship" because the DE is stuck in there.  This use of
>DE--if it exists at all--would be similar to a "word" some untrained
>speakers use, namely "ummmm" (which, to my ear, has a similar phonemic
>quality to DE.)  As if John is about to convey something important which he
>does not want his hearers to miss.  The result is that the DE adds
>emphasis to the type of fellowship John wanted for his hearers.  (I
>wonder, since DE frequently can't be translated as a word, should it not,
>at least sometimes, be translated as a space?  Keep that thought in mind
>as I proceed.)
>Now, having said that the "our" is lightly separated from the
>"fellowship", I note that the case pulls them together, and we would
>naturally expect that from a possesive pronoun.  So, John *is* talking
>about "our fellowship", but there is something more which is added by the
>"space" which he has introduced by his sentence construction.
>So, with the hH KOINWNIA, John first focuses his hearers attention on
>fellowship and not just any fellowship, but a particular fellowship.
>And then he proceeds, after the pause, with the expansive description of
>that fellowship (as Carl has said above.)  Perhaps not great grammar, but,
>if DE could be thought of as conveying a pause, and that was normal to
>the Greek ear, then it would be perfectly good grammar in Greek, though
>terrible grammar in English.  [Please don't pour the blood of starting
>a 'good grammar/bad grammar' discussion at such a little greek's feet.
>That would be most unkind. ;-) ]
>If I could translate the pause, I would have, "...that you also may have
>fellowship with us; even the fellowship ...ummm... [like] our fellowship
>with the Father and with the son Jesus Christ."  Better English grammar
>would produce, "...that you also may have fellowship with us; even the
>fellowship very much like our fellowship with the Father and with the
>son Jesus Christ."
>And, again, I'm very much interested in feedback regarding this (positive
>or negative).

I very much like this interpretation of DE as justifying a somewhat awkward
but necessary and helpful expansion of the notion of "fellowship." I don't
quite know about 'ummm...' -- I guess that phonemic quality is different
from 'duhhh ...' -- but let me suggest another way of getting to the same
end point: I find it useful occasionally to recall to mind that MEN and DE
are weakened/ablauted forms of the particles MHN and DH, which have an
original sense something like "to be sure" and "in fact" respectively (if
they are differentiated at all). Suppose we substitute "in fact" for the
"ummm" in your suggested version; we'll then have: " ... that you also may
have fellowship with us, even the fellowship, in fact, that we have (hH
hHMETERA) with the Father and with His son Jesus Christ."

And finally, to banish the "bad grammar" notion once for all, I think that
this usage of DE is consistent with the "homiletic" or "sermonic" character
of 1 John -- and I mean "homiletic" and "sermonic" in the Greek/Latin
senses. We have here carefully structured (rhetorically) discourse that
retains an air of conversational informality--an ease of discourse shared
by speaker/writer and listening audience (as I assume this text, like all
NT documents) was written originally for the ear of an audience, not solely
for the eye of a silent reader).

>Carl:  regarding the implied ESTIN, does Smyth 1183b apply to an implied

I think what he says in 944 is quite adequate to the point. But I have
access to only the online (first edition) of Smyth right now; 1183b in the
online edition really seems to be a different topic.

>> This has been awkward writing on the web, where I'm in recurrent peril
>> of  losing my connection. My home domain is down and I am connected to
>> the net  by an alternative ISP. I hope it goes through.
> 'peril' an hyperbole or are you addicted? :-)  Actually, if
>your Internet connection goes down it is I who am in peril.

In fact, I was bumped off three times in the middle of that message and had
to reconnect: it was a KINDUNOS, and what I really feared was that what I
had already written would be lost before I could get it sent. Of course it
only existed on my machine, but that would have been lost if my browser had
crashed when my connection failed. Fortunately my home domain is back up so
that I can again respond off-line before dispatching. I won't respond to
the question of addiction as a matter of customary praetermission.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at

More information about the B-Greek mailing list