Double Negatives

Randy Leedy Rleedy at
Sat Nov 20 14:40:12 EST 1999

I should know better than to jump into a thread that I haven't been
reading, but I seem frequently to do worse than I know; I'll risk it

I noted in my hasty skimming that some question about MH OUK HKOUSAN
in Romans 10 was raised. This question appears quite simple to me. I
would phrase it this way in English idiom: "It's not that they didn't
hear, is it?" And, of course, the passage goes on the substantiate
from Psalm 19 that the revelation is available to all. A more stilted
rendering, but more in line with the usual way of framing questions
beginning with MH would be "They didn't not-hear, did they?" Paul is
in the process of identifying what caused Israel to reject God's
salvation in Jesus, and at this point in the discussion he's ruling
out the possibility of ignorance.

The main grammatical point here is that the two negatives can't be
taken as working together the way OU MH often does. That combination
is emphatic; there's nothing emphatic here. OU negates the indicative
verb, then MH serves as an interrogative particle framing what follows
as a question and indicating that the expected answer is "no." 

Of course, my analysis may be mistaken, but I do have no less than
CEB Cranfield on my side, and, expressing only my own opinion of him,
he seems to be pretty good company among which to be grammatically
mistaken, if one must be mistaken at all.

Pardon me if I've repeated someone else's input or have otherwise
written foolishness which a more careful following of the thread would
have prevented.

Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University

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