Luke 1:15 ETI EK KOILIAS MHTROS AUTOU

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Sun Aug 5 03:00:59 EDT 2001


> At 11:30 AM -0400 8/4/01, Jonathan Robie wrote:
> >Luke 1:15 ETI EK KOILIAS MHTROS AUTOU
> >
> >Does this mean "from birth", or "while still in the womb"?
> >
> >Danker, in the entry on ETI, suggests the latter reading, "while still in
> >his mother's womb", and some translations interpret it this way. In the
> >entry on EK, though, he suggests that EK KOILIAS MHTROS in Ps 21:11 means
> >"from birth", using sense 5, "of the time when something begins".
> >
> >If this can mean "while still in his mother's womb", what sense of EK is
> >being used here?

Carl responded:

> This is awkward, but the ETI does seem to mean that EK KOILIAS
> MHTROS AUTOU
> is to be understood as a point of temporal reference. Louw & Nida offer:
>
> 67.33 KATA; EPI; EN; EK; KAQWS:: markers of a point of time which is
> simultaneous to or overlaps with another point of time - 'when,
> at the time of.'
>
> So I think the sense of ETI EK KOILIAS MHTROS AUTOU must be "already from
> the time before his birth." EK with a genitive is used even in older Greek
> with an indicator of age to indicate "ever since ..."--e.g. EK PAIDOS, EK
> MEIRAKIOU; I think this is comparable to Latin usage with A/AB: A PUERO
> HAEC FACIO = "I've been doing this since I was a boy."

It is not that I disagree with any of this, but still I thought I would add
a comment.

The whole sentence is:
KAI PNEUMATOS hAGIOU PLHSQHSETAI ETI EK KOILIAS MHTROS AUTOU

ETI is normally connected with an event idea and often implies that this
event happened or will happen at a time or place where it is not expected to
happen. The event idea here is "being filled with the Holy Spirit". When
prophets were filled with the Holy Spirit or anointed with oil it marked the
beginning of their prophetic careers. When the disciples of Jesus - and even
Jesus himself - were filled with the Holy Spirit it marked the beginning of
their ministry. So, it seems to me that Luke is indicating that being filled
already from birth or before birth was unusual. It happened before the
expected time.

It is likely that in the case of John this happened when he was still in the
womb, but I doubt that this is the main focus. If so, I would have expected
EN - as at least one Greek manuscript also reads. Since EK with genitive can
mean "ever since" as Carl has pointed out, or "from birth/womb onwards" (cf.
Gal 1:15) it seems to me that the focus is more "he was filled with the Holy
Spirit - and therefore set apart for prophetic ministry - already/even from
the time of his birth - or from the time he was in the womb."

My suggestion is that the focus is on the unexpectedness. If we understand
KOILIAS MHTROS AUTOU as a metonymy referring to birth, the translation "even
from his birth" would be correct. If we understand the womb more literally,
it would mean "even from his being in the womb". I lean towards the "from
his birth" interpretation, partly because there is no form of EIMI as there
usually is with ETI, but I cannot exclude the more literal sense "from being
in the womb" since a form of EIMI could be implicit.

It may be worth comparing similar expressions which seem to always have a
form of EIMI, such as:
Lk 24:6 ETI WN EN THi GALILAIAi
Lk 24:44 ETI WN SUN hUMIN
Jn 4:35 ETI TETRAMHNOS ESTIN
Jn 11:30 HN ETI EN TWi TOPWi
Jn 13:39 ETI MIKRON MEQ' hUMIN EIMI
Jn 20:1 SKOTIAS ETI OUSHS

On the other hand, if ETI is connected with PLHSQHSETAI, a form of EIMI may
not be required. I have a feeling that when a form of EIMI is present, there
is less focus on the unexpectedness and more on the description in terms of
location or time.

Excuse me for thinking aloud,

Iver Larsen






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