Luke 18:11

Mark O'Brien obrienmb at
Sat Sep 8 01:04:53 EDT 2001


I happen to have Luke Johnson's excellent commentary on Luke at hand, and he
offers up three possibilities:

1.  Jesus was essentially praying quietly to himself (i.e. under his breath,
unspoken, etc.)
2.  Jesus was directing the prayer to himself and not God
3.  Jesus was praying with reference to himself

Johnson prefers the first option, since the other two hardly seem to fit,
but acknowledges that this is an awkward pros+accusative construction to
render into English.

I think this is one of those examples that clearly illustrates the point
that reading Greek (or any other language, for that matter) is best done by
getting a feel for the range of certain expressions, constructions and
idioms, and that comes by lots of reading, not mastering lists provided in

Best regards,

Mark B.O'Brien
Senior Minister, Warnbro Community Church, Western Australia
Lecturer, Australian College of Ministries

----- Original Message -----
From: "Chet Creider" <creider at>
To: "Biblical Greek" <b-greek at>
Sent: Saturday, September 08, 2001 8:11 AM
Subject: [b-greek] Luke 18:11

> Some time ago I asked for assistance with determining the meaning of
> the preposition in the following phrase from Luke 18:11:
> There was stiff competition for attention because of a question
> concerning fonts and no one tried to help.  At that time I had
> consulted Zerwick (_Biblical Greek_) and Blass, Debrunner & Funk (_A
> Greek Grammar of the NT_) and found nothing useful.  I also noted that
> Zerwick and Grovesnor suggested the gloss "within" without giving a
> reason.
> Since then I have consulted Moule's idiom book (no help), I. Howard
> Marshall's commentary on the Greek text of Luke, and BDAG.  The later
> two take positions, but I am not happy with either of their

> conclusions.  Following a brief summary of their claims, I give my own
> suggestion and then indicate how I think members of this group might
> help.  I ask once again that you give this question some thought.  It
> is a simple linguistic question which someone with some familiarity
> with Luke should be able to answer.
> Marshall (p. 679):
> a. The phrase "should be understood as representing an Aramaic ethic
> which emphasises the verb: `The Pharisee, taking his stand, prayed' [no
> reason is given, but Black is cited; I regard this suggestion as highly
> dubious but will be happy to accept correction if it comes with some
> evidence; it evidently is Marshall's preferred meaning -- CAC]
> b. "This could mean that he prayed silently rather than aloud"  --
> argues against this as unlikely in the context (Jewish practice was to
> pray aloud, but quietly).  [This seems reasonable -- CAC]
> c. "Grundmann's suggestion that he prayed to himself rather than to
> God is too sophisticated." [I agree with Marshall's conclusion but not
> with his reason; I think it is not likely, given the context or perhaps
> given almost any context, that he would pray to himself -- CAC]
> The 3rd edition has an extensive discussion of PROS and cites the phrase
> in Luke 18:11 under sense 3, subsense g.  Sense 3 is the familiar
> or orientation toward s.o./s.t." and subsense g is "by, at, near".
> the actual gloss given for the phrase in Luke is "he uttered a prayer to
> himself".  This strikes me as not likely given that the verb is
> There is another subsense in BDAG to sense 3, subsense e: "with reference/
> regard to", "about".  This sense seems most plausible to me in that it
> matches most closely what the Pharisee does, namely, pray about himself.
> I am not familiar enough with Luke's Greek to know if he would
> use PERI with the genitive to express this meaning if this had been his
> intention (there are two examples from Luke in sense 3, subsense e, but
> are they the only two?) and this is where I would be grateful for the help
> of others.  In the absence of any replies this time, I will take my
> interpretation as the most reasonable.
> In conclusion, and with reference to my prior request for help in
> searching the archives, let me note that I finally was able to use
> netscape (my normal browser is lynx) and do a search over the last two
> years.  It did not turn up anything.  The archive is not set up for
> convenient searching of anything previous to the last two years, and
> does not appear to contain any instructions for construction of search
> strings.  Is some member of the grep family being used?  There really
> should be a help file for searches, and there also should be a means of
> sending a single search string through all of the previous archives.
> Many thanks,
> Chet A. Creider
> P.S.  Here is the original post:
> ===================
> What is the sense of the preposition PROS in Luke 18:11:
> Zerwick and Grosvenor suggest "within", and I have seen "with" and
> "about" (all followed by "himself") in various English translations.
> Metzger (_A Textual Commentary..._, 2nd ed.) notes that the preposition
> has caused difficulty and is replaced with KATA in some versions and
> in others omitted entirely.
> A second question, not unrelated.  It is likely that this question
> has been asked before, but I was unable to manipulate the search
> engine in the archives to do more than get the first of some 106
> replies to my search string of "Luke 18:11".  I use a vt100 emulation
> and it is not obvious with it how to access the full string of
> search results.  Is there a document which explains this anywhere?
> Thanks,
> Chet Creider
> ---
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