Deep Structure Eph 3:7

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Mon Sep 24 15:57:18 EDT 2001

> The idea of a continuative relative clause predates Winer (1882:680). John
> Eadie (Ephesians, 1854, p. 216) discussing Eph 3:5 hO hETERIAS GENEAIS
> states: "The antecedent of hO is MUSTHRION, the relative forming
> a frequent link of connection."

Thanks for the historical information. I was quoting Levinsohn and I don't
know the history of Greek grammar well enough to say who first talked about

> Eph 3:4 PROS hO . . . , The antecedent of hO appears to be MUSTHRION. The
> following clause seems to further explain MUSTHRION. So, would we
> call this appositional? I don't think so. Paul is just going on and on
talking about
> MUSTHRION, the hO that begins Eph 3:5 links once again to MUSTHRION.

I agree. I would consider both of these continuative. It is clear that the
hO in 3:5 refers back to the MUSTHRION, and I am inclined to agree that the
hO in 3:4 also does, mainly because it is neuter. It is a bit awkward to
have TWi MUSTHRIWi TOU CRISTOU at the end of the clause, and I assume that
is why many have looked for an alternative referent for the PROS hO. This
"mystery", which is the plan of salvation, or the will of God, that was
hidden to previous generations and revealed now, is first introduced briefly
in 1:9-14.

> clauses give us further information about the antecedent, they expound and
> expand on the idea and this leads me to wonder how do we
> distinguish between
> an appositional relative and a continuative? Is constituent order
> the key to this?
> The answer to this is probably obvious to everyone except me.

It is not that obvious to me. I would need to study the details more
carefully before venturing a list of distinguishing criteria. As a rule of
thumb, I am currently working on the assumption that if the editors of my
Greek NT put a comma or period before the relative and if it is the first
item in the clause (with a possible preposition before it) and if it is a
long clause with many elements, it is most likely that it is continuative.
An appositional relative clause is normally shorter and more an internal
part of a clause. If the relative clause is short and have commas on both
sides it is probably not continuative. I expect there will be cases where it
would be difficult to say whether it is best to categorize it as one or the
other. If you or others have time, it would be a nice little study. I am
afraid I don't have the time at the moment.

A continuative relative clause can still add a new sub-theme to the same
overall theme like the two on MUSTHRION above and like the two EN hWI in Eph
2:21-22. I am sure there are many similar ones.

Going on to 3:7 the clause starting with hOU, referring back to the
immediately preceding TOU EUAGGELIOU, is made not only the start of a new
sentence, but a new paragraph in the NRSV.

Iver Larsen

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