Prominence in Passive Construction with hUPO in Mk 1:9

Mark DelCogliano cassian at dellepro.com
Mon Sep 24 21:19:19 EDT 2001


The very interesting recent discussions of Iver Larson and others on word
order and relative prominence in Greek that I have followed religiously have
got me thinking perhaps too much about such matters when reading the NT. For
the moment I am interested in the true passive (according to Carl Conrad's
thesis) use of BAPTIZW with hUPO, and how the varying word order stresses or
destresses the agent. A few examples:

Mk 1:5 ...KAI EBAPTIZONTO hUP' AUTOU EN TWi IORDANHi POTAMWi
EXOMOLOUGEMOI...

Mt 3:6 ...KAI EBAPTIZONTO  EN TWi IORDANHi POTAMWi  hUP' AUTOU
EXOMOLOUGEMOI...

Mk 1:9 KAI EBAPTISQH EIS TON IORDANHN hUPO IWANNOU

Mt 3:14 hO DE IWANNHS DIEKWLUEN AUTON LEGWN: EGW XREIAN EXW hUPO SOU
BAPTISQHNAI...

As for the scene wherein the people of Jerusalem are being baptized by in
the Jordan, in Mk 1:5 hUP' AUTOU follows the verb immediately, seemingly
giving prominence to the fact that it is by John that the people are being
baptized. Interestingly in Mt 3:6 the fact that the baptisms were taking
place in the Jordan seems to have more prominence than the fact that the
agent of the baptisms is John. There is clearly some reason why these two
evangelists have different word orders for the two prepositional phrases
that follow the main verb. Mk 1:9 employs a similar type of word order when
narrating the baptism of Jesus: the fact of John's agency receives the least
emphasis in the phrase.

In all of these cases, the hUPO phrase follows the main verb, which seems to
stress the fact of the baptism more than its agent (or could this be a
'default' order?). In Mt 3:14, however, John's protest to Jesus alters the
above pattern of UPO following the main verb: the fact that John feels he
has the need of Jesus' agency for baptism is stressed more than the fact
that John needs baptism. Or perhaps, Jesus and his agency for the action is
simply given more prominence than John and his agency for the action.

What got me thinking about word order and relative prominence with regard to
this particular verb in the true passive construction was that, in his new
commentary on Mark, Joel Marcus* notes that the very grammatical
constructions of Mk 1:9-11 give all the stress to Jesus over against John
(who received alot of attention in the preceding verses). Jesus is the
grammatical subject of the main verbs including that of the passive usage of
BAPTIZW, with John being reduced to a mere grammatical agent. While one may
buy this or not, an analysis of the word order of 1:9 seems to give credence
to the fact that Mark is giving all attention to Jesus and thus minimizing
the contribution of John in Jesus' baptism. From this brief look at a few
examples, it seems that the relative prominence of the agent with a passive
verb can be subtly implied through the word order, and thus Mark could be
doing the same. But could the placement of the hUPO clause after the main
verb simply be a sort of default usage, implying nothing in particular
whatsoever? Yet the varying word orders in Mk 1:5 and Mt 3:6 seem to deny
the notion of a default order in this case.

Any comments/thoughts/remarks? Thanks!

Mark DelCogliano

* Joel Marcus, _Mark 1-8_ (Anchor Bible 27: Doubleday, 2000)




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