Prominence in Passive Construction with hUPO in Mk 1:9

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Wed Sep 26 05:47:19 EDT 2001


> 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

This sounds reasonable to me. In the case of Mark 1:4-8 it is clear that
John is the main participant and his actions are in focus. In verse 8, Jesus
is introduced and contrasted with John. In the following verses, Jesus is
the main character and it sounds correct that John in 1:9 is further out of
focus than in 1:5, signalled by the very last position.

The fronting of hUPO SOU to come before the verb in Mt 3:14 does indicate a
strong contrast between Jesus and John in that Jesus is considered more
worthy of performing a baptism than undergoing it.

We need to be a bit careful in comparing between different authors.
Sometimes the difference in style from one author to another is more
significant than minor variations in word order. One has to weigh several
factors together, and arguments from word order need to be confirmed by
other things happening in the whole context.

Iver Larsen




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