Phil 1:28 hHTIS (longish)

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sun Jan 13 09:31:57 EST 2002

At 11:04 AM +0100 1/11/02, Iver Larsen wrote:
>Dear Carl,
>This is an interesting discussion to me, and I am learning from our
>different backgrounds, assumptions and traditions. Yes, it may be a can of
>worms, but those cans are important for us translators, because that is the
>time we need to make hard decisions, especially if we cannot put a long
>essay in a footnote.

I don't know whether or not this remains of interest to any other than Iver
and myself, but the issues do have importance beyond the particular passage
we are discussing. I'm going to make one more response on this matter at
this point, since (a) I think we've reached an impasse and remain in
serious disagreement over important matters, and (b) I really need to
consult some hard-copy reference works to which I won't have access until I
return to my NC home at the end of this month before I can respond more
adequately to some of the challenges. Indeed, translators do confront
dilemmas and "cans of worms" when they are desirous of "getting it right"
without adding footnotes to explain the dilemmas confronted.

>It seems to me that you are saying that hOSTIS normally gets its gender and
>number from a preceding noun that is its antecedent, but in a few cases you
>claim it takes its gender and number from a following noun. If I understand
>you correctly you are saying that this happens when the pronoun refers to
>the idea behind the words rather than a particular word in itself. I am not
>quite ready to accept this, because I cannot see that this claim is well
>founded. It is interesting that these situations are the ones where one
>would expect a neuter form of the pronoun.

While not wrong, that is not quite what I have been claiming. What I would
affirm is that (a) the antecedent of a relative pronoun/clause is to be
sought in the text which precedes it and its clause, (b) that generally
this antecedent is a noun with which the relative pronoun clearly "agrees"
in gender and number, but (c) the relative pronoun may occasionally have a
demonstrative force and, although referring to content that precedes it and
its clause, may take its number and gender from a "postcedent" substantive
that may be understood as either its subject or predicate word. In such an
instance, I think, we might say that the relative pronoun is functioning as
a demonstrative, and that its sequential and logical sense in its context
is, "and this/that is {x}. And I think that when this happens the principle
of concord is pretty much that for a demonstrative in a similar context,


Sometimes the demonstrative may be anaphoric to what has been stated in
preceding discourse, and still take its concord from the postcedent noun.
For instance, in Mt 7:12,


hOUTOS  refers back to the moral principle that we now term "the golden
rule," but it takes its gender and number from the first of the nouns
following in the group hO NOMOS KAI hOI PROFHTAI.

>Since the relative indefinite pronoun is a close brother to the ordinary
>relative pronoun, one would also expect that they behave in similar ways in
>this respect. For the ordinary relative, I am quite ready to accept that the
>neuter pronoun is ambiguous. Sometimes it refers to a neuter antecedent
>noun, but very often it refers to a whole sentence or general concept. I
>assume that hO/ TI has a similar function in older Greek, but as you say
>this form does not occur in the GNT. I find it hard to accept that one can
>just ignore a hHTIS and analyse the text as if there had been a hO/ TI. On
>the other hand, hO/ TI is awkward because of the many other hOTI's. It must
>be confusing to the reader to separate those. An alternative would be to use
>the plural hATINA instead.

I think I have explained above how I understand these constructions:
instances wherein gender and number of the pronoun are taken from the
predicate noun following the copula.

I do want to add here by way of a footnote, that hO/ TI does in fact appear
in the GNT after all, as Steven Lo Vullo has pointed out to me (Accordance
treats it as two words rather than as a form of hOSTIS; I don't know how
other programs may handle it). However, the information about this is not
helpful; there are only 9 instances, (Mark 6.23; Luke 10.35; John 2.5;
8.25; 14.13; 15.16; Acts 9.6; 1Cor 16.2; Col 3.17). Most of these appear in
generalizing constructions with EAN + subjunctive, and without exception
every instance is to be understood as indefinite relative pronoun with
implicit embedded antecedent in the sense of "that which" or "whatever."

>One of the blessings of modern technology is that it facilitates systematic
>research on the Greek text. To do a thorough research on this can of worms,
>I would need more time than I have right now. But in order to make the
>research do-able in a short time, I looked at all the occurrences of hOSTIS
>in the GNT followed within 3 words by a form of EIMI. Discarding one
>instance of hEWS hOTOU there were 28 such instances. (I also had a brief
>look at the 81 instances of the ordinary relative pronoun in nominative
>followed by a form of EIMI within 3 words.)
>Then I did a little test. If hOSTIS is anaphoric then it should be possible
>to substitute the form of hOSTIS with a demonstrative and a noun, where the
>noun is derived from the previous context and with the same number and
>gender as the specific form of hOSTIS. (The same test should be applicable
>for the ordinary pronoun.)

The exercise you suggest is hardly alien to the construction generally
recognized wherein the relative pronoun functions much as a demonstrative
subject of what is a more-or-less independent clause; the relative pronoun
is equivalent to "and THIS/THESE/THAT/THOSE ..."

>To give an example, the first instance was Matt 27:62
>Instead of hHTIS I substitute "this day" to get: On the following day - this
>day is after the preparation-day.
>Doing the same for all these 28 instances I had no problem coming up with
>such nouns in all undisputed cases.
>There were 11 instances of hHTIS all with a singular feminine noun, such as
>day, joy, woman, country, leaven, city, covenant, Jerusalem(city),
>commandment, covetousness, life.
>There was 1 instance of hAITINES with a plural feminine noun: women.
>There were 2 instances of hOSTIS with a singular masculine noun: man/person.
>There were 5 instances of hOITINES with a plural masculine noun: people
>There were 2 instances of hATINA with a plural neuter noun: these works
>(ERGA), these commandments (ENTALMATA)
>There were 2 instances of hATINA where the antecedent seemed to be more
>diffuse covering several related concepts, so that I would need to
>substitute with: these things (Gal 4:24 and Phil 3:7)
>I am mentioning one instance separately here because it is a clear case
>where hOSTIS does not correspond to its predicate noun:
>Eph 1:23 ...THi EKKLHSIAi, hHTIS ESTIN TO SWMA AUTOU - this church is his
>This leaves the four instances which I call disputed: 1 Cor 3:17, Eph 3:13,
>Phil 1:28, 1 Tim 3:15. Now, if the same principle can apply to these, that
>would be my preference. And I not yet  convinced that this is not the better

And here, I fear, we are going to continue to differ in our understanding
of the constructions.

>For 1 Cor 3:17 which has hOITINES I can substitute with "these people" or
>"such people", referring to the people who constitute NAOS QEOU.

This doesn't really make sense to me, Iver; the text is hO GAR NAOS TOU
QEOU hAGOIS ESTIN, hOITINES ESTE hUMEIS. I don't see how "temple" can
become "these people" without the explicit clarification of the relative
clause, which I would English as "which (temple) is what you are"--but the
form hOITINES clearly is determined by the form of the pronoun hUMEIS.

>For Eph 3:13 which has hHTIS, I can substitute "this affliction" (The idea
>probably is that you should feel honoured that we are willing to suffer for

This remains disputed, and I'll comment on it at the point where you bring
this passage up again later.

>For Phil 1:28 which has hHTIS, I can substitute "this faith" and make very
>good sense of it - see below.

This is the passage that opened up the "can of worms" and I confess that
you and I are still looking at this passage in radically different

>For 1 Tim 3:15 which has hHTIS, I can substitute "this church" referring to
>those who constitute OIKOS QEOU.

This is in its own way much like 1 Cor 3:17, and here too I find I can't
agree with you. The text: ... PWS DEI EN OIKWi QEOU ANASTREFESQAI, hHTIS
ESTIN EKKLHSIA QEOU. I can't see any simple equation such that OIKOS QEOU
immediately calls to mind, "oh yes, that is to say, EKKLHSIA QEOU." I think
rather that this is another instance where the form hHTIS derives its
gender and number from the predicate noun; I'd English it as "and THIS
household of God is in fact God's CONGREGATION."

>Finally, let me comment a bit on your latest response:
>On this I said:
>> >Although the antecedent is plural, hHTIS is singular, because
>> the thought is on the singular concept QLIYIS, and maybe anticipating the
>> singular DOXA.
>You commented:
>> I would understand this differently, Iver: (a) hHTIS is feminine NOT with
>> reference to the preceding QLIYESIN but solely by attraction to
>> the number, gender, and case of DOXA; and (b) the antecedent of the hHTIS
>is really MH
>> EGKAKEIN. A glance at NET's version and note on this passage is superbly
>> illustrative of the complexity of this syntactical issue we're wrestling
>> with:
>I can see your claim, but I find it hard to accept that the antecedent of
>hHTIS could be MH EGKAKEIN. NRSV translates hHTIS as "they" obviously
>referring to sufferings. TEV has: "I beg you, then, not to be discouraged
>because I am suffering for you; it is all for your benefit." NLT has:  "So
>please don't despair because of what they are doing to me here. It is for
>you that I am suffering, so you should feel honored and encouraged."

What I fail to see is the probative value of these cited versions. I'd say
that even if NRSV uses "they" and understands the hHTIS as referring back
to QLIYEIS, that doesn't resolve the question whether hHTIS takes its
gender from an implicit singular QLIYIS, as you assert, or from its
predicate noun DOXA, as I prefer to think. And so with the other versions:
they are translating the SENSE as each committee understands it, not the
grammatical construction.

>>From NET:
>> 3:13 For this reason I ask you31 not to lose heart because of what I am
>> suffering for you,32 which33 is your glory.34
>> 33sn Which. The antecedent (i.e., the word or concept to which this clause
>> refers back) may be either "what I am suffering for you" or the larger
>> concept of the recipients not losing heart over Paul's suffering for them.
>> The relative pronoun "which" is attracted to the predicate nominative
>> "glory" in its gender and number (feminine singular), making the
>> antecedent ambiguous. Paul's suffering for them could be viewed as their
>glory (cf.
>> Col 1:24 for a parallel) in that his suffering has brought about their
>> salvation, but if so his suffering must be viewed as more than his present
>> imprisonment in Rome; it would be a general description of his ministry
>> overall (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-27).
>The idea of general suffering would support the singular "this suffering"
>indicating not only the particular troubles in Rome, but affliction in
>> The other option is that Paul is implicitly
>> arguing that the believers have continued to have courage in the midst of
>> his trials (as not to lose heart suggests) and that this is their glory.
>> Philippians 1:27-28 offers an interesting parallel: the believers' courage
>> in the face of adversity is a sign of their salvation.
>Paul is not arguing anything here. He is praying or asking them not to
>despair because he had to endure sufferings for them, or rather for
>preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. They should feel honoured and
>encouraged. This second option is in my opinion less plausible both for
>grammatical and contextual reasons.

I think this is a quibble: "implicitly arguing" -- "assuming as the basis
of his assertion."

>> As for the problem with the relative pronoun referring to the
>> whole clause, isn't that precisely the case in Eph 6:2?
>No, I wouldn't say so. In Eph 6:2 we don't have just any clause, we have a
>specific and well known commandment which is easily recognized as ENTOLH.

And here again, we must apparently disagree; I think that the gender and
number of hHTIS in Eph 6:27 derives from the explicit predicate word
ENTOLH, not some implicit noun ENTOLH with which the words of the
commandment in question may be supposed to be equated. Text: TIMA TON

>> ...what we have in Phil 1:28
>> is not so much the doctrine promoted and defended by the Philippian
>> congregation that is the ENDEIXIS AUTOIS APWLEIAS but rather their solid
>> and unshakable resistance to all efforts of their adversaries to undermine
>> their committed community that is the unmistakable indication to the
>> opponents that they are on the losing side, on the side of LOSS, in fact.
>Your comment helps me to see why you interpret this verse differently. You
>seem to think of APWLEIA as being on the losing side in a social conflict. I
>think of it as opposite to spiritual, eternal salvation.
>> In my opinion, Iver, you are excessively "hung up" over the fact
>> that hHTIS is feminine; for my part, on the other hand (1) PISTEI seems
>> pretty far, as an antecedent, removed from hHTIS, while (2) I don't
>understand how the
>> DOCTRINE espoused by the Philippians can itself ENDEIXAI to the opponents
>> their own APWLEIAN: do they really know and understand that doctrine so
>> that they can recognize it as an ENDEIXIS AUTOIS THS APWLEIAS?
>Well, I don't think I am excessively hung up. I am challenging a traditional
>grammatical claim about Greek grammar which I think is questionable.
>Your point (1) I have tried to address by showing that in several other
>instances, one has to go far back to find the antecedent. It is not so much
>a matter of counting words, but looking at the structure. In the last part
>of Phil 1:27 the main verbal idea is "contending for the faith of the
>gospel", and this is followed by a side comment about how they were
>contending for the faith without being intimidated by their opponents. Even
>with this comment, the focus is still on contending for the faith.
>Why should they fight for the faith? Because the gospel comes from God -
>TOUTO APO QEOU - and it talks about salvation for those who believe - hUMWN
>DE SWTHRIA - and destruction for those who disbelieve - AUTOIS ENDEIXIS
>APWLEIAS. The two ideas of destruction and salvation are clearly contrasted
>as to who are the recipients. I understand Paul to be saying that two things
>are clear to the opponents (1) their own coming destruction and (2) your
>As for your point (2) I think the way Paul and the Philippians preached the
>Gospel, it would be very foundational that only those who believe are saved
>and others are headed for destruction. If they did not make that clear to
>their opponents, they would not have preached the gospel. This was no deep
>or obscure part of the gospel in those days, even though it may not be part
>of the gospel that some people preach today.
>Sometimes it is not easy to separate grammatical analysis from lexical
>analysis, which quickly leads into theology, so I need to stop here lest I
>open more cans of worms. (The "which" refers to lexical analysis, not the
>whole clause.)

I think that in the final analysis we have come right back to the stances
we took as we began this discussion. I still think that it makes more sense
SWTHRIAS as referring back to the entire indication of the valiant behavior
of the Philippians addressed by Paul: hOTI STHKETE EN hENI PNEUMATI, MIAi
hUPO TWN ANTIKEIMENWN: their steadfastness in single resolve, their
unanimity in contention for the gospel doctrine, their not being deterred
in any way by their opponents. Perhaps I am being obtuse here, but I still
don't find it intelligible that these opponents would UNDERSTAND the
doctrine being upheld by the Philippians as itself proof of their own
damnation. It makes far more sense to me to understand the opponents as
thinking to themselves, "These Christian believers are not deterred by any
of our actions to stop them from proclaiming their gospel; perhaps their
solid commitment  and valiant resistance means that WE are on the wrong
side of this spiritual contention, that it is WE OURSELVES that are damned."

There may also be a strain of "orneriness" in me over this question, and it
may be akin in nature to my resistance to your insistence on initial
prominence in word-order: while I continue to believe that there are
occasions where final position in a phrase or clause is emphatic, you
insist that this cannot possibly be so (or you can't see HOW it could be
so); similarly in the present discussion you insist that the gender and
number of the relative pronoun in these clauses must somehow be implicitly
governed by a clearly-understood substantive and its gender and number in
the antecedent text, while I continue to assert my belief that in some of
these instances, the gender and number of the relative pronoun is
determined in fact by the predicate word.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at OR cwconrad at

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