Mark 8:12

Michael Haggett michaelhaggett at
Thu Jan 24 05:49:18 EST 2002

In response to Erik Westwig, Steven Lo Vullo wrote:

| As Trevor made clear, this idiom has its roots in the
| oath," though only the protasis ("if" clause) is retained. It
| understood that the apodosis (conclusion) calls for something
| to happen to the speaker if the action of the protasis indeed
takes (or
| has taken) place.

and Maurice O'S quoted:

| EI is used as a Hebraism in emphatic negation in the form
| of an oath. The conditional form is explained by the ellipse
of an
| imprecatory formula ' ( May God do thus and thus to me ) if


MH: I would like to offer a slightly different view of the
intended meaning which might make it a little easier to
understand. Yes, I agree that it is an emphatic negation, but
the missing apodosis can also (and sometimes better) be
understood as illustrating the absurdity of the proposition,
rather than as a self-malediction.  We do the same sort of thing
in English (at least here in Britain we do):

"If this is a fresh apple pie, I'm a Dutchman!"
"If he's a musician, I'm the Queen of Sheba!"

Which, with the right tone of voice, can very often be reduced

"If he's a musician ... "

meaning that the pie is obviously not fresh, and that the
performer could by no stretch of the imagination be called a

Of course, it would be a very uninhibited translator that would
put this into Jesus' mouth:


"Yes! and I say to you: If a sign is given to this generation,
I'm the Queen of Sheba!"

And I certainly wouldn't ... but to my way of thinking it
captures the tone of Mark 8:12 quite well.

Michael Haggett

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