Mark 8:12

Michael Haggett michaelhaggett at
Fri Jan 25 08:27:12 EST 2002

Steven Lo Vullo wrote, 25 January:

| The main problem with this is that it has no parallel in the
| Hebrew Bible or LXX, whereas the self-maledictory oath and
| the full conditional sentence expressing the self-maledictory
| oath (in LXX) are attested, and we must choose the most
| probable rather then the merely possible. The above
| suggestion seems to be a case of reading modern idiom
| into an ancient text. Besides, in the contexts in which we
| find this construction, the tone is one of extreme gravity,
| not levity.



1. Fine, I'm happy for you to regard it as just possible, it's a

2. Making reference to examples which contain BOTH protasis and
apodosis is not much use in determining why it should be
possible for an apodosis to be omitted in a normal figure of
speech.  Surely one could better argue that if the
"self-maledictory oath" were intended, it would have been
quite possible to express it here too. The very fact that it
ISN'T makes it more likely that some less expressible
apodosis is implied.

In the Heb 3:11 (Ps 94/95:11) example you gave Erik before:


the idea of a "self-maledictory oath" seems singularly
inappropriate.  And, although you didn't say it, the "(May God
do thus and thus to me) if ..." obviously doesn't fit either!
My objection was to the automatic assumption that such a clause
needed to be understood in order for the sentence to make sense.

3. You seem to have completely misunderstood the way the
construction is used in English in the examples I gave.  There
is no hint whatsoever of levity intended.  Rather the tone
is one of irony or even sarcasm ... the absurdity emphasizes
the absolute impossibility it happening.

In both English and Greek it would be unseemly to complete such
a sentence. The very fact that it would be unseemly to actually
SAY such a thing is exactly WHY it is left unsaid.  Yet it
obviously isn't unseemly to utter the "self-maledictory oaths"
of the OT.

What we are faced with here is a figure of speech which proves
rather difficult for students to understand.  The intended
meaning is fairly clear (i.e. it is an emphatic denial that the
event will happen) but what isn't clear is HOW the Greek is
working in order to convey that meaning. I was seeking to answer
that particular question.

In such circumstances, using a modern English parallel is NOT
reading a modern idiom into an ancient text, it is simply
unearthing an example of both languages working the same way.

More information about the B-Greek mailing list