Mark 8:12

Michael Haggett michaelhaggett at
Sat Jan 26 22:40:58 EST 2002

Steve, thanks for the long post ... I started by being amused,
but became bemused.  I don't think you actually understood
the point I was making either before or now.  I suppose I could
pick your post apart point-by-point, but doubt it's worth it.
Let's cut to the chase.

I think the weakness in your position is in what you say about
Heb 3:11 (Ps94/95:11)

First, when it is God uttering the oath, the point is NOT that
he contemplates a real possibility that the curse(s) of the
apodosis may actually come to pass, since he does not doubt in
any way the condition expressed in the protasis! Whether past
action(s) are in view or intention(s) to act in the future,
he has no doubt that he has done/will do what is
expressed in the protasis, or that the event
expressed in the protasis will come to pass.
So the intended effect on the
covenantal partner(s) or the hearer/reader is not,
"Wow, God thinks something really terrible may
happen to him," but, "Wow, God really
wants us to take him seriously and have confidence in his
In other words, the whole point is that God is so confident of
his action(s)/intention(s) that he can with no expectation
whatsoever of fulfillment of the apodosis call down dire curses
upon himself.


Now, doesn't this EXACTLY make my point?  The self-maledictory
oath doesn't fit because in no circumstances could it be taken

Your original point was:
It was understood that the apodosis (conclusion) calls for
something horrendous to happen to the speaker if the action of
the protasis indeed takes (or has taken) place.

Most people will see the self-contradiction.

I think you have fallen into the trap of trying to give a
literal meaning to something that is idiomatic.  It's rather
like hearing someone argue that the English idiom "it's raining
cats and dogs" has a literal connexion with our feline and
canine friends. The point of
the construction (i.e an incomplete sentence beginning with EI /
if) is that it expresses the speaker's determination that the
event will not happen, or conviction that it is not true!

I maintain that the actual wording of the apodosis would be
quite irrelevant and, for that reason, doesn't need to be
expressed. However, if the hearer DID complete the sentence in
their heads, they would complete it with something absurd. But
it would usually be unseemly (perhaps flippant is a better word)
to express it.  They MIGHT even complete it with something as
absurd as God coming to harm :-)

Yes, I fully admit that "I'm a Dutchman" or "I'm the Queen
of Sheba" ... or indeed other expressions such as
"I'm a monkey's uncle" are peculiarly English.
But that isn't my point.  What gives the construction
its force is that the unexpressed part is so ABSURD
that it doesn't NEED to be expressed!  I was showing
that the "EI/if xxxxxxxxx ..." construction exists in both
English and Greek.

You maintain that the Greek construction can only be understood
by completing the sentence with one, and only one, particular,
literal apodosis.

I, in contrast, maintain that the meaning of the construction is
not to be found in ANY literal apodosis.  It simply expresses
the speaker's determination or conviction. I'd propose


as something along the lines of:

So I swore in my anger:
I'm determined that they won't ever enter my rest!

Michael Haggett

PS. Jonathan Robie wrote (25 January) that he apologized for not
providing a better service.  I'm sure I speak for all of us in
saying that no apology is necessary at all. We are really
grateful for B-Greek, even though we probably have no idea of
the amount of time and effort that you put in to make it work so
well, nor of the amount of work you are putting in to make
things like the archives work better still.  Thank you.

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