MHTI in 2Cor 13:5

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Wed May 22 08:53:35 EDT 2002

At 8:18 AM -0400 5/22/02, richard smith wrote:
>The NIV and NRSV translate "unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test."
>The NIV actually includes the phrase as part of the preceding question.
>I apologize for incessantly asking questions when my reading of the text
>cannot render the same sense as is in the English translations.  But your
>patience is appreciated, and has helped me to improve my understanding of
>specific constructions. Carl, if I am moving beyond the scope of BGreek
>into translation, I will try to correct myself.
>But I think this can be considered a Greek grammar question regarding the
>use of the particle MHTI in a statement.
>The translations seem to be using MHTI as an indicator of uncertainty, as
>if in a real or rhetorical question.  Yet the sentence is a statement.
>Could MHTI be understood here as emphatic negation? With EI also being an
>intensive particle?
>Something like:
>"Indeed you are certainly not proven unworthy. (6) And I hope that you
>will know that we ourselves are not proven unworthy."
>Also, I am not sure that the phrasing "fail the test" gives a full,
>adequate, rendering of EIMI ADOKIMOS. It seems to me more to mean a
>judgement of character after testing, a proven lack of integrity, rather
>than a failure of any specific test. The emphasis is on the established
>character, rather than on the failure of the test?
>After testing, the person is judged unworthy.

I think that NIV's "unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test" is a rather
colloquial formulation of what is, in fact, the implicit content of the
Greek text. EI MH is standard Greek from way back for "unless" or "if not"
and TI is is the indefinite pronoun qualifying the predicate of the clause,
so that EI MHTI or EI MH TI (either spelling will mean the same) = "unless
in some way" or "unless in any way." Then ADOKIMOS, it seems to me, doesn't
actually imply that some actual test is applied but rather simply
"incompetent," "not up to what's called for" = "not up to snuff" (to use
another colloquialism). I don't think that any sort of probing by a
Stanford-Binet test or any other is involved here; I think it's an
expression of the speaker/writer's judgment on the person in question. You
might recall Paul's words in Gal 2 about the DOKOUNTES in the Jerusalem
community--the persons worth taking seriously, the persons seeming to be
somebody. I think that DOKIMOS and ADOKIMOS are adjectives derivative from
precisely this usage of the verb DOKEIN in the sense "seem good," "appear
to be right," "find approval in the eyes of the beholder."


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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