hOI for some in Mt 28:17?

Mark House mark at thehousehouse.com
Wed May 22 22:43:12 EDT 2002

Carl Conrad wrote:

> (1) I don't think that Wallace is saying that hO DE is a truncated hO MEN
> ... hO DE construction; he's simply indicating constructions in NT Greek
> wherein the article is used as a demonstrative pronoun. In fact, the hO DE
> + verb construction very likely antedates the development of MEN ... DE
> antithetical phrasing in historical Greek usage; I think Wallace is simply
> listing pronominal usages of the article.
> (2) I think your third alternative is awkward and really rather difficult
> to understand. You are suggesting that those indicated by the hOI DE are
> the same as those who worshipped, but in fact hO DE traditionally in Greek
> usage indicates a shift of focus to a different individual or group. If
> text should be understood to mean, "... they  (the Eleven) worshipped him.
> But they still doubted," I think I would expect (a) a stronger pronoun
> hOI or some clearer indication that it is hOI hENDEKA who continued to
> doubt; (b) an imperfect EDISTAZAN rather than the aorist EDISTASAN.
> Moreover, it really does strike me as odd that those who worshipped would
> be here characterized as doubting. Certainly the new departure in vs 18,
> to the doubt at all, so why would hOI DE EDISTASAN be indicated in an
> isolated sentence?

OK, I'll admit that my alternative rendering of Matt. 28:17f. is a bit
awkward, and that we're not likely to see it in a forthcoming translation of
the NT. I'll also admit that it's quite likely that in the hOI DE in Matt.
28:17 we have an ancient, garden variety pronominal article (Robertson's
"demonstrative article" or Moulton's "substantival article"). What isn't
nearly as much of a foregone conclusion to me is that we have contrasting
subjects in this context, as though the text had indeed said, "some
believed, but others doubted." The hOI MEN . . . hOI DE . . . construction
would indeed be the normal way to set that sort of subject contrast up
(although other combinations, such as hOI MEN . . . ALLOI DE or hOI MEN . .
. hETEROI DE, are possible as well), were that the writer's intent.

Most of the grammars put the use of hO DE or hOI DE (when it doesn't follow
MEN) in a separate category entirely, describing the nominative article + DE
construction as an alternative to the use of either the personal or the near
demonstrative pronoun. It's true that most often this occurs in contexts
with alternating subjects ("he said . . . and they said . . . and he said .
. . ," etc.). But Robertson refers to contexts (explicitly including Matt.
28:17 among them) in which the article + DE combination serves as "the
demonstrative pure and simple without any expressed contrast" (Grammar of
GNT, 694). He does so in the case of Matt. 28:17, one would assume, because
in that context there is no apparent alternation of subjects going on: The
disciples went away, saw Jesus, and worshipped him. It seems to me quite
natural to follow this up by translating hOI DE EDISTASAN as "But they (or
these ones) wavered" or "But they weren't convinced" or the like. There is
nothing which demands that the wavering occurred at the same instant as the
worship, but even if it did, the two actions hardly represent an absolute
logical contradiction. (I can certainly think of instances when I've
worshipped despite lingering doubt.) Nor is the aorist of "wavered"
unnatural following the simple, historically unadorned presentation of the
action of worship which precedes it. One might even make the case with
respect to the meaning of the verb that the choice of "wavered" over
something more decisive such as "disbelieved" was made precisely in the
light of the fact that it was the same subject group (the disciples) which
was in view.

Finally, while too close a connection with v. 17 may indeed seem strained or
unnatural, the "new departure" in v. 18, in which Jesus boldly asserts his
universal authority and, on that basis, commissions worldwide outreach,
seems to me a quite natural response to such wavering.

Perhaps, if anyone cares to follow up, some parallel examples of the
nominative article + DE (not following MEN) which call for a translation
similar to "some . . . but others . . .," in contexts without clear subject
alternation, might be provided. This would certainly help me to "get the
point" which seems so obvious to others.

Mark House

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