[B-Greek] Gospel John 2:19 (possible duplicate)

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Fri Feb 14 05:56:23 EST 2003

At 9:13 PM -0800 2/13/03, waldo slusher wrote:
>This verse (in Subject field above) has been used to
>demonstrate the hypothetical or assumptive or
>conditional use of Commands in Greek. The translation
>being of this nature: "if you completely [aorist]
>destroy this, my temple [appositional], I will
>personally [active voice] raise it in three days."
>And of course they did and he did. But on what grounds
>can we assign this a conditional apart from the
>fact that it makes reasonable sense in English?

I would not call it a conditional construction unless we says that it is
implicitly conditional, and that because of the relationship of the future
EGERW to the implicit prior completion of the action indicated by LUSATE.

I'd say this is a colloquial sort of formulation of what would more
That is to say: the sentence in John 2:19 is formulated paratactically--in
two independent clauses--rather than hypotactically--with the result (main)
clause dependent upon a hypothetical formulation in a subordinate clause.
But surely you'd agree that the second clause above with its EGERW is
predicated upon the possibility that the imperative challenge may/will have
been accepted and fulfilled.

>Although it might sound a trifle arrogant, what is
>wrong with taking this as a command (completely
>destroy this!)? Almost a challenge, if you will.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it, and indeed I think that the
evangelist formulates the statement thus (or Jesus himself did) quite
deliberately to underscore the claim of sovereignty of Jesus: his real
power against the only-hypothetical power of his opponents. But this
rhetorical formulation of the proposition nevertheless doesn't MEAN
something different from the EAN + aor. subj. protasis followed by a future
indic. apodosis.

Ultimately I think this is a matter less of grammatical formulation or
syntax than of rhetorical formulation; if we are willing to grant the
semantic equivalence of (a) the construction with the aorist subjunctive in
the first clause and the future indicative in the second and (b) the
construction with the aorist imperative in the first clause and the future
indicative in the second, nevertheless, we should recognize there's a
rhetorical power in the construction with the imperative that is lacking in
the (merely) "hypothetical" construction of the ordinary "future more
vivid" condition.

>Is there a tendency for modern Grammars to make sense
>of a passage first in English and then retro-fit the
>English category back upon the ancient Greek?

Yes, I think so, but in a sense, that is the Achilles' heel of any grammar
that is written in one language to explain the way another functions: its
categories are determined to a considerable extent by the need to help the
user consulting the grammar with translation strategies for the language of
the grammar. I think this is particularly true of Wallace's GGBB and is
inherent in his intent that it be used as an "exegetical grammar." But of
course, the original sense of EXHGEOMAI is "translate" from one language
into another. I've stated many times in this forum my sense that the
categories of "subjective" and "objective" genitive have reference to how
one translates into another language the Greek combination of a verbal noun
and a genitive dependent upon it (the old chestnut, PISTIS IHSOU CRISTOU);
it's highly unlikely that the Greek speaker/writer ever thought of whether
s/he was using a genitive attached to a verbal noun in a "subjective" or
"objective" function. I think that Wallace's multiplication of categories
is at the same time a strength and weakness of his grammar: it is a
strength to the extent that it helps the student think through translation
strategies for dealing with a Biblical Greek text; it is a weakness insofar
as it misleads the student into supposing that the Greek speaker/writer
thought in terms of English usage. Moreover, it seems to me at least, the
multiplication of explanatory categories runs a considerable risk of being
subjective or biased in terms of assumptions held about what the text in
question MUST mean. Just how great that risk may actually be is debatable,
but I do think that another strength of Wallace's grammar is that he seems
to intend the user of his book to learn to think through the problems
presented by a construction rather than simply to seek out an authoritative
answer worked out by another--and it is that process of thinking through
the legitimate alternatives that I think it is incumbent upon an exegete
who is altogether honest to do. Even in questions posed in this forum I
think it happens sometimes, perhaps more often than I would personally
like, that people are looking for an authoritative answer to a nagging
doubt about a passage, particularly an answer that accords with what they
would like the "authoritative" answer to be. But a "putative" virtue of
this list is that there's ordinarily at least an opportunity to challenge
someone else's "authoritative" answer and to suggest alternative answers
that may be worth considering.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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