[B-Greek] heis/mia/hen used as indefinite article?

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sun Jul 24 08:14:05 EDT 2005


Although Eddie originally addressed this message to me and has  
apologized profusely (overmuch, methinks) for sending it to the list,  
I think it may be a useful matter for broader list-discussion.

On Jul 24, 2005, at 7:48 AM, Eddie Mishoe wrote:



> Dr. Conrad:
>
> There are places where you would expect an indefinite
> article in the NT if writers in general considered it
> an option (even though a noun may be considered
> indefinite by itself). Hebrews 1:2 comes immediately
> to mind where it seems that rather than prophets, God
> has now spoke to us EN hUIWi, through a son. Why do we
> find so few usages of the indefinite article? It seems
> like such an indispensible part of English, which is
> probably why I'm so bewildered at the Koine, or any
> language for that matter.
>
>

I think what we learn more and more as we grow more intimately  
familiar with ancient Greek -- or with any second language -- is the  
extent to which our native language shapes our thought-patterns and  
at the same time the extent to which -- for that very reason -- we  
imagine that the structures of our native language are themselves  
somehow "natural" to human thinking.  I won't go further with that  
reflection, but I think it is true in any case.

Does Hebrew have an indefinite pronoun? As George noted, Latin didn't  
have one although UNUS seems to have been used as such in the sermo  
vulgaris and to have supplied the forms of the indefinite pronoun in  
the Romance languages. Ancient Greek didn't have one but developed  
hEIS/MIA/hEN into one. I suspect that when speakers/writers feel the  
need for a linguistic structure they invent it. As for ancient Greek,  
I think that many of the functions of the English indefinite article  
were supplied, when needed, from the indefinite pronoun TIS.

As for EN hUIWi in Heb 1:2, I think that an indefinite pronoun would  
be misleading there because it might suggest a plurality of sons of  
God, and although the notion of humanity as "sons" or "children" of  
God is not problematic, the author of Hebrews is very much concerned  
with the uniqueness of God's Son. What this suggests is that the  
English indefinite article may have functions that are quite distinct  
from what the Greek writer/speaker felt required in the situation.

I'm sure there's more to be said in response to this question, and I  
do think that the question is a good one and worthy of broader list- 
discussion.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/



Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/



Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/




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