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

Barry nebarry at verizon.net
Sun Jul 24 09:25:29 EDT 2005


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
To: "Eddie Mishoe" <edmishoe at yahoo.com>
Cc: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Sunday, July 24, 2005 8:14 AM
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] heis/mia/hen used as indefinite article?


> 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.

Yeah, now he's got to apologize for sending it 4 times.  If for each apology, he 
apologizes 4 times...  :)

> 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.

A large percentage of learning any second language is learning that it really is 
a different language.  Occasionally, when teaching either Greek or Latin, I 
would have a student who would say something like "We don't do it that way in 
English at all..." To which I would reply "Aha, you're getting the point, that's 
one reason we call it a foreign language!"

> 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.

Contextually true.  However, I think there is a fairly simple grammatical 
explanation: it is not at all uncommon to omit the definite article when the 
noun is used instrumentally with EN.  This is fairly common in the Pauline 
corpus, and though I haven't studied it much outside of Paul, it wouldn't 
surprise me if it's not common in other authors as well.  Can't check the 
grammars right now: they are all packed in storage awaiting our next move.

N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Adjunct Faculty, The Center for Urban Theological Studies
         Philadelphia, PA
http://www.cuts.edu
Visiting Faculty, Reformed Theological Seminary
         Washington, D.C.
http://www.rts.edu/campuses/washington_dc/index.cfm

And me:
http://mysite.verizon.net/nebarry/

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