[B-Greek] Matthew 28:17: hOI DE EDISTASAN

Iver Larsen iver at larsen.dk
Sun Apr 9 12:34:33 EDT 2006

>> [Carl] Sure, but the key element here is the DE with hOI, indicating a shift of focus to another group or sub-group.
>> [Harold] DE is contrastive, and hOI can function as a demonstrative pronoun implying "some." If Matthew had wanted to
>> say that everybody doubted who worshipped, he could have left out the hOI.
> Sorry Carl and Harold, but I think I can prove you wrong on this point!

Sorry, Albert, but Carl is right again - as are the Bible translations you question.

> 59 verses in Matthew include the phrase hOI DE. Of these, only 27 occur without a following masculine plural noun (or
> masculine plural participle functioning as a noun) and hence are strictly analogous to this case. In 25 of these cases
> this phrase is standardly translated "and they ..." or "but they", and the hOI completely obviously refers to the
> entire group of people in the context, not just to some of them. These 25 cases are:
> 2:5, 2:9, 4:20, 4:22, 8:32, 9:31, 14:17, 14:21, 14:33, 15:34, 15:38, 16:7, 16:14, 20:5, 20:31, 21:25, 22:5, 22:19,
> 26:15, 26:66, 27:4, 27:21, 27:23, 27:66, 28:15

It looks like you are being mislead by the English, somewhat ambiguous, "they". Try to look at all instances of the
nominative hO DE (singular) and hOI DE (plural). It is not significant whether there is a following masculine noun or
not, since the noun only makes explicit what otherwise is implicit. Think of a scene in a theater. There are two or
sometimes more than two groups on stage. One of the groups may be one person only. Then think of someone moving the
spotlight. When one group/person is speaking or acting, the spotlight is on that person. When the other group/person
responds or reacts, the spotlight shifts to that other group. That is exactly what the hO(I) DE does. It moves the
spotlight to another group/person who becomes the actor/speaker. You can try to go through all your examples and supply
from context who the actor or speaker is, and you will see more clearly the spotlight shift from the person who spoke or
acted in the immediately preceding sentence. If you have time, go through all the 158 examples of a nominative hO/hOI
followed by DE in Matthew (or the 601 such constructions in the GNT).

And Mike, although the DE may indicate a new theme development, this is not the case when it occurs after the nominative
article. Then it indicates a shift in subject. Randall Buth has a better general rule of thumb: DE indicates a *change*
of some kind (and there are different kinds of change in different contexts. They can be categorised, but that would
take too long to do here.)

> The remaining two cases are 26:67 and the verse in dispute, 28:17. In 26:67, as in 28:17, most translations read "and
> some slapped him", or "and others slapped him". However, this seems to me to be very dubious, as the verse could
> easily be read, "then they spat on his face and beat him with their fists, and they also slapped him, and said ...".
> In other words, hOI DE in 26:67 could refer to the same people doing the beating. Indeed, in light of the 25 cases I
> have cited above, that seems to be overwhelmingly more likely.

In 26:67 we still have a spotlight shift, but this time from the whole group to a subgroup. It is actually quite
similar, because you can think of all the people on stage as one big group, and then a subgroup as those who now come in
the spotlight. That is why it is correct to supply "some" or "others" in this verse as all translations do.

> That leaves us with the case in point, 28:17. Even if we accept the sense of "some" is legitimate in 26:67, which I
> don't, the a priori chances of that reading here are 1 in 26 (of the 26 other cases of the grammatical construction in
> Matthew, only 1 might mean "some"). Furthermore, the reading "but they also doubted" seems to me more eminently
> reasonable in context.

You are correct to compare these two verses, because in both of them the shift is from the whole group to a subgroup.
That is why the word "some" needs to be added in English in order to be faithful to the intended meaning of the text.
Even the KJV adds "some". See also the note in NET for 28:17. There is no way the text can be taken to mean "and they
also doubted" referring to the whole group.

Iver Larsen

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