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

Albert & Julia Haig albert_and_julia at yahoo.com.au
Fri Apr 14 08:53:11 EDT 2006

Hello! I don't mean to be stubborn, but I think the more these things are pushed the more we learn, and for me at least this is a very interesting discussion. Anyway,

> [MS] I've had this "feeling" that DISTAZW is NOT quite an antonym to 'conviction'.  ISTM it's a word that would be used when someone says,"O!, I don't know, I just can't be completely certain."  In Greek, the person would say DISTAZW to capture most of that entire English

Even if DISTAZW is such an antonym, I think we are treating the text too much like a formal treatise rather than a literary work. In creative literature, things don't always have to strictly make sense in logical terms. Is there any real evidence that April is the cruelest month? Can it really be the best of times and the worst of times at one and the same moment? These questions simply miss the point of the expressions involved! Perhaps Matthew was deliberately juxtaposing two apparently contradictory concepts together - they worshipped, but they doubted - in order to make some deeper point. Matthew was not writing a formal theological thesis. Maybe he wanted us to think deeply about the interaction of faith and doubt in our own lives and their paradoxical coexistence.

> [IL] If you took the time to look in detail at how hO DE and hOI DE function in Greek, you would see how this construction indicates a shift in subject.

But I did look up every pronomial hOI DE in Matthew, and apart from two disputed examples, it *never* functions to shift the reference *of the pronoun*. Even if we take as granted that hO DE and hOI DE serve to shift reference, which seems to me both a vague and a subjective concept, that does not prove that it can serve to change the reference *of the pronoun itself*. Furthermore, at least the question of a change in the reference of the pronoun is a reasonably objective question, capable of being falsified (apologies to Karl Popper), not a subjective one like the concept of change of reference in general, which I am not sure what could conceivably falsify (indeed, as noted previously, the only statement that would not involve a change of reference in some sense is a tautological restatement of the previous phrase). If hO DE and hOI DE can serve to change the reference of the pronoun, then that seems to me to be quite objective and eminently provable, and I haven't seen
 any such example provided by anyone to date. Hence my continued scepticism. Yes, there may be such examples elsewhere that I haven't seen - Carl mentions two extracanonical examples which I would have to look up in a library. But the sampling in Matthew suggests that such a function is at best, rare.

> [IL] You cannot argue from how the definite article and pronoun function in English. Yes, they are quite distinct in English, but not so in Greek.

This is not the point. I'm simply looking for cases that are strictly analogous to the one in 28:17 to see if a shift in reference for the pronoun is possible. In cases where hOI functions as the definite article, then it just is not strictly analogous to the case in 28:17 where it does function as a pronoun. Now of course, if you want to argue that there is no sharp distinction in function between the definite article and pronoun in Greek, fine. But that's just not relevant to the question here. There are an abundance of strictly analogous cases to consider, where hOI functions as a pronoun, so if a shift in reference is possible, it should be possible to demonstrate it from these cases alone. And in any case, however similar the definite article and pronoun might function in Greek in a general sense, in this case there is a crucial relevant difference that can't be set aside. When hOI functions as the definite article, there is no doubt about the group to which it
 applies, because that is determined by the following noun/participle. But the question here concerns doubt about which group the hOI applies to, which only arises in the case when it is a pronoun. So the pronomial function, however indistinctly differentiated from the definite article as a general rule, is critical to this discussion, because it involves an ambiguity which is lacking in the definite article function. Cases involving hOI as the definite article simply can't address the question at issue.

> [IL] It would take too long to explain all about how to do a participant reference analysis, but let me take a fairly random example from Mat 8:28-32. I won't copy the whole paragraph, so please look it up in your Greek text.

OK. But the only occurrence of either hOI DE or hO DE - verse 31 - involves its use as the definite article. There is no doubt about who it references, because it says hOI DE DAIMONES PAREKALOUN. It hardly is possible to ask whether it references Jesus or the demonized people or the pigs. So this passage simply doesn't demonstrate the use of hO DE or hOI DE standing alone, as a pronoun where doubt may arise as to reference, to shift the reference.

> [IL] The Greek DE functions - among other tasks - to indicate a change in participant reference, but English has no equivalent.

You may be correct about this - although note comments below. But I'd just like to see one example with hO or hOI functions as a pronoun, and where the context confirms that DE shifts their reference, that's all! I still haven't been able to find any.

BUT - and this is very important - even if everything you have said is 100% correct, and the reference of hOI as a pronoun can be shifted by the use of DE - that still doesn't prove that there is such a shift in Matthew 28:17. It only proves that such a shift is possible, not that it is actual. Simple statistical odds seem to indicate that such usage is rare, at least in Matthew. So we are left back at square one. Indeed, I could turn your own argument back on you, and argue that the DE serves to shift the narrative from faith to doubt. In other words, Matthew is juxtaposing a suprising combination of faith (worship) and doubt together. DE serves to shift from the worship to the doubt.

> [BdH] I hope this'll help.

Yes it does Bert, thank you. But one quote in particular caught my eye:

de (postpositive) was *originally* an adverb with a force not unlike that of on the other hand, on the contrary; *later* it became a conjunction commonly represented by but or and, which are, however, mere makeshifts of translation.

The words "originally", and "later", which I've highlighted, are very pertinent. It may be that in classical Greek DE had the function of a change of subject which in koine Greek had been almost lost.

One other, very important point. I was critiqued for assuming that the definite article and pronouns function similarly in English and Greek. Let us suppose, for a moment, that the writer of Matthew, or this section of Matthew, was not in fact a native Greek speaker, but a native Hebrew/Aramaic speaker. Would it not be quite possible, therefore, that DE has no "change of reference" function at all, but was treated by him like the vav consecutive or vav conjunction? In other words, the use of DE without any change of reference force may be a semitism. This would fit the data which does not seem to support the claim that there is such a meaning in Matthew (in my opinion). We certainly should not assume classical Greek meaning for someone writing in a second language. If Greek was not the author's native language, then he may have been no more familiar with the subtleties of Greek particles than I am.

God bless,


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