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

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Fri Apr 14 13:15:54 EDT 2006

egrapsen Haig,
>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*.

This confuses the issues. When a linguist says that DE is the particle
of choice to mark a changed subject or changed topic, it does not mean
that the pronoun, noun, or morphology involved have a different
meaning from elsewhere in the context. It means that the subject or
topic of the previous sentence has changed. PARADEIGMATOS XARIN (or
e.g. if you prefer Latin):
OI PAIDES EPAIZON  'the children were playing
OI DE GONEIS WMILOUN 'the parents were talking'

In the example DE would signal a change of subject/topic. The author
presents PAIDES and GONEIS as two separate topics for comparison and
contrast. Of course, GONEIS is different all by itself and the same
clauses could be joined by KAI. But in that case there would be no
signal of a change and the two clauses would be grouped together and
would NOT be changing a topic.

>If hO DE and hOI DE can serve to change the reference of the pronoun,

DE doesn't change the pronoun, it is adding a different pronoun. It's
function is exactly the same as in singular usages O DE, H DE, where
it use signals a change in subject/topic, whether or not a noun is
included. See an example below.

>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.

Not rare. Every time a topic changes and an author signals this with
DE the function is reinforced. And that happens alot. What you are
saying is that it is rare that DE might be the only thing in the whole
context that marks a change. Language is highly redundant and in many
contexts there is often some other piece of information that would
allow one to reach the same or similar readings.
For example, where you find O DE EIPEN in a dialogue, the O DE will be
the 'other' party from the previous comment.
Cf.  Lu 22:33 O DE EIPEN
[the dialogue switches to Peter's response. DE marks this though from
the content of the speech this is redundant and could be
Luk 22:34 O DE EIPEN
[the dialogue switches back to Jesus. Again, DE marks this, though the
content of the speech makes this redundant.] This even occurs without
the article, as
Redundancy is part of language.

>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.
> [AH] 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.

But a Greek would ask, what is the function of DE? Here it signals a
change of topic/subject.

>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.

NO, because the function of DE to mark a change in contexts of changed
subjects is very common. We must explain why the author used DE. A
Greek listener would immediately interpret the DE 'on the fly' without
further ado, that a change is signalled and with OI added
(unnecessarily if it were the same subject) then they would already
have opened up a slot in the hearing for a new group.

>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.

Be careful here. When classicists say "orignally" they often mean
proto-Greek, that is, prior to recorded Greek. They do not usually
refer to the time difference between Plato and Luke.

>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.

This is also misapplying some good concepts. DE is not a Semitism, not
in Matthew, the NT or the LXX. Just the opposite, the LXX choose KAI
as its conjunction to match vav, since both KAI and VAV could be used
to join nouns together as well as clauses. It takes extra energy for
someone to add DE to a text when the default was KAI. That means that
they do it for a reason.
Furthermore, despite Matthew's less-than-clean Greek style, he seems
to handle DE very well where he uses it. And the function of DE that
we have been talking about is something that everyone fluent in the
language would have heard at that time when stories were being told
and there were switches going on between subjects in dialogues.

Cf. Acts 17:18 KAI TINES ELEGON 'and some were saying ...'
OI DE ... 'and others [were saying]'
If the same people were doing the talking there would have been no
break in the quotation.

So how would Greeks have heard Mt 28:17?
OI DE 'and others' DE marks a change and OI means a different group.

Haggim smeHim
Randall Buth

Randall Buth, PhD
ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
randallbuth at gmail.com

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