[B-Greek] Question on DE

Larry Wilson misha_linword at hawaiiantel.net
Sun Apr 16 23:51:05 EDT 2006

> "When DE is used with times of the day or divisions of the day it simply means 
> "near to" or "close to" or "just before" that hour or time of the day. When it 
> is not used then the reference is to during that time." End of quote
> Is this true? I had never heard of this until this year and I have heard it 
> from two different sources that balance the seeming contradiction between John 
> 19:14 "the sixth hour" and the "third hour" of the synoptics. Thanks for your 
> help,<<

Well, I had a look at the lexical references, and could find nothing indicating 
this.  I don't have a copy of Denniston's *Particles*, maybe something in there? 
He needs to supply proof of the assertion, remembering that the use of particles 
can be highly idiosyncratic with certain authors.

The above issue as to whether DE could represent "just before" here briefly stems from the following:  

1.   That DE appears in use as an adverb in later usage as "not"  a variation of OUDE(V) or MEDE(V).   In some Greek writings OUDEV and MEDEV became OU, ME and DEV and then the final -V was dropped to become DE.  Thus in several Greek Lexicons you will find DE(V) listed with the definition as "not."   But in koine Biblical Greek, the final -V is already dropped and thus not appears as OUDE or MEDE but more often simply OU or ME.  So the tendency to simplify "not" is already present as ME and OU and sometimes OUV, which begs the question whether or not at John 19:14 DE is appearing as "not", in which case, It was NOT preparation could be understood as meaning "just before", DE in its most direct application being used to express "not quite". 

2.  Next importantly, if one makes this presumption for DE PARASKEUH here to qualify as "not quite preparation" and thus a reference to the afternoon just preceding preparation, one would not expect it to be used with PARASKEUH (preparation) when it is clearly referencing the day of preparation.  In that regard, five other references to preparation at the time just before Jesus is being placed into the tomb do not use DE PARASKEUH.    For instance:

it was BUT preparation

It was preparation

preparation it was

day was of preparation

Also JOHN 19:42 and MATT. 27:62

Out of six references noting preparation in relation to Jesus' death, only John 19:14 uses DE, which if it were of critical distinction in relation to preparation as "not" could be understood to refer to just before preparation.  In that case, the trial prior to Jesus' crucifixion at 9 o'clock (i.e. third hour, per Mark 15:25) would not conflict with the death of Jesus at 3:00 p.m.

As is currently translated, the trial at noon on the same day as preparation (but preparation) as the day he dies means Jesus' death takes place within three hours of the trial.

So the question is, in lieu of claiming John is directly contradicting the Synoptic Gospels, will the use of DE here, if it can actually be established as possibly being used as an adverb as "not" let John off the hook?

3.  Finally, there's the issue of the use of DE with other times of the day that become interesting, most particularly a reference to the same time of the day, the afternoon period from noon to nightfall in the form of DE EPAURION.   PAURION, EPAURION and DE EPAURION appear in the gospels.  When the question becomes whether or not DE EPAURION is a reference to the afternoon period from noon to nightfall if DE is used as "NOT" meaning "not quite" or "not yet", two other references continue the context of that period (Acts 10:3, 30, ninth hour;10:9, sixth hour).  

When a check made of some extra-Biblical Classical Greek texts was made, several references in Polybius utilized three versions of EPAURION with DE including DE THN EPAURION, DE EPAURION and most importantly the contracted D'EPAURION, as well as EPAURION alone as do the gospels.  The contracted D'EPAURION suggests a distinction in time reference when DE is used with EPAURION than when it is not, and if it carries the negative meaning of "not" or "not quite" then it would reference the time just before the next day.    In Jewish culture, the next day began at nightfall; in Roman culture the reference would be to sunrise.  

I bring this up because in this casual comparison it seems as though the expression of 'D'EPAURION' which shows up in Polybius in the 3rd century BCE as a reference to the last quarter of the day before the next (i.e. Midnight to sunrise) was adapted into Jewish cultural reference in concept as DE EPAURION in reference to the last quarter of the Jewish day, which would be noon to nightfall.  Thus DE EPAURION was a reference equivalent to our afternoon period.  But that formed a basis for substitution using a specific type of day that began at nightfall, such as preparation.   thus DE EPAURION became DE PREPARATION, equivalent to a reference to the afternoon before the next day, or in the case of John 19:14 the afternoon before the specific next day of preparation.  

SUMMARY QUESTION:  So based upon the above, the question for the B-Greek scholarship is whether or not DE is sometimes being used as an abbreviation of OUDE/"not"  in a few select references when it comes to times of the day, primarily founded upon the older Greek reference of DE EPAURION possibly being coined to represent the last quarter of the day before the next "morrow", in Roman culture a time from midnight to sunrise, adapted by the Jews to the similar period before their next day from around noon to nightfall.    This seems a reasonable consideration because DE is not consistently used with EPAURION or PREPARATION, but especially since John 19:14 is unique in using DE with PARASKEUH where as five other references in the gospels do not, those five references clearly occurring on the day of preparation whereas John 19:14 is otherwise in contradiction if the DE is ignored and not translated as "It was not (DE) preparation" meant it was not yet preparation and thus the afternoon before Jesus' death. 

That, in turn is simplified into whether or not John 19:14 has been commonly mistranslated or not?  But fundamental to this would be also whether or not instances of DE EPAURION are always references to the afternoon period which occurs just before the next Jewish day.  

If DE EPAURION can be confirmed to represent the last quarter of the day approaching sunrise in Greek culture, with the adaptation to the same last quarter of the day in Jewish culture prior to nightfall, then it could be argued that DE on occasion had already become an abbreviation for OUDE/"not" in times earlier than the 6th century, when it begins to appear more prominently in written works, keeping in mind that most conventions of language occur first in the spoken form and then becomes acceptable in the formal written form, but in the case of KOINE Greek, this adaptation would have shown up earlier since koine Greek is a less formal Greek and closer to the common spoken Greek.   

Sorry for the extra long post but that's basically what I have found so far based upon text comparisons and the various meanings for DE over the ages. 

Larry Wilson

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