[B-Greek] Mark 8:4, TOUTOUS

Steve Runge srunge at logos.com
Thu Jul 12 15:28:31 EDT 2007


I am short on time, but here are some comments on your basic questions.  Let me outline one of my presuppositions before I begin, so that you will be able to accurately compare my response to those of others that have a different framework for analyzing word order issues.  

There is a principle described by Bernard Comrie (1989) called 'natural information flow'.  This is the tendency in language to move from what is most known to what is least known, so much as the typology of the language allows.  In Greek, this principle is manifested in pronominal elements typically immediately following the verb.  In my view (following Levinsohn 2000, and supported by Porter 1992:293), Koine Greek is a verb-initial language, meaning that placing the verb in the initial position is the most unmarked or normal position.  In light of this, the closest the 'most known' elements can get to the beginning of the clause is immediately following the verb.  

As an aside, Helma Dik appears to make a similar claim, based on the David Sansone's review article of "Word order in Ancient Greek: A Pragmatic Account of Word Order Variation in Herodotus".  He states, "Indeed, one of the most acute observations that Dik makes -- again, this is borne out by independent observation -- is that there is a very strong tendency in a Greek sentence for "predictable" material to follow the predicate, a tendency that may receive some confirmation (5 n. 8, 35 n. 64) from the tapering off of intonation through the course of the clause."  I will not vouch for the intonation claim, but he appears to be describing what Comrie has called natural information flow.

Let's apply this to Mark 8:4.


Note that the pronouns TIS and hWDE immediately follow the verb DUNHSETAI.  I would say that natural information flow accounts likely accounts for the separation of hWDE from EP ERHMIAS.  This leaves the pre-verbal TOUTOUS unexplained, though.

Prototypically when a non-verbal clause element has been placed in the initial position before the verb for emphasis' sake (technically 'marked focus'), independent pronominal elements will often be moved as well (cf. Levinsohn 2000:39).  Natural information flow explains this:  since the new 'initial position' has been moved, the pronominal elements migrate as close to the beginning as possible.  This is what we see in the following example, assuming you accept my analysis that the fronted element is focal/emphasized.

Mk 1:45  ὥστε *μηκέτι* αὐτὸν δύνασθαι φανερῶς εἰς πόλιν εἰσελθεῖν.  The point is that NO LONGER was he able to openly enter into a city.  I do not see any particular reason for the fronting of AUTON other than natural information flow.

However, this is a PRINCIPLE, and not a RULE, as illustrated by Mk 8:38 

**ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν ἐπαισχυνθῇ με καὶ τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους ἐν τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ μοιχαλίδι καὶ ἁμαρτωλῷ**, *καὶ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου* ἐπαισχυνθήσεται αὐτόν.  

I would construe the initial hOS clause, bounded by the double asterisks, to be a point of departure, introducing the complex topic about which the balance of the clause comments (Levinsohn 2000:7ff).  The main thrust of the clause is that whoever is ashamed of the son of man will be ashamed of BY THE SON OF MAN.  The ascensive KAI adds further support for understanding the fronting of ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου as motivated by emphasis, in my view.

This means that one must analyze preverbal pronominal elements carefully. Such elements are often used as points of departure, or can be emphasized.  They can also be shifted based on natural information flow (Levinsohn 2000:39).

From what I can tell from a quick search of my data this morning, Mark is NOT given to moving pronominal elements with a fronted focal constituent as are Matthew or Luke or Paul.  Much more frequently in Mark one finds that the fronted pronominal element is salient, especially when an interrogative pronoun is involved.  Interrogatives typically are found in the initial position in their clause.  Since they are pronominal substitutes for information that is to be 'filled in' by the answer, interrogatives are often the focus of the clause.  This being said, the ordering of clause components following the interrogative still seems to follow the expected patterns. 

Remember that I said pronominal elements that follow interrogative pronouns very often prove to be particularly salient in the context.  Here are some examples I found that illustrate this tendency in Mark.

Mk 9:19  ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτοῖς λέγει· 
	ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος, *ἕως πότε πρὸς ὑμᾶς* ἔσομαι; 
	*ἕως πότε* ἀνέξομαι ὑμῶν; 
	φέρετε αὐτὸν πρός με. 
Jesus' question is not simply HOW LONG, but how long will he be WITH THEM.  Notice that in the second question, the pronominal object is in the normal position following the verb.

Mk 10:18  ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· *τί με* λέγεις ἀγαθόν;  
Jesus is not just asking WHY he used the term 'good', but why the man assigned it TO HIM.  Again, the fronted pronoun could reasonably be construed as fronted for emphasis' sake along with the interrogative.

Mk 11:18 Καὶ ἤκουσαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ ἐζήτουν πῶς αὐτὸν *ἀπολέσωσιν*· Here, the verb is focal, in my view.  Since it normally comes in the initial position, the writer can indicate emphasis by placing it in the final position (see Levinsohn 2000:40).  This would mean that the pronoun precedes the verb to free up the final position to emphasize the verb.  

Mk 12:15 ὁ δὲ εἰδὼς αὐτῶν τὴν ὑπόκρισιν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τί με *πειράζετε*;  Again, I would construe the verb as what is emphasized by the ordering of the clause components, not the pronoun.  Jesus is concerned with WHAT they are doing, not whom they are doing it to.  

So what does this indicate about TOUTOUS in Mk 8:4?  I would say that there are good grounds for viewing it as fronted for emphasis' sake, primarily based on the usage observed in Mark.

As far as the pejorative sense it might have, I do not have much to offer.  I followed up on one of Levinsohn's claims regarding the use of demonstratives in languages to mark what is thematically central versus what is only of passing thematic significance (thematic vs. athematic, respectively).  [I have written Levinsohn to see if he will send the original that I cite; I only have the version he presented at SBL.  If he sends it, I will forward it on.]  

In my view, the most that can be claimed is that the use of the near demonstrative TOUTOUS marks the referent of the pronoun as thematically salient.  Anything beyond this is your interpretation of its use in this context.  Thus, TOUTOUS could be construed as salient to the writer, both on the grounds of the near demonstrative, and the possibility that it is placed in a position of emphasis.

Regarding your other question about hWDE not referring to EP ERHMIAS, I think this is a shaky proposal.  If the prepositional phrase were not present, I would think that your sense of 'someone here' might be viable.  Since hWDE is pronominal in nature, the presence of a prepositional phrase specifying a location significantly undermines the possibility of your assertion, in my view.

Let's take a look at the version from Matthew that you cited.


There is no verb in this clause.  I would construe POQEN as focal, as in Mark 8:4.  Matthew tends to place pronominal elements immediately after intial focal/emphasized elements.  One might construe hHMIN as focal, but it is much less likely than in the Markan version.  

Whether or not either of the the pronominal elements are focal, they do indeed have different referents.  This is a noteworthy difference that you have keyed on.  In Matthew, the thrust is where the DISCIPLES would be able to scrounge up that much bread, whereas in Mark, it is the RECIPIENTS of the bread that are mentioned.  On this basis, I think there may be something to argue, but I would be reluctant to base too much on the grammar.  Arguing for a pejorative sense of TOUTOUS where there is no clear indication that 'Gentiles' are the intended referent seems like a leap.  I think that if you claim is really the intended message of Mark's gospel, there should be better grounds on which to argue it than this point of grammar.  

I have affirmed a couple of your puzzle pieces:
	-the possibility of viewing TOUTOUS as focal,
	-that it is marked as thematically prominent through the use of the near demonstrative.
Beyond, I cannot offer much else.  I find your proposal intriguing, but I think that parts of it would be better argued on other grounds.

I wish you the best on this,

Steven Runge, DLitt (Biblical Languages)
Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Works referred to:
Dik, Helma,
 1995. Word Order in Ancient Greek. A Pragmatic Account of Word Order Variation in Herodotus, diss. Amsterdam (Amsterdam Studies in Classical Philology 5). 
Levinsohn, Stephen H.
  2003	“Towards a Unified Linguistic Description of hOUTWS and EKEINOS.”  Paper read in Biblical Greek and Linguistics Section of the SBL Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA.
  2000	Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek. 2nd. edition. Dallas: SIL International. 

Runge, Steven E.
  2005	“Relative Saliency and Information Structure in Mark’s Account of the Parable of the Sower.”  Paper presented in the ‘New Testament Greek and Linguistics’ Section of the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, Nov. 19-22, 2005.  Available at http://www.logos.com/media/academic/runge/parable_of_the_sower.pdf

The review article of Helma Dik by Sansone I referenced can be found at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/1995/95.11.08.html.

-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ted Blakley
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 11:18 AM
To: B-Greek
Subject: [B-Greek] Mark 8:4, TOUTOUS

I am currently working on a PhD thesis that is a narrative-critical reading of Mark 4:1-8:30, the Sea Crossing movement of Mark's gospel. My thesis concerns among other things the characterization of the disciples within this movement. In particular, I am attempting to corroborate and expand a thesis put forward by Jeffrey Gibson ("The Rebuke of the Disciples in Mark 8.14–21," JSNT 27 (1986): 31-47), which argues that in the final episodic sea crossing the disciples are not rebuked by Jesus because they lack faith in Jesus' abilities but because they are exhibiting active, purposeful resistance to his offering the good news of the kingdom to Gentiles. In other words, where most scholars have seen a simple lack of understanding or faith, Gibson has seen purposeful (and so culpable) opposition. My own research has attempted to corroborate this reading of Mark 8:14-21 by seeing if there are other examples of such purposeful resistance in this movement, which I think there are. For example, in the second sea crossing (Mark 6:45-52), I argue that the reason why Jesus must force his disciples to embark for Bethsaida is because he is actually sending them out a second time on a missionary tour of duty but this time among and to Gentiles. Their fundamental opposition to Gentile mission and their participation in that mission is what accounts for Jesus' forcing as well as their failure to recognize Jesus when he comes to them walking upon the sea, their fear over the calming of the sea, the narrator's explanation that all of this was because they didn't understand about the loaves because their hearts were hardened, and their failure to actually make it to Gentile Bethsaida but land instead back upon Jewish soil. I apologize for this long introduction, but it provides a context for some grammatical questions about Mark 8:4, which is a question the disciples ask while in Gentile territory just prior to the feeding of four thousand, which I take to be a Gentile feeding.


Here the disciples' question is generally understood as fulfilling the same role as the disciples' question in the feeding of the 5000 (Mark 6:37), namely, the disciples are expressing incredulity in response to Jesus'
(implied) suggestion that they feed the crowd. Their incredulity is occasioned by the perceived impossibility of finding enough bread/loaves in this wilderness setting to feed such a large crowd. This is how the disciples' question is understood by most commentators and is reflected in most of the English translations I consulted, and there is certainly reason to understand it this way. POQEN is understood in its spatial sense (Whence?
vs. How?) and combined with hWDE and EP ERHMIAS suggests that there is an emphasis upon the wilderness setting as an obstacle to fulfilling Jesus'
request. But the more I read Mark 8:4b, the more I am struck by its sentence structure. In particular, TOUTOUS continues to capture my attention, making me wonder whether the disciples' question has a slightly different meaning than the one generally accorded. In particular, I am starting to wonder whether the central thrust of the disciples' question has more to do with TOUTOUS than with the wilderness setting.  So here is my thinking, and I would appreciate any comments:

First of all, TOUTOUS stands out by the fact that
(1) it is a demonstrative pronoun (instead of a repeat of the antecedent OCLOS; note that Matt 15:33 reverts to this);
(2) it is at the beginning of the clause
(3) which has been achieved by distancing it considerably from its governing verb, CORTASAI.
(4) Moreover, what is striking about 8:4 is the fact that the disciples'
question does not explicitly draw attention to the size of the crowd, to the amount of resources needed to feed the crowd, or to the limited resources on hand, which are elements that are present in the disciples' question in all the other feeding narratives (Matt 14:17; 15:33; Luke 9:13-14; John 6:7, 9).
In short, I would have expected something more than a simple reference to TOUTOUS, these people, but something like "this many people."

My suspicions about TOUTOUS seemed to find some confirmation when I decided to consult what Matthew had done with Mark 8:4, which reads POQEN hHMIN EN ERHMIAi ARTOI TOSOUTOI hWSTE CORTASAI OCLON TOSOUTON. Notice for example that ERAHMIA has been relocated to the beginning of the question into a much closer proximity to POQEN, that the reference to loaves has been moved forward as well and has undergone a grammatical shift. In Mark, ARTWN instantiates the gentive object of CORTASAI but in Matthew it has become ARTOI and now functions as the subject of an implied verb of being. In addition, Matthew has replaced TOUTOUS with OCLON and, to both ARTOI and OCLON has appended the correlative demonstrative pronoun, TOSOUTOS, to underscore the amount of resources needed and the size of the crowd, details which I noted are absent from Mark. In the end, the form the disciples question takes in Matthew
15:33 seems to be unambiguously focused upon the wilderness setting, at least much more so than in Mark 8:4, and so again raises the question of whether Mark 8:4 is focused upon the problem posed by the wilderness setting. Now I understand that from a methodological standpoint Matthew's question does not tell us what Mark's question is intending to convey, I only use it for the sake of comparison to show that the two questions seem to have two different focal points. In Matthew, the wilderness setting (POQEN ... EN ERHMIAi), the size of the crowd (OCLON TOSOUTON), and the number of resources needed (ARTOI TOSOUTOI), are all featured with prominence given to the wilderness setting. In Mark, the wilderness setting is present, but does not seem to be as prominent especially in contrast to what appears to be the prominence given to TOUTOUS.

If it is true, then of course, the next obvious question has to do with why such attention would be drawn to TOUTOUS. Now, I know that my theory on this goes beyond the discussion parameters of this list but it does lead to another grammatical question. My sense is that when the disciples say, "How is anyone here able to satisfy these people with loaves in the wilderness,"
the TOUTOUS carries a pejorative connotation, which one gets elsewhere in Mark (cf. 2:7; 6:2a; 6:2b; 6:3; cf. also Luke 7:39; Matt 26:61). Thus, the TOUTOUS which receives emphasis is an implicit reference to the Gentile ethnicity of the gathered crowd. Basically, the disciples express incredulity that these people, these Gentiles, could be satisfied with loaves, i.e., the food that belongs to Israel. Now, Chamberlain notes that the demonstrative pronoun sometimes has a note of contempt (Exegetical Grammar 46-47), but I haven't run across a discussion about this in any of the grammars I have so far consulted, which may be due to the fact that this is not strictly speaking a syntactical issue but a semantic issue.

So basically, these are my basic questions that I would value comment upon.
1.  Am I correct in my assessment that TOUTOUS has been purposefully highlighted by the author/narrator for the reasons given above?
2.  Is it possible (and perhaps probable from the context) that it is being used pejoratively here?

Also, something I haven't mentioned but relates to the question of whether ERHMIA  is really the center of attention. I have rendered POQEN in Mark 8:4 as How? which disconnects it some from EP ERHMIAS. At the same time, I have taken hWDE as modifying TIS and not EP ERHMIAS. Thus, hWDE does not add emphasis to the wilderness, as in "here in the wilderness" but is asking about whether there is "anyone here", i.e., anyone present, who can do what Jesus seems to be asking. So, can hWDE, as it were, modify TIS. I have only found one other example that seems to match the same construction that is in Mark 8:4, which is Gen 19:12 (ESTIN TIS SOI hWDE GAMBROI H hUIOI H
I am tempted also to include Mark 9:1 // Matt 16:28 (EISIN TINES hWDE TWN
hESTHKOTWN...) as a match but hesitate because of the participle. So, I guess, (3) a third question is whether hWDE is best understood as connected to TIS and not to EP ERHMIAS? If the latter, then why is it so far away?

Well, I appreciate your patience with this long email and would value any input any of you are willing to offer.

J. Ted Blakley

J. Ted Blakley
Ph.D. Candidate -- New Testament, The Gospel of Mark University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK

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