[B-Greek] Matt 5:13 Can GH be the passive subject of hALISQHSETAI?
Carl W. Conrad
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu Jul 26 05:50:38 EDT 2007
On Jul 25, 2007, at 9:47 PM, Paul Zellmer wrote:
> Matt 5:13 hUMEIS ESTE TO hALAS THS GHS; EAN DE TO hALAS MWRANQHi,
> EN TINI
> hALISQHSETAI? EIS OUDEN ISCUEI ETI EI MH BLHQEN EXW KATAPATEISQAI
> hUPO TWN
> Simple question: Can GH be the passive subject of hALISQHSETAI?
> Background info: My mind was wandering during a Bible study on the
> on the Mount tonight, and I looked at Matt 5:13. Knowing that most
> translations translate EN TINI hALISQHSETAI as "how shall it become
> again," I was surprised to see no PALIN or ANA- or the like. One
> translation of the root, hALIZW, is "make something salty." But it
> me as possibly anticipating the desired result to extend this
> definition to
> "make something salty again."
> I looked again at the verse, and can see a *logical* possibility
> that the
> one trying to be made "salty" could be the earth, since "you" are
> the salt
> *of the earth*. The question I have is whether this is a
> My gut feel is that it is not, because it would require the EAN DE
> clause to
> have hALAS as its subject, the next phrase (the question) to have
> GH as its
> subject, and then the next clauses to return to hALAS as the
> subject (unless
> the world is going to be tossed out and trampled.) But my gut, I
> fear, is
> English-language based. So I ask the rest of you if you can see my
> hypothesis as being possibly true in the realm of KOINE grammar.
In terms of grammar alone two issues, it seems to me, have a bearing
on your suggestion: (1) How are we to understand EN TINI in verse
13b?, and (2) What, if not hALAS, is the subject of verse 13c (EIS
OUDEN ISCUEI KTL.)?
(1) EN TINI: It's pretty clear, isn't it, that this expression is not
a locative dative; I think it's most commonly supposed that it's an
instrumental usage: "by means of what?" or "by what means" -- and I
can see no meaningful alternative to that understanding. If that's
the case, can hH GH be the real subject of MWRANQHi? Can we speak of
hH GH as becoming insipid? And to what does hH GH refer, if not 'le
monde' -- humanity at large? Are those here addressed (hUMEIS) --
disciples and would-be disciples -- the "seasoning" of humanity, that
which helps to make humanity 'well-seasoned'? I think it makes
perfectly good sense to understand hH GH as the subject of
hALISQHSETAI -- but ...
(2) EIS OUDEN ISCUEI KTL. can hardly have any subject other than TO
hALAS -- I certainly don't see how there can be any other implicit
subject; but, if that's the case, we surely ought to expect the
subject of hALISQHSETAI to be the same -- and that's the "standard"
If there's a difficulty here, it has to lie in the imbalance between
the implicit eschatological imagery of the second half of the verse
and the figurative sense given to TO hALAS in the first half of the
verse. I think that Matthew 5:13 is in fact intelligible enough, even
if it mixes metaphorically, as we might say, apples and oranges.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
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