[B-Greek] Hebrews 3:16 - prove it's a question

Jeffrey T. Requadt jeffreyrequadt_list at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 26 19:17:23 EDT 2007

	For what it's worth, the following are passages of interest that shed some light on the subject. You (Rey Jacobs) implied that "common sense" and "context" (although you limited this to v. 17, and never really discussed the rhetorical elements of the passage, and Hebrews is a very rhetorical piece of literature) dictate that v. 16 be considered a statement.
	The first passage is the UBS Handbook on Hebrews by Ellingworth and Nida. They base their comments on the context of vv. 16-18 (and also shows a parallel in Luke), so maybe that's what you're looking for. 
	The second passage is from the IVP Bible Background Commentary (by Craig S. Keener). His comments relate to rhetorical practices at the time.
	The third passage is from Hermeneia's commentary by Attridge and Koester. This one especially considers the context going all the way back to v. 8.
	The citations are included after each quotation (footnotes in the actual commentaries are not included). My purpose is not to throw commentaries around, but they were handy, and they deal with the meaning of the text, not theology per se. It seems to me that much of the reasons so many versions and commentaries consider it a question is because of its rhetorical effect in light of the whole passage and other contemporary literature. I'm not sure if this "proves" anything, but I'm not sure if it's really possible to prove anything other than in syllogisms and other logical exercises, and literature is definitely much more than a logical exercise. 

(1. UBS Handbook) "KJV, Knox, and JB (but not BJ) are in a minority in taking 16a to be a statement; Knox “those who provoked him.” It is much more likely to be the first of three questions, continuing into verses 17–18, to which the writer immediately gives the answers. Rebelled (see discussion on verse 12) here refers back to rebelled in verse 8a. 
KJV’s “For” is rightly omitted except by Phps; it is the weakest kind of transition. RSV’s “ yet” marks the implied contrast between hearing and rebelling, but in a way which misleadingly emphasizes the contrast rather than the fact that they heard and then revolted (as in JB, BJ, Seg, Synodale [Syn]).
Who heard God’s voice and rebelled against him is literally “having heard, they rebelled.” “But” would bring the meaning out even more clearly than and; compare RSV’s “ and yet.” Some contrasting conjunction is important in the first part of verse 16, so that and rebelled against him may be rendered as “and nevertheless they refused to follow him” or “and despite all of that they turned against him.”
As RSV shows, the writer responds to one question with another, as Jesus often does; for example, see in Luke 17.7–8. TEV simplifies this by turning the second question into a statement, since interrogative-negative questions (such as “Was it not…?”), especially rhetorical ones, have little place in common language; they are in fact the equivalent of strong statements. 
In providing the answer to the rhetorical question, it may be important to make the response somewhat more specific; for example, “the people were all those who were led out of Egypt by Moses.” The relative clause in this instance may be made active by translating “whom Moses led out of Egypt." [Paul Ellingworth and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews, UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (New York: United Bible Societies, 1994], c1983). 68.]

(2. IVP BB Commentary) "3:16–19.  Following Greek argumentative practice, the writer produces a series of rhetorical questions and their obvious answers, reinforcing his point." [Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993). Heb 3:16.]

(3. Hermeneia Commentary) "16 There follows a series of questions like those often encountered in Philo’s expositions, highlighting three phrases from the psalm. These questions focus on the failure of the desert generation, specifying in terms ever more relevant to the addressees the nature of that failure and indicating why exhortation is necessary. The first question asks who it was that “heard and rebelled” (AKOUSANTES PAREPIKRANAN), thus alluding to the “rebellion” (PARAPKRASMWi) of vs. 8 and, more immediately, vs. 15. A rhetorical question provides the answer that it was the whole of the generation who had gone out from Egypt. The author may have in mind, as did the original psalmist, Yahweh’s reply to Moses in Num 14:22, although he does not allow for the exceptions made in the biblical story." [Harold W. Attridge and Helmut Koester, The Epistle to the Hebrews : A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia--a critical and historical commentary on the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989). 120.]

-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of rey jacobs
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2007 2:20 PM
To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: [B-Greek] Hebrews 3:16 - prove it's a question

In Hebrews 3:16 the Greek text says:

tines gar akousanten parepikranan all' ou pantes oi exelqontes ex aiguptou dia mwsews (some texts have mwusews)

So, all the texts have the same words. There is no variant, other than a slight difference on the spelling of Moses' name, which is inconsequential.

Now, the modern translations all say something like "Who having heard provoked? Wasn't it everyone who came out of Egypt by Moses?"

But all the older translations, reformation era, say essentially "For some having heard provoked, but not all who came out of Egypt by Moses."

All the older Greek editors punctuated their texts like "tines gar akousanten parepikranan, all' ou pantes oi exelqontes ex aiguptou dia mwsews." as a statement. But the modern editors punctuate "tines gar akousanten parepikranan? all' ou pantes oi exelqontes ex aiguptou dia mwusews?" as two questions.

Now, it is clear that rendering this as a question creates a contradiction.  Anyone who has ever read the Old Testament knows that everyone who came out of Egypt by Moses did not provoke in the provocation referred to in verse 15, which was the rebellion of Korah. Furthermore, anyone with common sense can tell that in the next verse (verse 17) not everyone who came out of Egypt by Moses had their carcass fall in the wilderness.  That being the case, common sense would dictate that this verse 16 is a statement, not a question, and as whether it is a statement or question is determined by context, context forces us to render it as a statement.

It is apparent, therefore, that those who render it as a question do so on purpose to create a contradiction where there is none -- this is clearly a statement not a question.  I would like to see, therefore, whatever weak and pathetic proofs the proponents of the question rendering may think they have.

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