[B-Greek] ENEKEN TOU + inf 2Cor 7:12

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Mon Oct 12 13:16:37 EDT 2009


On Oct 12, 2009, at 12:46 PM, Daniel, Robert S wrote:

> Speaking of John 9:3 (see below), I think I was the one who  
> originally brought that subject up, and I'm still having some  
> misgivings about it. Comparing John 9:3 to 2 Cor 7:12 is useful,  
> because I can use that comparison to state more exactly what I am  
> still having misgivings about. Before I make that comparison,  
> though, I want to say that I am assuming that both hINA (John 9:3)  
> and hENEKEN (2 Cor 7:12) are words that are used to join two  
> clauses, one of which could be termed the antecedent and the other  
> the consequent. Just as in English, "because" joins two clauses, for  
> example, "I stood up because I wanted to cheer for the Broncos  
> (being from Colorado)." "I stood up" is the antecedent and "I wanted  
> to cheer" is the consequent. Sorry, if I'm not using the correct  
> terminology, I hope this makes clear what I mean in what is to follow.
>
> Now if you look at 2 Cor 7:12, "hENEKEN TOU FANERWQHNAI..." has an  
> antecedent that is part of the sentence, namely "EGRAYA hUMIN". But  
> if you look closely at John 9:3, the clause "hINA FANERWQHi TA ERGA  
> TOU QEOU EN AUTWi" does not have an antecedent clause that is part  
> of that sentence. Its antecedent, at least the way the standard  
> translations go, is part of the previous sentence, namely, "TUFLOS  
> GENNHQHi." Isn't that, strictly speaking, a grammatical abuse of the  
> connecting word "hINA"? Don't we have a right to expect it to join  
> two clauses within the same sentence? And to me, the problem seems  
> to be compounded by the fact that "TUFLOS GENNHQHi" is not only part  
> of a separate sentence, but it functions in THAT sentence, not as  
> antecedent but as consequent.
>
> So my question is, isn't John using bad grammar, and if so, do we  
> respond to this by saying, "That happens frequently, so we should  
> just ignore it or fix it up in translation" or do we say, "We should  
> assume so far as possible that John's grammar was correct and  
> determine the sentence boundaries in order to avoid violating  
> grammatical rules. In this case, we can make "ALL' hINA  
> FANERWQHi..." part of the following rather than preceding sentence.
>
> Sorry if I'm being annoying by bringing this up again. I know that  
> some of you have said that John 9:3 is a perfectly good sentence.  
> I'm still having a few misgivings and as I said above, comparing it  
> to 2 Cor 7:12 sharpens my perception of what seems wrong to me.

OK, let's go back to square one.

John 9:2 καὶ ἠρώτησαν αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ
αὐτοῦ λέγοντες· ῥαββί, τίς ἥμαρτεν,
οὗτος ἢ οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ, ἵνα τυφλὸς
γεννηθῇ;  3 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς· οὔτε
οὗτος ἥμαρτεν οὔτε οἱ γονεῖς αὐτοῦ,
ἀλλ᾿ ἵνα φανερωθῇ τὰ ἔργα τοῦ θεοῦ
ἐν αὐτῷ.
[KAI HRWTHSAN AUTON hOI MAQHTAI AUTOU LEGONTES· hRABBI, TIS hHMARTEN,
hOUTOS H hOI GONEIS AUTOU, hINA TUFLOS GENNHQHi;  3 APEKRIQH IHSOUS·
OUTE hOUTOS hHMARTEN OUTE hOI GONEIS AUTOU, ALL᾿ hINA FANERWQHi TA
ERGA TOU QEOU EN AUTWi.]

As I understand the sentence in question, it is highly elliptical but  
hardly unintelligible. I think that the sequence of question and  
answer in  verses 2 and 3 here are like the sequence in successive  
line-by-line exchanges between individuals in Greek drama -- I refer  
to what's called στιχομυθία [STICOMUQIA]: the construction  
and syntax of successive lines has to be understood by supplying the  
unstated (implicit) but clearly understood elements from what  
precedes. So I believe that the original question posed by Jesus'  
disciples is, "This man was born blind and somebody has to be at  
fault: was it the man himself or his parents who sinned?" Jesus'  
answer, I take it,  is: "Yes, it's true that the man was born blind,  
but it's not the case that he or his parents sinned; rather, his  
blindness is an opportunity for God's acts to be brought to light  
through what happens to him."

So: yes, I believe that John 9:3 is a perfectly good sentence and  
perfectly intelligible. Nonetheless it really is elliptical, meaning  
that understanding what it says does depend upon recognizing the  
implicit elements in the whole dialogue sequence.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)






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