The first step in the research involved examining several beginning, intermediate, and advanced grammars, as well as related works, for the purpose of collecting any past and current postulations on how to distinguish subject (S) from predicate nominative (PN) in constructions consisting of an anarthrous proper noun (NP), an articular noun (AN), and the equative verb (Ve), εἰμιv.1 As previously stated, few grammars address the problem. The survey looked for three things: (1) a presentation of a “pecking order” for distinguishing S from PN in any double nominative combination with Ve, (2) treatment of specific problem with target clusters, and (3) the nature of proposed solution (namely, is it empirically based or an informed speculation?).2 The second step involved consulting secondary sources which examined more closely the components (proper nouns, article, and εἰμί) and relevant topics (word order, indefiniteness, qualitativeness, definiteness, and sample passages) of the research problem.3
Donaldson’s 1859 monograph does not provide a method for distinguishing S from PN in the target clusters.4 Like many other grammars, his simply suggests that the article typically marks the subject, and that the absence of an article marks the PN. He notes an exception, that a subject can be anarthrous if it is a proper noun.5 The second volume of Jelf’s grammar provides a helpful discussion on the nature of a simple Greek sentence and addresses SPN constructions but does not delve into problematic situations like that of this study.6 The only relevant remark asserts that as a general rule S has the article while PN does not.7
In A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, Winer’s treatment of the nominative case hardly hints at a pecking order when two or more substantives appear together. His discussions about sentence structure and about word order offer nothing on the matter.8 Moulton’s translation of Winer adds nothing new from the sections on the nominative case, sentence structure, and word position.9 Buttmann’s discussion of the noun in SPN constructions and of the nominative case fails to mention a pecking order for distinguishing S from PN in target clusters.10
Votaw’s doctoral dissertation provides one of the first discussions on what to do when an infinitive has an expressed subject. He observes that the first of two accusatives is most often subject.11
The first part of Gildersleeve’s work covers the uses of the nominative case but nowhere says anything about a pecking order for distinguishing S from PN in target clusters.12 The second part of his work reviews the uses of the article but also fails to provide a pecking order.13 Surprisingly and similarly, Abbott is completely silent on the matter.14
Thompson, a classicist, does not deviate much from the view of his day, distinguishing S from PN based on definiteness. He sees the article as the determinative tag for definiteness but does not elaborate on the various possibilities of double nominative clusters where both are definite.15
Moulton’s introductory work briefly addresses some uses of the nominative case but does not treat SPN constructions.16 His major work only looks at special uses of the nominative case and is likewise silent.17
From a linguistics bent, Jespersen dubs definiteness as the key to determining grammatical subject.18 In addition, he may be the first to wrestle with the question of convertible propositions, “perfect identity.” He concludes that perfect identity or identical exchange is rare and that in most cases involving proper names, the name is more “special,” i.e., the subject. As to be expected, Howard’s work does not address this syntactical question since his work deals primarily with morphology of Greek words.19
Goodwin addresses the basic structure of a Greek sentence using the eijmiv verb as an example, inadvertently addressing an SPN construction, but hardly addresses the question of how to distinguish S from PN when two nouns appear together in the nominative case.20
Robertson briefly mentions double nominatives in his discussion on the nominative case and does not provide a system for choosing S from the two.21 However, in the section on the article, he interacts with Gildersleeve’s and Winer’s (Treatise) opposing views regarding its effect on the predicate. Siding with Gildersleeve, he asserts that, with the exception of proper names and pronouns, the articular noun is the subject regardless of the word order.22 This may be the first semblance of a pecking order, albeit, based on informed speculation.
Nelson presents the arguments for and against the view that the article serves to identify S between two nominatives. However, he does not specifically address the problem of distinguishing the S from PN in target clusters. This is because he excludes proper names from his study by reason that they possess inherent definiteness, whether marked or unmarked by an article.23
Funk’s doctoral dissertation addresses the related issue of identifying the predicate noun by the absence or presence of the article but does not deal with the specific problem of this study.24 Volume 2 of his grammar labels SPN construction as Type II sentences, questions the ‘traditional’ definition of S (the performer of the verb action), and provides three simplistic signals of S. The primary signal is person and number agreement with the main verb. The secondary signal is that the case is nominative (he mentions the exception with infinitives). Finally, he advises that one look at the whole sentence because context also signals S. However, he does not provide a pecking order for the double nominative scenario.25
Smyth proposes the general rule that a PN has no article and is, thereby, distinguished from the S.26 But he never really addresses the problem of distinguishing the S from PN in target clusters.27 Dana and Mantey also omit any discussion of this situation.28
Moule does not set forth a pecking order per se, but touches on the issue while discussing Colwell’s work with the Greek article.29 More specifically, he comments that “proper names usually lack the article in the predicate.”30 But Moule simply delineates observations gleaned from Colwell’s journal article, hardly meaning to address the question of distinguishing the S from PN in target clusters.
Blass and Debrunner observe that PN’s usually lack the article, but they do not treat the topic of this study.31 Blum’s work on difficulties with the Greek article does not cover the problem of pecking order between an articular noun and a proper name.32
Zerwick notes the role of the article in identifying the S from PN; but unlike previous grammarians, he qualifies his statements. He says that it is not a rule but a key that helps most of the time. Yet like most other works, his does not provide a true pecking order for locating S.33
Turner’s first addition to Moulton’s grammar follows Zerwick by noting the tendency for the PN to be anarthrous while at the same time pointing out that articular PN do exist.34 Goetchius provides a new paradigm, that of discussing grammar on the basis of form rather than function.35 And with respect to the question of how to distinguish subject from predicate nominative, he provides one of the first treatments which sets forth a pecking order. However, Goetchius does not provide a sound empirical basis for his postulation nor is he consistent with the founding principle upon which it is based.36 Nida does not speak to the matter of distinguishing subject from PN in target clusters.37
McGaughy’s monograph squarely examines a broader problem, identifying the S in any double nominative sentence.38 He offers a pecking order based on 174 sentences in 30 passages but provides no method for identifying S in the target clusters. Interestingly, he comments indirectly on all six of the New Testament occurrences. While discussing his Rule 3c, he avers that John 8:39 follows the rule and that the other five are simply exceptions “due to their formulaic character.”39
Kahn, coming from a philosophical, though somewhat grammatical, perspective identifies the ambiguity in Greek when two nominatives are joined by a copula.40 He speculates that context and or the article solves the problem. Indirectly, he affirms the “article determines the subject” rule. Moreover, he alludes to the problematic nature of convertible propositions, “But we must be prepared to admit that in some cases of N is N sentences in Greek the distinction between subject and predicate noun may be undefined. These are in general the cases where is may be read as is identical with.”41 Finally, he strongly objects to any “rule” based on word order and argues against the use of empirical evidence as evidence for such a thing.42
Dixon’s work interacts with Robertson’s statement regarding articular subjects and predicates and even uses John 8:39 to explain his view. However, he does not add anything toward the solution of the specific problem of this work.43 Goetchius reappears with an insightful review of McGaughy’s dissertation. He highlights McGaughy’s failure to apply Rule 3c “rigorously” to the five Johannine passages. In addition, he points out that Rule 3d does not match McGaughy’s definition of Type II sentences because it deals with two substantives which are equally definite. However, he adds very little to his original pecking order.44
Turner’s final volume on style adds nothing to the discussion.45 McKay’s work provides no pecking order for distinguishing S form PN in target clusters. His discussions on subject and predicate, word order, and the nominative case barely even mention SPN constructions.46
Conybeare’s work on the Septuagint (LXX) provides no help since he strongly asserts that as a whole the LXX translation contains very little Greek syntax.47 And when treating the nominative case, he omits discussion of the common uses such as S and PN.48 Givon’s work covers copulative sentences and issues of definiteness but does not address the target cluster of this study.49
Levinsohn’s first edition provides a pecking order of sorts, but it is presented in the terminology of discourse/rhetorical (D/R) analysis. He says that the topic (S) precedes the nonverbal constituents of the comment (potentially the PN) about the topic. He bases this on what his field of study calls the “The Principle of Natural Information Flow.”50 This principle arranges referents on a hierarchy based on “animacy.” In this ordering, 1st and 2nd person pronouns come first, 3rd person pronouns come second, proper names third, humans fourth, animate objects fifth, and inanimate objects sixth. But this ordering has to do with constituents comprising the comment itself and, therefore, exclude those which reside within the topic. This study seeks a pecking order to establish priority between a constituent in the topic and one in the comment. In the chapter on the article, again using terminology from D/R analysis, he explains why S tends to be arthrous and PN tends to be anarthrous.51 Unfortunately, both of these observations add little to this study because they are based on a completely different kind of analysis, what Kahn calls topic/comment predication.52
Levinsohn’s next work follows suit and offers little insight to distinguishing S from PN in a target cluster.53 However, it reflects a clear understanding of the core principle involved, prominence. The key to this study’s problem is not definiteness but saliency, which constituent is best known. Levinsohn admits that his study concerns functional, rather than structural, observations. The work does not “tackle Greek in the traditional way, but rather approaches it from the position of descriptive linguistics.”54
Voelz’s beginner’s grammar barely addresses the topic of SPN construction and, hence, offers nothing to the discussion.55 Similarly, Brooks’ grammar covers the existence of the simple SPN sentence but does not venture into the problems of distinguishing S in such constructions.56 His later work, though called a reference grammar, does not address syntax. It solely presents NT Greek morphology, or accidence.57
Wallace provides the most exhaustive treatment of the broader challenge of distinguishing S from PN in double nominative clusters. His pecking order reflects a clear understanding of the core principle, known entity, from which the postulations emanate. It also reflects a strong commitment to structural priority and sufficient data base as is demonstrated by the tentativeness with which it suggests that word order may determine S from PN in the target clusters.58
Andrew K. Adam also provides a pecking order. His is based on the general rule that “the more definite of the words linked to εἰμιv is the subject [and] the less definite is the predicate.”59 With less hesitation than Wallace, he states that if the two nominatives possess equal definiteness then the word that comes first is probably the subject. However, he provides no statistical evidence to substantiate his postulations. The survey of secondary sources highlights a concern or pitfall which others have noted. It is the lack of attention to structural priority.
Helma Dik’s “Interpreting Adjective Position in Herodotus,” in Grammar as Interpretation, certainly shows that this oversight can lead to “loopholes” which render a study fruitless.60 She contests one of Leif Bergson’s claims by examining the method behind his conclusion.61 After looking at terms based on structure (constituent or word order) and semantics (only considered adjectives functioning attributively), she concludes that the post-posed position is the default position for attributive adjectives. Contrary to Bergson, she shows that it is more proper to label adjectives as normal (less affected term) or marked (more affected) based on this data rather than on the semantic categories (“determining” and “qualifying”) employed by Bergson. Wallace echoes Helma Dik’s appeal to maintain syntactical focus, “The grammatical features of a language will be a surer guide than the lexical or semantic features that change from author to author and from time to time (and from interpreter to interpreter!)”62
In sum, review of all this literature benefits the study in two ways. It shows that little work exists on the topic of the substantive “pecking order” in an SPN construction. With the exception of two or three grammars, the majority have very little to say about it. In addition, the review of methodology employed by these secondary sources confirms the need for proceeding with a strong commitment to structural priority in this research project.
1 Henceforth, target cluster refers to any combination of these morphemes.
2 The summaries are in chronological order according to original publication date of the last revision. In cases where an author produced several books relevant to the topic(s) or subsequent editions of the same book, their works will be presented together. The survey of secondary sources is intentionally diachronic in hopes of capturing any discussion pertinent to the subject matter.
3 Egbert J. Bakker, ed., Grammar as Interpretation: Greek Literature in Its Linguistic Contexts (New York: Brill, 1997); Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, rev. and ed. by Frederick William Danker, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); D. A. Carson, “The Purpose of the Fourth Gospel: John 20:31 Reconsidered,” Journal of Biblical Literature 106 (1987); D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 90-91, 167, 202, 351-52, 556, 564, 660-63; Gordon D. Fee, “The Use of the Definite Article with Personal Names in the Gospel of John,” New Testament Studies 17 (1970-71); Stephen A. Janssen, “The Greek Article with Proper Names in Matthew” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2003); Henry R. Moeller and Arnold Kramer, “An Overlooked Structural Pattern in New Testament Greek,” Novum Testamentum 5 (1961); Frans Neirynck and Frans van Segbroeck, eds., The Four Gospels 1992: Festschrift für Frans Neirynck, 3 vols., vol. 3 (Leuven: University Press, 1992), 2193-2205; Jeffrey T. Reed, “The Infinitive with Two Substantival Accusatives: An Ambiguous Construction?” Novum Testamentum 33 (1991); and Julie Katherine Woodson, “The Discourse Function of the Greek Article: A Consideration of Its Use with Common Personal Nouns in Acts” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 2005).
4 John William Donaldson, A Complete Greek Grammar for the Use of Students, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Deighton Bell, 1859), 341, 346-47, 396.
5 Ibid., 346-47.
6 William Edward Jelf, A Grammar of the Greek Language, 4 ed., vol. 2: Syntax, 2 vols. (London: James Parker, 1866), 28-35, 52, 121-26, 137-38, 149-50.
7 Ibid., 137.
8 Georg Benedikt Winer, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament: Prepared as a Solid Basis for the Interpretation of the New Testament, rev. and ed. by Gottlieb Lünemann, trans. Joseph Henry Thayer (Andover: W. F. Draper, 1869), 181-84, 512-36, 546-61.
9 Georg Benedikt Winer, A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek: Regarded as a Sure Basis for New Testament Exegesis, trans. W. F. Moulton, 3d ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1882), 226-28, 644-56, 684-702.
10 Alexander Buttmann, A Grammar of the New Testament Greek, trans. Joseph Henry Thayer (Andover: W. F. Draper, 1876), 123, 138-41.
11 Clyde W. Votaw, “The Use of the Infinitive in Biblical Greek” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1896), 58.
12 Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, Syntax of Classical Greek from Homer to Demosthenes, vol. 1: The Syntax of the Simple Sentence, Embracing the Doctrine of the Moods and Tenses, 2 vols. (New York: American Book Co., 1900-11), 1-5, 9, 30-32, 35, 46.
13 Ibid., vol. 2: The Syntax of the Simple Sentence, Embracing the Doctrine of the Article, 215-16, 226, 229, 324-28.
14 Edwin A. Abbott, Johannine Grammar (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1906), 107-8, 178, 315-18, 382, 538. He focuses on text critical issues in both, John 8:39 and 20:31. He does not cover any of the 1 John passages (2:2, 4:15, 5:1, and 5:5).
15 Francis Edward Thompson, A Syntax of Attic Greek (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907), 6, 9-10, 46, 90-93.
16 James Hope Moulton, An Introduction to the Study of New Testament Greek, 2d ed. (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1903), 167-68.
17 James Hope Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, 3d ed., 4 vols, vol. 1: Prolegomena, by J. H. Moulton, 69-70.
18 Otto Jespersen, The Philosophy of Grammar (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1924), 150-54.
19 Moulton, Grammar: Accidence, 195, 222.
20 William Watson Goodwin, Greek Grammar, rev. by Charles Burton Gulick (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1930).
21 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 4th ed. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), 400, 417-18, 456-61.
22 Ibid., 767-68.
23 Dotson M. Nelson, “The Articular and Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in the Greek New Testament,” (Th.D. diss., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1944), 5, 17.
24 Robert Walter Funk, “The Syntax of the Greek Article: Its Importance for Critical Pauline Problems,” (Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt University, 1953), 43.
25 Robert Walter Funk, A Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek, 2 ed., vol. 2: Syntax, 3 vols. (Missoula: Society of Biblical Literature, 1973), 378-79, 395, 398, 419, 707.
26 Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar, rev. by Gordon M. Messing (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), 292.
27 Ibid., 256-57, 259, 261, 285-87, 289.
28 H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1957), 65, 68-69, 135-43.
29 Ernest Cadman Colwell, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 (1933): 12-21; Charles Francis Digby Moule, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), 30-31, 106-17.
30 Moule, Idiom Book, 115.
31 Friedrich Blass and Albert Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. and ed. by Robert W. Funk (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 70, 80, 131-33, 135-36, 143, 248.
32 Edwin A. Blum, “Studies in the Problem Areas of the Greek Article” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1961).
33 Maximilian Zerwick, Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples, trans. Joseph Smith (Rome: Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 1963), 10, 53-56.
34 Moulton, Grammar: Syntax, 165-67, 182-83.
35 Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament (New York: Scribner, 1965), 37-38, 43-47.
36 Ibid., 46-47. McGaughy addresses this problem forcibly. A more detailed assessment of this pecking order and McGaughy’s reservations about it are presented above.
37 Eugene Albert Nida and Charles R. Taber, The Theory and Practice of Translation (Leiden: Brill, 1969).
38 Lane C. McGaughy, Toward a Descriptive Analysis ofΕἶναι as a Linking Verb in New Testament Greek (Nashville: Society of Biblical Literature for the Linguistics Seminar, 1972), 23-24.
40 Charles H. Kahn, The Verb “Be” in Ancient Greek, The Verb ‘Be’ and its Synonyms: Philosophical and Grammatical Studies, ed. John W.M. Verhaar, vol. 16, 17 vols. (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1973), 39-46, 51, 70-72, 104-9, 245-46, 249-55, 426-34.
41 Ibid., 39.
42 Ibid., 426-28. He severely critiques Lasso de la Vega for suggesting that a verb in final position is the “normal” order. On the basis of strong empirical evidence, Vega shows its propensity to be last in a structure consisting of a verb and two substantives.
43 Paul Stephen Dixon, “The Significance of the Anarthrous Predicate Nominative in John” (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1975), 5-10, 28, 30.
44 Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, “Review of Lane C. McGaughy's Toward a Descriptive Analysis of Εἶναιas a Linking Verb in New Testament Greek,” Journal of Biblical Literature 95 (1976): 147-49.
45 Moulton, Grammar: Style.
46 Kenneth Leslie McKay, Greek Grammar for Students: A Concise Grammar of Classical Attic with Special Reference to Aspect in the Verb (Canberra: Department of Classics Australian National University, 1977), 101, 104, 119.
47 Frederick Cornwallis Conybeare and George William Joseph Stock, A Grammar of Septuagint Greek (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1905. Reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), §38. They write, “We have therefore to deal with a work of which the vocabulary is Greek and the Syntax Hebrew.”
48 Ibid., §38, §40-41, §44, §50-53.
49 Talmy Givón, Syntax: A Functional-Typological Introduction (Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1984), 91-92, 396, 397-406.
50 Stephen H. Levinsohn, Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebook (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1992), 69, 74-75.
51 Levinsohn, Discourse Features, 97-98.
52 Of the five kinds of predication which Kahn identifies, this study only employs the concepts of syntactic and semantic predication. Cf. Kahn, Verb “Be”, 40-46, 51.
53 Stephen H. Levinsohn, Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek, 2d ed. (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 2000), 29-30, 37-38, 42, 45, 148-51.
54 Ibid., vii. For those interested in a brief but no less instructional summary on the distinctive elements of discourse analysis, I suggest reading the complete introduction to Levinsohn, Information Structure, vii-x.
55 James W. Voelz, Fundamental Greek Grammar, 2d ed. (St. Louis: Concordia, 1993), 87, 88-89.
56 James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Lanham: University Press of America, 1979). Brooks and Winbery, Syntax, 4-7, 139-41.
57 James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery, A Morphology of New Testament Greek: A Review and Reference Grammar (Lanham: University Press of America, 1994).
58 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 40-48.
59 Andrew Keith Malcolm Adam, A Grammar for New Testament Greek (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 13, 63-64. He places demonstrative and relative pronouns first, personal pronouns and proper nouns second, articular nouns third, and anarthrous nouns fourth. He goes on to imply that in convertible propositions the nominative which appears first is the subject.
60 Bakker, ed., Grammar, 55-76. Bakker’s collection of essays contains one by Helma Dik which evaluates a comment by Bergson regarding the hackneyed value of adjectives in Herodotus’ Histories 1.53.3 and 1.60.5.
61 He writes, “Banaler Wert des Adjektivs—‘ohne irgendein logisch (durch Antithese u. dgl.) oder affektiv bedingte Hervorhebung’” (Leif Bergson, Zur Stellung des Adjektivs in der älteren Griechischen Prosa [Stockholm: Almqvist Wiksell, 1960], 65).
62 Wallace, Greek Grammar, 42 fn. 16; italics mine.