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Chapter 1: Introduction to Subject Determination Involving Proper Nouns and Articular Nouns


Problem Statement

When two Greek substantives appear with an equative verb in a sentence or clause, distinguishing the subject (S) from the predicate nominative (PN) can stump the best of exegetes.1 Centered on the core principle that the subject is the known entity, a helpful system already exists for answering this question in the majority of New Testament (NT) constructions which consist of two nominatives.2 However, in the case of a proper name and an articular noun, both possess a “grammatical tag” for probable subject. In addition, the presence of an article on the noun changes the semantic relationship between the two nominatives; it moves a subset proposition in the direction of a convertible one.3

This thesis examines the more specific problem of distinguishing S from PN in Koine Greek constructions consisting of an anarthrous proper noun, an articular noun, and an explicit εἰμί verb (target clusters).4 Which is the grammatical subject? What is the “pecking order” for these two nominatives?5 Is the answer syntactically determined, contextually determined (semantic analysis), or can it be determined at all? 6 Is there an observable practice which the author employs to point out the grammatical subject to his audience?7 Or does flow of thought yield the answer? To what degree, if at all, does the affected meaning of the articular noun influence this practice?8

This study hypothesizes that the speaker/author will tend to express the subject grammatically by placing it before the predicate nominative in the target cluster. Modifications to this falsifiable hypothesis will be presented later if textual data deem necessary.9

Need for Further Research

Three reasons dictate the need for this study. First, very few of the grammatical works examined address the problem of distinguishing S from PN in double nominative constructions and none offers an empirically-based solution. A few works deal with the broader manifestation of this problem (choosing between two consecutive substantives appearing in the same case) and offer a pecking order. However, only two grammars identify this precise target cluster as problematic and suggest how to resolve it.10

Second, the existing method for distinguishing S from PN affects exegesis in other areas. The observed practice for the target cluster should yield adjustments to the existing pecking order which will ripple out into treatment of other analogous constructions.11 In the nominative case, the new clarification will affect decisions with verbal ellipses of double nominatives and with double nominatives which employ equative verbs like γίνομαι and ὑπάρχω or the passives of transitive verbs like καλέω, λαλέω, and λέγω. In the genitive case, it will help to distinguish subjective genitive from predicate genitive. In the dative case, it will help to distinguish subjective dative from predicate dative. In the accusative case, the results of this study will help to distinguish object from complement in double accusative object-complement constructions and help to determine subject accusative from predicate accusative in constructions with infinitives.

Third, current debates in Johannine studies have wrestled over the exact meaning, or best translation, of John 20:31 (ὅτι ᾿Ιησου)ς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ). Most translate it as, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” while a few scholars prefer, “that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus.” Both sides appeal to grammar for their respective translations but few grammarians have actually examined this specific syntactical structure closely. At best, these previous works offer “expert” speculation. No one has provided empirical substantiation. This study of Koine Greek texts which use the target cluster hopes to identify a proclivity that brings greater stability to the grammatical ground upon which the current debates stand.

Definition of Target Cluster and Terms

Target Cluster

The target cluster is defined as any combination of an anarthrous proper noun in the nominative case, an articular singular noun in the nominative case, and the third person singular εἰμί verb in the indicative mood. It is the primary entity under examination.

Structural Types

A structural type is defined as any expression of a combination of two or more units of syntax (i.e. noun, article, proper noun,εἰμί verb). It provides the terminology for discussing syntactic configurations. For the purpose of this study, the articular noun will be treated as one syntactical unit. This results in six possible structural types: (1) NPANVE, (2) ANNPVE, (3) NPVEAN, (4) ANVENP, (5) VENPAN, and (6) VEANNP; where AN = articular noun, NP = anarthrous proper noun in the nominative case, and VE = third person singular εἰμί verb in the indicative mood.

Functional Types

A functional type is defined as any expression of a combination of two or more semantic labels (i.e. subject, copula, predicate). It provides the terminology for discussing semantic configurations. There are six functional types for this study: (1) SPNV, (2) SVPN, (3) VSPN, (4) PNSV, (5) PNVS, and (6) VPNS; where S=subject, V=copula, and PN=Predicate Nominative.

Word Order Patterns

A word order pattern refers to the order of subject and predicate nominative within a target cluster. Normal, unmarked, or default word order patterns refer to target clusters whose subject precedes the predicate. Marked or transposed word order patterns refer to target clusters whose subject follows the predicate.

These basic terms help to describe when the falsifiable hypothesis has been empirically substantiated and how it will have been shown to be true. For the purpose of this research, it will have been empirically substantiated when 200 target clusters of true SPN functional types have been identified, or when every occurrence in Koine Greek has been identified. It will have been shown to be true by showing that the majority of the target clusters function with a normal word order pattern, i.e., they function as FT1, FT2, or FT3.

Limitations of the Scope and Method of Research

Because the broader question of subject determination in equative clauses extends into the realm of SPN constructions whose component nominal substantives have already been ordered, this thesis limits itself to the specific problem of subject determination in Koine Greek equative clauses involving proper nouns and articular nouns. Regarding parameters on the proper noun, since an article will “mark” it and thereby change the semantic situation between it and the rest of the clause, sentence, or paragraph, only anarthrous proper nouns qualify for this study.12 Similarly, regarding the non-proper noun, it must have the article because the absence of the article also affects the semantic situation.13 Regarding parameters on the verb, practical considerations required that it be limited to a few forms.14

For these reasons a target cluster will govern the limits to the scope of this research. It consists of an anarthrous proper noun in the nominative case, an articular singular noun in the nominative case, and the third person singular εἰμί verb in the indicative mood.

Finally, regarding boundaries on the size of a data pool, the paucity of the examples resulting from a preliminary study which covered 200 years of Greek writings dictates that a full synchronic study be performed. The new data pool includes all extant Koine Greek literature contained in the CD-ROM of Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG #E). 15 In addition to being limited by the texts contained in TLG #E, the material is also limited by text-critical decisions made by this data base regarding their texts. It is beyond the scope of this thesis to deal with every question of variant readings.16

Three limits in the research method merit mentioning. First, only two grammars identify the problem with the specific target cluster under examination.17 In this regard, most of the research in primary sources (i.e., extant Greek literature from the Koine period) is original. Second, the study only consulted works written in English and may exclude material with which I am unacquainted. Finally, due to the work of Reed with an analogous situation (double accusatives and copula), this work is not purely inductive.18 It begins with a falsifiable hypothesis which will be tested for empirical veracity.19

In sum, this study places parameters on the syntactical configuration of an SPN construction through the use of a tightly defined target cluster. It sets a boundary on the scope of the data pool at 700 years of Koine Greek. And it assigns to the research method margins which keep it within the start point of a thorough survey of secondary sources relevant to the target cluster and the end point of an inductive examination of the target cluster in primary sources. Neither the scope nor the research method limitations diminish the value of this work.20

1 A substantive is any word used as a noun—e.g., nouns, pronouns, adjectives, participles, infinitives, and prepositional phrases. For a more thorough list, see fn. 5 in Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 38. While a substantive can exist in all five case forms, a nominative refers to the substantive in the nominative case. Substantives in the nominative case, or naming case, most often function as subjects of a sentence. See Wallace, Greek Grammar, 37-40. An additional clarification is in order; proper names refer to persons and proper nouns refer to persons and all other things namable, place/thing names (e.g., mountains, cities, and rivers). Cf. Daniel B. Wallace, “The Article with Multiple Substantives Connected by Kaí in the New Testament: Semantics and Significance,” (Ph.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1995), 165-66.

2 Wallace, Greek Grammar, 42-48. Wallace lists three rules, “grammatical tags,” for distinguishing S from PN: (1) the subject will be a pronoun, (2) the subject will be articular, or (3) the subject will be a proper name. In cases where both entities possess the grammatical tag, he avers that with the exception of the interrogative pronoun, pronouns have greatest priority. He then notes that articular nouns and proper names seem to have equal priority.

3 Ibid., 41-42. In a subset proposition, the predicate nominative describes the class to which the subject belongs. For example, “Paul is an author” reflects a subset proposition because “author” describes the broader class to which Paul belongs. On the other hand, in a convertible proposition, the SPN construction indicates an identical exchange between the two entities. For example, “Paul is the author of the letter to the Galatians” is equivalent to “the author of the letter to the Galatians is Paul.” The reason why the article is said to simply move a subset proposition in the direction of a convertible one is because it is the first of several factors needed to create an identical exchange. Adding the article to the noun changes the semantic relationship by moving the noun from an unmarked substantive describing a broader class to a marked substantive referring to a more definite person. A. T. Robertson overstates the case, “In a word, then, when the article occurs with subject (or the subject is a personal pronoun or proper name) and predicate, both are definite, treated as identical, one and the same, and interchangeable” (A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, 4th ed. [Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934], 768). I think Robertson overstates the case because the article alone does not create a relationship of identical exchange. “Paul is the author” may be equivalent to “the author is Paul” but a reader can not know this without the help of context and/or additional factors. McGaughy calls these additional factors “optional items with the predicate nominative.” He lists over ten such items which expand on the predicate nominative (Lane C. McGaughy, Toward a Descriptive Analysis of Εἶναι as a Linking Verb in New Testament Greek [Nashville: Society of Biblical Literature for the Linguistics Seminar, 1972], 94-102). Broader context or any of these “optional items” help to complete the identical exchange. For an elaboration of this see the discussion on unaffected and affected meaning found in appendix two of this thesis. Goetchius sees the effect of the article differently than Robertson. He introduces the idea of “narrower reference” and seems to view definiteness as a spectrum, along which the article can move a noun from less definite to more definite (Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, The Language of the New Testament [New York: Scribner, 1965], 45-46). For an elaboration of this nuance see also the discussion on unaffected and affected meaning in appendix two.

4 SPN constructions lacking the verb will not be used. Testing and proving of the hypothesis will center on the εἰμί verb. More precisely, it only examines SPN constructions consisting of an anarthrous proper noun in the nominative case, an articular singular noun in the nominative case, and the third person singular εἰμί verb in the indicative mood. The discussion on structural priority found in appendix two elaborates on the reasons for this decision. From this point on, any combination of these three elements will be referred to as the target cluster without regard to the order of the nominatives. Technically speaking, it is the combination of a copula and two words in the nominative case which yield an SPN construction, where N = nominative. This does not mean the oblique cases do not exhibit analogous uses. Genitives can function as subjective genitives (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 112) and as predicate genitives with the participial form of an equative verb in the genitive (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 102). Similarly, datives can function as subject and predicate datives with the participial form of an equative verb in the dative case. Finally, accusatives also function analogously in object-complement constructions, in predicate accusative constructions with the participial form of an equative verb in the accusative case, and in infinitive constructions, since the subject of the infinitive, when explicit, is in the accusative case (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 102, 112, 152, 182, 190, 192, 195). Finally, when referring to Koine Greek, this investigation has in view the period of 400 B.C. to A.D. 300.

5 It should be stated by way of clarification that the pronominal ending on a verb always contains an embedded subject. Consequently, all substantives functioning as subjects are subsequent. Based on current research, these can be ordered as follows. Pronouns precede other substantives. For example, when Strabo writes, ἔχει δὲ ἱεράτό τε τοῦ ῎Απιδοςὅς ἐστιν ὁ αὐτὸς καὶ ῎Οσιρις, the relative pronoun should be taken as subject over the other substantives, “It has temples, [one of which is] that of Apis, who is the same as Osiris. . . ” (Strabo, Geographica; see also Eph 4:15; Col 1:24; 2:10; Rev 21:8; Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata, and There may also be a pecking order within the various types of pronouns in the nominative case; where the demonstrative is first, the relative is second, and the personal is third. I tentatively suggest that demonstrative pronouns outrank relative pronouns due to their stronger deictic force. Take for example, the relationship between the demonstrative pronoun and the relative pronoun in Τίς ἐστιν οὗτος ὃς λαλεῖ βλασφημίας and in Τίς οὗτός ἐστιν ὃς καὶ ἁμαρτίας ἀφίησιν(Luke 5:21 and 7:49, respectively). Translating them as statements shows that the demonstrative pronoun has a more natural connection to a known entity than the relative pronoun. “This, who speaks blasphemies, is who” appears to make more sense than “Who speaks blasphemies, this, is who.” Similarly, “This, who even forgives sins, is who” appears to make more sense than “Who even forgives sins, this, is who.” Personal pronouns are third. Prior to this study it was believed that proper nouns were fourth, with the only exception being ὄνομα (cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, 43). It was also believed that articular nouns were fifth in subset propositions and that only in convertible propositions could they dethrone the proper noun for subject; this being governed by phenomenological factors. However, the research has revealed a stronger indicator for determining subject in Koine Greek equative clauses involving a proper noun and an articular noun. Finally, interrogative pronouns are never the grammatical subject because they are always the least known. Unlike the other pronouns which refer back to someone or something previously mentioned, the interrogative pronouns anticipate a substantive not yet mentioned; for a complete explanation see fn. 24 in Wallace, Greek Grammar, 44.

6 Syntax refers to the arrangement of words, phrases, and clauses for the purpose of conveying meaning. However, in this study it does not refer to the arrangement of sentences. Study of the organization/arrangement of sentences may more rightly fall under discourse or rhetorical analysis. For my definition of syntax see Wallace, Greek Grammar, xv. See also Robertson, Grammar, 384-85. Contextual analysis utilizes what McGaughy calls “sentence-transcending” signals (McGaughy, Descriptive Analysis, 53). Kahn’s distinctions between syntactic, semantic, and judgmental (or conceptual) notion and his contrast with topic-comment views from linguistics provide a more exhaustive description of what can be meant by analysis. He identifies five senses of the word predication: (1) syntactic, (2) semantic, (3) ontological, (4) judgmental/conceptual, and (5) topic-comment as it is used in rhetorical analysis. In addition, he makes a good case for utilizing lexical, syntactical, and semantic concepts as “points of departure for covering essentially the same ground” (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], 40-46, 51).

7 From this point forward, this work uses the term “practice” because there is no way to show conclusively that the speaker/authors of the Koine Greek period followed a rule prescribed by their own grammarians. A. T. Robertson reminds present-day grammarians that, “The Greek grammarian is an interpreter of the facts, not a regulator of the facts” (Robertson, Grammar, 387).

8 “By ‘unaffected’ is meant the meaning of the construction in a vacuum—apart from contextual, lexical, or other grammatical intrusions. By ‘affected’ is meant the meaning of the construction in its environment—i.e., ‘real life’ instances” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 2). For an elaboration see discussion on unaffected and affected meaning found in appendix two of this thesis.

9 Secondarily, the study reveals some additional peculiarities. On the one hand, it disproved that position in relation to the verb expresses the grammatical subject. In other words, I had speculated that when the nominatives appear consecutively before the verb, the second would be subject; and that when they appear together after the verb, the first would be subject. In this sense, the label of “first” would have been a radial one, meaning first from the verb. On the other hand, the data show that the subject does stay close to the copula, rarely appearing more than four words away. In other words, the first substantive is almost always the subject and it stays close to the verb. Winer says something similar to this with respect to narratives in NT Greek. He speculates, “a wide separation of the two principal parts of a sentence, the subject and the verb (predicate), is avoided; and, in accordance with the Hebrew mode of expression, sometimes the verb is advanced nearer to the subject, sometimes, when the subject is complex, only the principal subject precedes the verb, and the others follow (see §58, 6), lest the attention should be kept too long in suspense” (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], 547).

10 Andrew Keith Malcolm Adam, A Grammar for New Testament Greek (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999), 63-64; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 44. Though not a grammar book, McGaughy’s monograph also addresses the target cluster when discussing the Johannine passages which are exceptions to Rule 3c (McGaughy, Descriptive Analysis, 51-52). Goetchius, from the approach of linguistic analysis rather than from grammar, does not identify it directly (Goetchius, Language, 45-47). The next chapter will elaborate on the contribution of both of these works.

11 Wallace, Greek Grammar, 182-89, 195.

12 For a more thorough explanation see the discussions on semantic situation and lexical elasticity which are found in appendix two.

13 Consult previous footnote regarding subset and convertible propositions.

14 The search capabilities on the data base constrained the number and forms of verb(s) which could be examined. This is further explained in the following chapter under the discussion on methodology.

15 Thesaurus Linguae Graecae Ver. #E (Los Angeles: University of California, 1999). The latest update of the CD-ROM is version #E. It was released in February of 2000 and contains 76 million words of text. The online product, which was released in April of 2001, was not used. It contains 91 million words of text. This program uses the second edition of the United Bible Society NT text and Alfred Rahlfs’ Septuagint text (Eberhard Nestle, The Greek New Testament, ed. Erwin Nestle, rev. and ed. by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger and Allen Wikgren, The Greek New Testament, 2d ed. [Stuttgart: Württemberg Bible Society, 1968], 1-895; Alfred Rahlfs, Septuaginta, 9th ed. [Stuttgart: Württemberg Bible Society, 1935 (repr. 1971)], 1-941). Rahlfs’ text consists primarily of the important manuscripts Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus, BA. It also provides the parallel Codex Sinaiticus, S, in places where there is significant disparity between BA and S.

16 Two NT passages are discussed in chapter three in the section on additional observations.

17 The following chapter provides a chronological review of previous research related to the target cluster and appendix one presents an expanded summary of past treatments of the broader subject matter.

18 Jeffrey T. Reed, “The Infinitive with Two Substantival Accusatives: An Ambiguous Construction?” Novum Testamentum 33 (1991): 1-27.

19 To be purely inductive, the study would not state the falsifiable hypothesis on the front end. It would build it from observed functional patterns of the six structural types.

20 Appendix two, an explanation of research philosophy, provides a detailed discussion on the benefits of the limitations on scope. The following chapter explains the reasoning behind the chosen research method.

Related Topics: Grammar