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Friday, December 31, 2010

2 Thess 2:15 εἴτε δι' ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν

A question posted on b-greek from Thursday Dec 30 12:12:55 EST 2010. You can follow this link to see the thread which is worth reading:

[B-Greek] 2 Thess 2:15
Thu Dec 30 12:12:55 EST 2010
“ In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε δι' ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι' τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not).  If he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the article.  I’m interested in the grammatical question.  What do y’all think?”
Bart  Ehrman
Bart D. Ehrman
James A. Gray Professor
Department of Religious Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The use of the definite article in Classical and Koine Greek is a complex issue as this thread demonstrates. While I would agree with much of what was said, I would also take a somewhat different approach to the problem. Reading the passage 2nd Thess 2:15 

2 Th. 2:15 Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι᾿ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν.  
Grammatically ἐπιστολῆς is unmarked for definiteness. It can be either definite or indefinite. Analysis of the syntax is not going to give us an answer.

What is the story, the situation, the occasion for these remarks? What sort of scenario[1] is invoked by Paul's use of λόγου and ἐπιστολῆς?

Iver Larsen SIL (Denmark, Africa) was the last post (so far) in this thread, he said: 

It seems to me that both LOGOS and EPISTOLH are here general rather than  focusing on a specific word or a specific letter. It is somewhat similar to Phil  1:20: εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου EITE DIA ZWHS EITE DIA QANATOU. The words  are general, life or death, not THE life or THE death. Of course, the context  may well limit the reference to the life or death of a particular person, here  Paul. We need to distinguish between grammar, semantics and reference.

The main point in 2:15 is to "hold on to the the teachings you received from  us", so I would take the genitive pronoun as indicating source. Whether these  teachings came to you through oral or written means does not matter, but it does  matter that they came from "us" as we are the ones with apostolic authority to  teach you.

The LOGOS would refer to when Paul (and other apostles) taught them in person,  and the EPISTOLH to one or more letters. That would include 1 and 2 Thess, but  we don't know if there were more letters. Paul has just warned them in 2:2 that  they should be critical about information whether by word or letter purporting  to come from "us" when in fact they did not. Therefore, the source is important,  not which particular letter or letters of his he was referring to.
Compare 2:2:
μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε δι᾽ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς δι᾽ ἡμῶν

neither through a word (oral teaching) nor through a letter as if (it was) from  us. 
One of the ways that the recipients could judge whether a particular letter  truly came from Paul was that they could recognize his hand writing. This proof  of authenticity is what he refers to in 3:17:

Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου, ὅ ἐστιν σημεῖον ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ· οὕτως γράφω. hO ASPASMOS THi EMHi CEIRI PAULOU, hO ESTIN SHMEION EN PASHi EPISTOLHi. hOUTWS  GRAFW.

The greeting is by my own hand, from (me) Paul, which is a sign/proof in every  letter (of mine). This is how I write.
Iver Larsen
Following Iver's contribution, I would suggest that the scenario invoked by 2 Thes. 2:2 ήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε δι᾽ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς δι᾽ ἡμῶν is the same or at least a very similar scenario as we find in 2 Thes. 2:15  ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι᾿ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν. Paul and his fellow workers have been and still are in communication with the Church at Thessalonica. Letters are sent, words are spoken. Some letters and words are not authentic and Paul admonishes the Thessalonians to stand by what they have been taught from the beginning.

Letters from Paul was a scenario in the cognitive framework of the Thessalonians before it was mentioned the first time in this letter. The Thessalonians are aware of the letter(s) from Paul. The lack of the article with ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν 2 Thes. 2:15 does not indicate hearer new or discourse new information. The previous mention of letters in 2 Thes. 2:2 makes ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν 2 Thes. 2:15 discourse old. Discourse and hearer old information can be indefinite[2]. The fact that we have written you letters, you know this, you have read our letters. So a letter from us isn't introducing something new to hearers or new to the discourse at 2 Thes. 2:15.

Richard A. Hoyle[3] argues that "all anarthrous reference to 'things' identifies them as salient":
6.4. Lack of the article with Hearer-old items marks salience
As stated above, there are clear examples of Discourse-old and other Hearer-old items which are referred to anarthrously. Levinsohn[4] (1992:97) notes this problem:
Throughout the New Testament, nouns whose referents are “known, particular” (Blass, Debrunner, and Funk 1961, sec. 252) are at times preceded by the definite article (i.e. “arthrous”) and at times appear without it (i.e. they are “anarthrous”).
Levinsohn[4] (1992:99) interprets this as due to “salience”:
anarthrous references to particular, known participants either mark the participant as locally salient or highlight the speech which he utters.
I agree with Levinsohn’s basic conclusion, that the absence of the article for a “known, particular” referent (i.e. Hearer-old) shows salience or highlighting. However, I would like to draw a more broad-reaching conclusion, that all arthrous reference to “things” identifies them as Hearer-old, and all anarthrous reference to “things” identifies them as salient. The presence of the article marks Hearer-old and says “this is the same old known particular item, don’t pay special attention to it, as you already know what it is”. The absence of the article marks salience and says “hey, pay attention” or in technical terminology “use extra processing-effort”.
Richard A. Hoyle[3]

So if we follow Hoyle in 2 Th. 2:15 ... εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι᾿ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν both λόγου and ἐπιστολῆς would be marked as salient. I have one little problem with this. According to the traditional grammar framework[5] nouns in prepositional phrases can be definite with out an article and furthermore nouns with possessives ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν are definite without an article. So I would ask Hoyle, is ἐπιστολῆς marked salient by being anarthrous even when a article isn't required to make it definite? I suspect the answer is "no". 


[1]Scenarios, Discourse, and Translation
The scenario theory of Cognitive Linguistics,
its relevance for analysing New Testament Greek
and modern Parkari texts,
and its implications for translation theory
Richard A. Hoyle
©2008 SIL International
Library of Congress Catalog Number: 2008936127
ISBN: 9781556712234
ISSN: 1934-2470

[2] ibid, p. 142 

[3] ibid, p.154

[4] Levinsohn, Stephen H. 1992. Discourse features of New Testament Greek: A coursebook. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

[5] from the b-greek thread, a post by Ken M. Penner, Ph.D.
I have always taught that the article may be dropped in a prepositional phrase.

Robertson's Grammar XVI.VIII(c) (page 791) has the following under "The Absence of the Article."

"(c) PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES.  These were also often considered definite enough without the article. So ἐν οἴκῳ (1 Cor. 11:34. Cf. ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ, ‘in the house,’ Jo. 11:20)=‘at home.’ So we say “go to bed,” etc. Moulton pertinently cites English “down town,” “on ’change,” “in bed,” “from start to finish.” This idiom is not therefore peculiar to Greek. It is hardly necessary to mention all the N. T. examples, so common is the matter."
"For διά note διά νυκτός (Ac. 5:19), διὰ μέσου (Lu. 4:30), διὰ μέσον (17:11)."
"For classic examples see Gildersleeve, Syntax, p. 259 f. The papyri furnish abundant parallels (Völker, Syntax, pp. 15–17) as do the inscriptions (Radermacher, N. T. Gr., p. 92)."

The next section continues:

"(d) WITH BOTH PREPOSITION AND GENITIVE.  It is not surprising to find no article with phrases which use both preposition and genitive like εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ (Ro. 1:1), ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου (Lu. 19:42), ἐκ δεξιῶν μου (Mt. 20:23), ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κόσμου (Mt. 24:21), παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας (Heb. 11:11), ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (Lu. 8:13), ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (Mt. 25:34), ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ (Lu. 1:51), etc."

I hope this helps,

Ken M. Penner, Ph.D.


Blogger Stephen C. Carlson said...

If I've understood Hoyle correctly from your excerpt, esp. 'all anarthrous reference[s] to “things” identifies them as salient', I think Hoyle would answer 'yes'.

3:46 PM  
Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Hello Stephen,

You have understood Hoyle and you are right. I looked at dozens of Hoyle's examples where the anarthrous substantive is in prepositional phrase. He pays no attention to this.

On the question of possessives, I have found several comments under doublets on page 236ff. A very interesting example from John 20.28. I will probably post on it later.

Thank you.

BTW, you can download Hoyle ~900 pages of it from this link:

11:05 AM  
Blogger Stephen C. Carlson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Stephen C. Carlson said...

Thanks for the link, Clay. I'm devouring the text. I notice that Hoyle tends to be more categorical than the cautious Levinsohn.

12:28 PM  

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