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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

the greek article - 2Cor 9:1

There is a lot of confusion in bible study land about the [ancient] Greek article. Yesterday I was looking at the transition between chapters eight and nine in 2nd Corinthians with an eye out for cohesive elements in the text that would anchor chapter nine to the rest of the letter. While working on this I paused to reflect on the use of the article in 2Cor 9:1.

2Cor. 9:1 Περὶ μὲν γὰρ τῆς διακονίας τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους περισσόν μοί ἐστιν τὸ γράφειν ὑμῖν· 2 οἶδα γὰρ τὴν προθυμίαν ὑμῶν ἣν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν καυχῶμαι Μακεδόσιν, ὅτι Ἀχαΐα παρεσκεύασται ἀπὸ πέρυσι, καὶ τὸ ὑμῶν ζῆλος ἠρέθισεν τοὺς πλείονας.

In 9:1a we see a genitive feminine singular article in front of a prepositional phrase τῆς εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους. This is a perfectly normal use of the article. The clue to what is going on here can be found by looking backwards and discovering an articular genitive feminine singular noun τῆς διακονίας. The function of the article τῆς with the prepositional phrase is to indicate that the prepositional phrase qualifies the noun phrase. In other words the prepositional phrase occupies a syntactical location where we could expect to find an adjective.

At the end of 9:1 we find a neuter nominative singular article in front of an infinitive τὸ γράφειν. This usage is also common in Greek. Here the article τὸ indicates that the infinitive γράφειν functions as if it were a noun in the predication περισσόν μοί ἐστιν τὸ γράφειν ὑμῖν.

The general idea is that the greek article can be attached to a word or phrase to make it function syntactically as if it were a noun or adjective. Another very common example is the article with participles. You will find this discussed in H.W. Smyth Greek Grammar 1153ff.


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