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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Genealogy of Mary? — the syntax of Luke 3:23b

One occasionally hears a argument that the syntax of Luke 3:23b lends support to a claim that Luke’s genealogy traces Mary’s lineage and not Joseph’s. On the general question of Genealogy of Christ in Matthew and Luke see the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Luke 3:23 Και αυτος ⸀ην Ιησους ⸂αρχομενος ωσει ετων τριακοντα⸃, ων ⸂υιος, ως ενομιζετο⸃, Ιωσηφ του Ηλι 24  του Μαθθατ του Λευι του Μελχι του Ιανναι του Ιωσηφ  —SBLGNT

Luke 3:23  και αυτος ην ο ιησους ωσει ετων τριακοντα αρχομενος ων ως ενομιζετο υιος ιωσηφ του ηλι 24  του ματθατ του λευι του μελχι του ιαννα του ιωσηφ — Byz Textform Robinson-Pierpont

Luke 3:23  και αυτος ην ιησους αρχομενος ωσει ετων τριακοντα ων υιος ως ενομιζετο ιωσηφ του ηλει 24  του μαθθαθ του λευει του μελχει του ιανναι του ιωσηφ — Tischendorf

I spent more than two days looking through mountains of secondary literature to find a serious discussion of the syntax, particularly the lack of an article with Joseph. What I found was some apologetics websites claiming that the syntax lent support to the Genealogy of Mary hypothesis  but no real analysis of the syntax other than the lack of an article before Joseph.  The Greek text exegetical commentaries very rarely suggest that the lack an article supports anything what so ever. I found one note by  Matthew B. Riddle the American Editor of H. A. W. Meyers Exegetical Handbook on Luke. Riddle disagreed with both Meyer and Henry Alford (!!) by supporting the Genealogy of Mary hypothesis. Riddle’s mentions both the lack of the article before Joseph and also the word order found in the Alexandrian text (SBLGNT, UBS3/4 NA27, Tisch., Westcott-Hort):

... ων ⸂υιος, ως ενομιζετο⸃, Ιωσηφ του Ηλι — Alex. Text
... ων ως ενομιζετο υιος ιωσηφ του ηλι — Byz Text 

Riddle claimed that Alexandrian syntax makes it appear as if Joseph is bracketed out of the genealogy, which supposedly leads to the implication that this is a genealogy of Mary. Beyond that, there is no real substantive argumentation about the syntax. No real case is made. On the other hand, the other Greek exegetical commentators don’t really make a case against this hypothesis either, the just reject it out of hand. 

The standard reference grammars are not much better. They talk about the article with proper names and some of them cite Luke 3:23 but none of them see it as evidence for any particular view of the genealogy problem. J.H. Moulton in his Prolegomena (v1 Moulton-Turner pps. 83, 263 bottom) talks about Classical, Koine and New Testament patterns of articles with proper names but leaves the impression that the presence or absence of the article is really not well understood (c.a. 1902). The other grammars include H. W. Smyth, #1142.a, BDF 162.2, A. T. Robertson page 761. These are all old-school grammars, reflecting the way Greek syntax was handled from the Reformation up through the early 20th century.

Fast forward to the third millennium, Richard A. Hoyle [2] has written what I would call the NT Greek monograph of the decade. He specifically deals with the lack of the article before Joseph in Luke 3:23b. R. Hoyle’s claims that any discourse old or hearer old personal name without the article is marked as salient. This fits into his general theory about salience marking and anarthrous nouns.

In Luke’s genealogy, 3:23–38, only two names occur without the article, Jesus and Joseph (3:23). These are marked as salient, since they have no article even though both are Discourse-old (3:21, 1:27). Here Jesus and Joseph are salient at PARAGRAPH level, i.e. throughout the whole genealogy, strongly suggesting that this is Joseph’s lineage being listed.

This is paragraph is a small portion of the best treatment I have read so far on the Ancient Greek article. The whole monograph is available for downloading from SIL. I would not expect any light to come on by simply  reading the above paragraph out of context. Hoyle's framework will be new to a lot of greek students. It takes some time and several readings to get comfortable with his overall approach to analysis. The good news is R.  Hoyle is far more understandable than some of the other authors writing on these topics.  

[1]H. A. W. Meyer Handbook Mark-Luke, page 303 note by  Matthew B. Riddle, DD, Professor of New Testament Greek Exegesis in Hartford Theological Seminary (ca. 1884).

[2]Richard A. Hoyle, Scenarios, discourse and translation.  SIL 2008, page 157.


Anonymous Rachelle said...


11:43 PM  

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