Matt 16:19, the glosses for καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by rcdoc, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. rcdoc New Member

    Hi, first time post in this wonderfully interesting forum

    I have a question regarding koine greek and biblical text. I am wondering regarding the different glosses words have in translation.
    If αν and εαν both mean “if”, then when the biblical text (Matt 16:19) Jesus says to Peter : καὶ ὃ ἐὰν δήσῃς ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς

    Is a literal translation “ and who if you loose upon the earth” not as good of a translation as “and what if you loose upon the earth”
    Cannot the article mean a person (as in “who” or “whosoever”), rather than an object (as in “what” or “whatsoever”)??

    I appreciate the expertise of anyone who is more familiar with koine than myself (probably a lot of the posters here...).

    Thanks in advance for any insights.

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 20, 2013
  2. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Hello rcdoc and welcome to the forums.

    A literal translation would be "and that which you bind on earth/ whatever you bind on earth".
    About the two words in question: ἐὰν by itself does indeed mean "if". However in this case it's in "paired" with ὃ. Ὄσος ἐὰν and ὃση ἐὰν (masculine and feminine respectively) = whosoever ὃσο ἐὰν (neuter)= whatsoever.
    And that brings as to the second word in question:
    ὃ. It can't be masculine. The masculine accusative is ὃν. Therefore it's clearly "whatsoever" and not "whosoever".

    Hope that clarifies things.
  3. rcdoc New Member

    Hello Ireney :

    thank you very much for the information and your expertise in greek and your willingness to help others with your talent.

  4. sotos Senior Member

    If your are more interested in the theological insight than the grammatical: Yes, ό is neutral antonymia here, but you shouldn't understand it as referring strictly to objects. Viewed by a Greek, it is understood as referring to affairs in general, and therefore to people, too.
  5. rcdoc New Member

    Sotos :

    I am much more interested in the theological insight, especially since many of the early texts and their writers contain grammatical errors and thus one is not always trying to figure out what the sentence says (which may be grammatically incorrect), but given a set of options, one may be trying to figure out what the “non greek writer” was attempting to say. This introduces a lot of variables into “translation”.

    For example “Οσ αν (εαν) is rendered “whosoever” by a few of the early koine translators of early Papyri (an example is Paris Papyri 46:22 of 153 b.c., Grenfels Alexandrian Papyri (103 b.c.) And Onchyrynchus Papyri IV (103 b.c.). Some of the translators are quite famous (e.g. Thackeray..) One is left wondering if the “Οσ” in Οσ αν (εαν) is simply missing a sigma or the writer did not understand greek well enough to know the actual meaning of his writing (did he mean "whosoever" and accidentally write "whatsoever", etc...), or if some early corrector changed “Οσ”, το “Ο” to make the text say what he thought it should say, etc. Did the writer even know the difference between Οσ αν and O εαν It becomes difficult to tell.

    I wish to become independent of other translators in determining the meaning of such early texts, however, I am certainly NOT talented enough at this stage in my greek education to sort out the variables. I am simply aware that such variables exist. I very much appreciate your specific insight and any additional insight as to how early Koine Greek might have been used and what it might have meant (given potential for error in texts).

    Thank you very much Sotos for your additional, and important insight. I am very grateful.

  6. sotos Senior Member

    Grammatically it should be a Ni, not sigma there, if the writer meaned a man. Ός is nominative, while όν is the acc.
    I suppose that for a Greek of that time, this difference would not make much difference. The Greeks with a pagan background (still persisting today) were not used to have dogmatic books and to analyse them grammatically in order to discover a grave truth behind the lines. When gospel was finally established as THE basis of dogma, the eastern orthodox church, being closer to the Greek mentality, decided that gospel was not adequate to interpret the Word. So, they adopted a second dogmatic basis: The Holly Tradition, of equal value with the Gospel. The Holly (oral) Tradition is not confined by grammatical and syntactical problems as the above, and leaves space for the familiar to the Greeks free interpretation of sources. The westerners, especially the protestants, having a different cultural background (which I don't understand well), chose to make a big story about some letters or punctuation, as they are totally based on the text.
    This particular passage became the ideological flag of the Latin Church, as it is supposed to be the "proof" that St. Peter, the founder of that Church, was the superior of all the Apostles, and therefore the Pope was the number human one on earth.
    I will not expand on that, as I may go "off topic".
    Returning to the grammato-theolgical question, I suppose the gender of the pronoun doesn't matter here. Even if it is neutral it refers to people, as objects cannot ascent to the heavens. Still I believe that it means "affairs, matters".
  7. rcdoc New Member

    Sotos -

    I find your discussion of differences between eastern religion being less dependent upon specific spelling and grammar of early texts, quite wonderful and insightful. It is also helpful for me historically since almost all of the texts contain lacunae, either large or small and the various versions of sacred texts all vary in the various critical versions so that I am starting to understand better, just why the ealy historians paid little attention to spelling errors and gramatical errors as they felt fairly free to ad and subtract a vowel or consenant or two to try to make sentences make better sense (in their estimation). There is also the discussion as to how well the early writers of these text could read and write greek and thus the assumption is that there were errors due to the limitations and education of the writers. For that reason, i have assumed that in the earlier versions of these texts, pronouns, genders, etc were incorrect and thus possible meanings of the text have a broader possible variety than we normally assume them to have.

    Thank you very, very much for the additional information sotos. I appreciate your knowledge and insight.

  8. Αγγελος Senior Member

    Ει, εάν and αν all mean "if" in Greek.
    BUT there is also in classical Greek another particle αν, which can be added to a subjunctive form to introduce an element of randomness. (It is also used with various verbal forms to form the conditional mode.) "ὃ ὰν ποιήσης", for instance, is perfectly standard for "whatever you may do"; "ὃς ὰν ποιήση και διδάξη..." is likewise perfectly standard and unambiguous for "whosoever happens to practice and teach..."

    Now this αν has completely gone out of use in Modern Greek and may well have been obsolescent by the 1st century AD. I suspect this is what the evangelist intended to use, but he confused it with the other αν=εάν meaning 'if', which is still the word for 'if' to this day, and used εάν instead. Or it may be an ignorant copyist's corruption.

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