Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Tendency with Word Order Variants

One of the cutest illustrations of transmission tendencies as to word order is found with the conjunction γαρ.

Have a look at the following clauses:

Luke 6:23 (and 6:26, almost identically) κατὰ τὰ αὐτὰ γὰρ ἐποίουν τοῖς προφήταις οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν.

2 Cor 1:19 ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς χριστὸς ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν δι᾿ ἡμῶν κηρυχθείς, δι᾿ ἐμοῦ καὶ Σιλουανοῦ καὶ Τιμοθέου, οὐκ ἐγένετο ναὶ καὶ οὔ

You will notice that γαρ in both examples comes as the fourth word of the clause; uncomfortably far from its customary place. In each of the instances above part of the tradition has remedied the felt anomaly (and some other witnesses have partial solutions):

Luke 6:23 κατὰ ταῦτα γὰρ ἐποίουν …

2 Cor 1:19 Ὁ γὰρ τοῦ θεοῦ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς / Ὁ τοῦ γὰρ θεοῦ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς [P46]

In the first instance τα αυτα has become ταυτα, with the loss of one of the accented units. The second shows simple relocation, with P46 doing its own thing.

I don’t know of any other examples in the New Testament where γαρ occurs this far to the right. However, I have noted a number of other cases where γαρ was moved from third to second position in the clause, though not with the same consistency as our examples.


  1. So, I'll just ask it before others do. What about circumstances like the ending of Mark, where γαρ is found at the end of the sentence?

    Are these exceptions in most cases?

    1. Notably, γαρ is still the second word of an independent clause in Mark 16:8. And it is still the second word of that same clause and still the final word of a sentence in the Byzantine textform, or other variations that have longer endings after that verse.

  2. I think about this in my Greek classes when we encounter a particularly large conceptual constituent before a postpositive connecting word. What I wonder is: certainly the NT writers were not the only only folks doing this, so what type of scribe or manuscript owner was particularly anxious about this ordering? I should look through all the non-biblical Greek I've diagrammed to find other instances.

  3. Couldn't τὰ αὐτὰ -> ταῦτα simply have occurred due to haplography, rather than a conscious or subconscious change as to the placement of γὰρ?

    Incidentally, couldn't ταῦτα -> τὰ αὐτὰ have occurred due to dittography?

    I also see that at Luke 17:30 the same sort of divide occurs between those reading ταῦτα and τὰ αὐτὰ, and there there's no γὰρ. Looks more possibly like an issue with τὰ αὐτὰ or ταῦτα, rather than with the placement of γὰρ.

    A L Θ and family 1 and 13 seem to have been consistent in reading ταῦτα

  4. δέ shows up in fifth position in 1 John 2:22 οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον

  5. γάρ shows up in fourth position in 2 Cor 1:19 ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ γὰρ υἱὸς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ὁ ἐν ὑμῖν δι’ ἡμῶν κηρυχθείς

  6. οῦν shows up in fourth position in John 7:40 Ἐκ τοῦ ὄχλου οὖν ἀκούσαντες τῶν λόγων τούτων ἔλεγον

  7. οῦν also shows up in fourth position in Matt. 22:28, which the majority text moves to the third position: ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει οὖν -> ἐν τῇ οὖν ἀναστάσει.

    οῦν shows up in fourth position in Rom. 11:13, which the majority text just removes: ἐφʼ ὅσον μὲν οὖν -> ἐφʼ ὅσον μὲν

  8. A lot involve prepositional phrases. The meaning is clear and aside from the general rule to put it in the second position, the placement is not 'unnatural' or hard to follow. Perhaps the native first century speaker didn't want to break up the phrase? How did the first century readers and hearers respond to the positioning?