Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Greek Particles, Linguistics, and TC

Over the weekend I read Margaret Sim's excellent study on the particle ἵνα (and honestly, it sounds more boring than it actually is). Not only does it have a foreword by Larry Hurtado himself, it is quite convincing in its basic thesis on what sort of thing ἵνα actually is. I had to overcome some initial resistance because of the word 'linguistics' in the title. I have a love / hate relationship with 'linguistics', but in this case I have to admit defeat and acknowledge that linguistics indeed helps to shed new light. That ἵνα is a function word comes as no surprise, but the sort of function it has, should have come as no surprise - yet it did (here you have to read the book itself, but basically ἵνα introduces a thought, attitude, utterance connected to something before in a subjective way). To add to my overall sense of surprise, it is a concept from Relevance Theory ([meta-]representation) that proved so effective in this study. Just to make sure, I have nothing against RT, but 1) so often it simply states the obvious, and 2) every study using RT devotes 25% of the space to explaining what RT is (only 10% in Margaret Sim's book).

Since there was nothing on Textual Criticism in this book, I took a bit of time to look at the text-critical issues surrounding ἵνα. I had expected to find quite some confusion in the textual tradition surrounding ἵνα, ὅπως, and εἰς τὸ + infinitive constructions, and indeed there is quite a bit going on. Both in the gospels and Paul the Greek-Latin bilinguals have a couple of instances where they prefer ἵνα over ὅπως (Mt 6:18 D; Phlm 6 F G) or over ὥστε (Mt 27:1 D), or over the infinitive (Eph 1:18 F G; 1 Thess 3:3 F G) though the reverse happens in Acts 17:15 and 18:27 (both D).

Big splits within the tradition are rare though. After some quick searching I found Mt 12:17 and Mk 5:23 (earlier manuscripts have ἵνα; later ὅπως). As for the first one, only Matthew uses both ἵνα and ὅπως to introduce the fulfilment formula, and elsewhere in this gospel there is no dispute which of the two is original. I can see good reasons for either choice here.
The one in Mark 5:23 is equally tricky. ὅπως is not a favourite of Mark (only one - undisputed - occurrence) but this makes it transcriptionally so much more likely that it is dropped in favour of the widely occurring ἵνα.

Sim's book addresses the relative occurrence of ἵνα and ὅπως diachronically and notes the increase of the former and the decrease of the latter. If ὅπως would be the reading favoured because of its 'classical feel' then it might well be that the later tradition picked it up partly under influence of the literary culture of its day. However, for this it would be necessary to compare the frequency of ὅπως in Atticist writers over against their Koine colleagues. Anyway, with only two instances (there may be more though), we can hardly speak of 'an Atticistic tendency towards ὅπως' in parts of the manuscript tradition.

Margaret G. Sim, Marking Thought and Talk in New Testament Greek: New Light from Linguistics on the Particles INA and OTI (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick, 2010).


  1. Thanks, Dirk. This has been a book on my 'to read' list, but I think I should now move it higher up.

    Do you know the article by W. Clarysse, 'Linguistic Diversity in the Archive of the Engineers Kleon and Theodoros,' in T. V. Evans and D. D. Obbink edd., The Language of the Papyri (Oxford, 2010)? It shows the preference for 'ina in papyri, with the suggestion that 'opws would indeed be the marked form. This is pretty much the same point that Sim is implying, if I understand correctly.


  2. Thanks for the heads up on this book. I did not know about it, so I just now ordered it. I have a recording of Margaret's presentation at SBL in London entitled, "Oun: Inferential, Consequential or Giving Procedural Instructions?" Send me an email if you are interested and will give you the link to download. denniscraigbaugh@gmail.com

  3. It was pointed out to me that the original thesis is available online here:


    Clarysse notes the shift towards ἵνα and this fits exactly with what Sim is saying (thanks Jim!). She however, tries to understand why this happened and what advantage there was in this change (assuming that this shift has relevance).