The Greek Article & Preposition

There’s been a bit of discussion going along HERE & HERE about a question that showed up regarding prepositional phrase that are introduced by an article.

It all began with a question in the Logos Newsgroup for Greek:

Someone has commented that there are 484 occurrences of the definite article occurring without a noun introducing a prepositional phrase, such as, “τα επι τοις ουρανοις.” I wonder if someone would teach me how to search my GNT (N/A27) to confirm this statement?

I’m pretty sure that someone was me. Particularly because that’s my number and they gave the same example from Ephesians 1.10 (this is all from my post HERE).

Yet, in three people that seemed to be searching for the same thing, we’ve gotten three different results. Rick got 298, mgvh got 149. I got 484.

Why the differences?

Well, mgvh’s results make the most sense. His results are from the fact that the person asking the question in the Newsgroup specifically wanted PPs with an article without a noun. Something neither Rick or myself was looking for in our searches. Yet why did Rick and I get so very different searches? The simple answer is that we built different searches.

This is my search:

Word 1: ((Part of Speech = article))
Word 2: ((Part of Speech = preposition))

This is Rick’s search:

Head Term 1

Unordered Group 1

Word 1: ((Part of Speech = article))
Modifier 1: Modifier Category = Relator


Modifier 2

Unordered Group 2

Word 3: ((Part of Speech = article))
Modifier 3: Modifier Category = Relator

and this is mgvh’s search:

Head Term 1

Unordered Group 1

Word 1: ((Part of Speech = article))
Modifier 1: Modifier Category = Relator

The difference between Rick’s and mgvh’s searches is that Rick listed the word and modifier as sisters, sharing the same mother node, while mgvh’s allow for any sort of relationship between the whether sisters or not. Unfortunately, I can’t represent that above very easily.

What’s the difference in results? For those of you that did badly in math, its 186 hits.


That’s simple. Its’s fault. They did it. There are significant number of hits that did not match Rick’s description – though they probably should have. There are also some in both their searches that fit the description that I did not find. This is because of hits like Matt 14.33, where a post positive conjunction occurs between the two words. To correct this, I’ve redone the search as below:

Word 1: ((Part of Speech = article))
Conjunction 2 — May Repeat 0 to 3 times
Word 2: ((Part of Speech = preposition))

Under this new search, I’ve found 526 hits. Now we have 228 extra hits. What’s going on here? Well, it is what I consider to be one of the weaknesses of’s analysis.

Since my interest is in Ephesians, let’s look at one of the extra hits in Ephesians:

In 4.24, provides the following analysis:


What’s wrong with this picture?

If you guess that crossed their lines, then you’ve hit the nail on the head. This kind of analysis is difficult for me to understand. If a prepositional phrase can be substantized on its own without a noun, could it not also function in the attributive positions as an adjective does? And isn’t that exactly what we seen here Compare the first diagram of the Attributive Positions for the adjective with the structure found in this PP & participle:



Language, by definition is linear. That is, one word comes out of your mouth at a time follow by the next. With that in mind, it makes little sense for Opentext to divide a Noun Phrase in half the way they do in this analysis above. Upon what basis for the hearer or speaker to understand what is in the middle as not part of that phrase? Hits such as this one should have been found by a search in

With all of this said, I do appreciate Logos Bible Software’s diagramming tool – though I wish it had available tags for noun phrases, verb phrases, and whatnot already available. Presently, I have to make them myself as I go along.

And if Logos ever wants me to create a Lexical-Functional Syntax Database, I’d be more than willing! I’m already working my way on tree diagramming all of Ephesians.

Appendix of Other Similarly Tagged Hits in

Matthew 1:20
Matthew 3:11
Matthew 13:19
Matthew 13:20
Matthew 13:22
Matthew 13:23
Matthew 24:19
Matthew 26:28
Mark 2:26
Mark 3:22
Mark 3:34
Mark 4:16
Mark 4:18
Mark 4:19
Mark 4:20
Mark 5:26
Mark 5:30
Mark 6:11
Mark 7:15
Mark 7:20
Mark 9:10
Mark 11:2
Mark 13:17
Mark 15:43
Mark 16:10
Luke 1:2
Luke 1:29
Luke 1:79
Luke 6:3
Luke 7:25
Luke 7:32
Luke 8:4
Luke 8:14
Luke 10:9
Luke 12:5
Luke 12:10
Luke 14:31
Luke 16:10
Luke 16:15
Luke 19:11
Luke 21:23
Luke 22:19
Luke 22:20
Luke 22:70
Luke 23:25
Luke 24:33
John 1:15
John 1:27
John 3:13
John 3:31
John 6:50
John 6:51
John 6:58
John 7:18
John 9:40
John 11:27
John 15:25
Acts 3:10
Acts 8:14
Acts 9:19
Acts 10:45
Acts 12:15
Acts 13:27
Acts 13:29
Acts 13:32
Acts 13:45
Acts 14:4
Acts 15:19
Acts 16:2
Acts 17:13
Acts 17:19
Acts 17:28
Acts 19:2
Acts 19:25
Acts 19:26
Acts 19:38
Acts 20:21
Acts 20:22
Acts 21:21
Acts 21:27
Acts 21:28
Acts 21:38
Acts 22:1
Acts 22:9
Acts 23:21
Acts 24:24
Acts 25:5
Acts 25:7
Acts 25:20
Acts 25:27
Acts 26:6
Acts 26:10
Acts 26:13
Acts 27:2
Acts 27:11
Acts 28:9
Acts 28:21
Romans 1:12
Romans 2:7
Romans 2:27
Romans 7:4
Romans 8:8
Romans 8:12
Romans 8:28
Romans 9:5
Romans 9:11
Romans 10:6
Romans 11:21
Romans 11:27
Romans 14:18
Romans 14:20
Romans 16:5
Romans 16:14
Romans 16:15
1 Corinthians 6:19
1 Corinthians 7:22
1 Corinthians 9:24
1 Corinthians 10:25
1 Corinthians 16:19
2 Corinthians 1:11
2 Corinthians 1:19
2 Corinthians 5:12
2 Corinthians 5:15
2 Corinthians 7:10
2 Corinthians 7:11
2 Corinthians 8:2
2 Corinthians 8:7
2 Corinthians 10:16
2 Corinthians 13:3
Galatians 1:2
Galatians 1:17
Galatians 3:17
Galatians 4:21
Ephesians 4:24
Ephesians 6:5
Philippians 1:16
Philippians 1:17
Philippians 2:30
Philippians 3:6
Philippians 4:10
Philippians 4:21
Colossians 1:2
Colossians 2:5
Colossians 2:14
Colossians 3:22
Colossians 4:7
Colossians 4:12
Colossians 4:15
1 Thessalonians 5:3
1 Timothy 2:2
1 Timothy 4:14
1 Timothy 6:3
2 Timothy 1:3
2 Timothy 1:5
Titus 1:1
Titus 1:9
Philemon 2
Hebrews 2:2
Hebrews 5:14
Hebrews 6:7
Hebrews 6:12
Hebrews 7:5
Hebrews 7:20
Hebrews 7:21
Hebrews 7:24
Hebrews 9:15
Hebrews 11:7
Hebrews 12:10
Hebrews 12:11
James 3:9
James 4:14
1 Peter 1:3
1 Peter 1:5
1 Peter 1:10
1 Peter 1:11
1 Peter 1:21
1 Peter 2:9
1 Peter 3:2
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter 3:19
1 Peter 4:8
1 Peter 4:12
1 Peter 5:2
1 Peter 5:9
1 Peter 5:13
2 Peter 1:4
2 Peter 2:10
2 Peter 2:13
2 Peter 2:18
2 Peter 3:10
1 John 3:6
Jude 1
Jude 7
Jude 12
Jude 23
Revelation 1:3
Revelation 2:1
Revelation 2:8
Revelation 2:12
Revelation 2:18
Revelation 3:1
Revelation 3:7
Revelation 3:14
Revelation 11:4
Revelation 11:16
Revelation 12:12
Revelation 13:6
Revelation 13:12
Revelation 14:13
Revelation 18:9
Revelation 18:17
Revelation 19:9

7 thoughts on “The Greek Article & Preposition

Add yours

  1. Hmmm…. I see now what you were doing, Mike. You weren’t really asking about function at all. You are really just doing a string search for
    Article (conjunction) Preposition
    In the example you give of Eph 4:24, however, the OpenText coding does actually make sense to me. The participle is really the key term in this word group, and the article does simply specify it. With this coding, I can look for instances where a noun/participle is specified by an article with an intervening prepositional phrase.
    BTW, I used BibleWorks to search for every instance of
    Article (conjunction)Preposition
    and I came up with 521 hits in 481 verses. It does miss instances (like Matthew 2:16) where there are technically two occurrences in the verse.

  2. I agree that the participle is the key term – it is what the article is substantizing, but still don’t think Opentext’s analysis is correct. I simply see how you can split a Noun Phrase like that. The prepositional phrase is functioning in the traditional attributive position of the adjective – i.e. within the bounds of the article as well.

  3. Hi Mike.

    First, if you’re diagramming that way, you may be interested in some freeware called the Linguistic Tree Constructor, downloadable from It may be easier to make syntax trees there than inside of the Logos Sentence Diagrammer, and it can export your data in a number of formats. If you work out your framework and do large chunks of the NT, send me some samples and we’ll (meaning Logos) see if we want to work together further.

    On the search — I just searched for what I considered to be the most likely way annotated the desired criteria. It should compensate for post-positive conjunctions as well; the unordered group accounts for [anything] between the group elements when it permutes the options.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for the tip, it looks like a good diagrammer – though I think Logos is prettier.

    You were smart with the unordered group. The fact that I didn’t put any kind of structure into my search prevented me from finding anything with a post-positive conjunction, which I should have realized sooner.

  5. Hi Mike,

    I’m the author of the Linguistic Tree Constructor (LTC) to which Rick Brannan refers above.

    Feel free to ask me questions (via email) about the use of LTC.

    Please note also that the LTC site carries two full Greek New Testaments for use with LTC. One is Tischendorf’s 8th, the other is James Tauber’s MorphGNT.

    Regarding your quibble with OpenText.Org’s analysis of this text: I have quibbles with it, too, but for different reasons. I continue to believe that most of these participial constructions can be explained linguistically by letting the article nominalize — not whatever phrase follows it directly, but the whole participial clause. Once you recognize this pattern, you’ll see that a lot of times, such a nominalized participial clause functions as the subject or object in another, higher-level clause, or as an apposition to another NP, or as just about any other function an NP can take.

    In this particular example from Ephesians 4, the TO\N + participial clause is an apposition to TO\N KAINO\N A)/NQRWPON, as far as I can see.

    Btw, I find that LTC enables you to work very fast with the Greek text, especially once you’ve got the hang of using it. You might want to check it out.



    Ulrik Sandborg-Petersen

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