We recently received the following question about Greek noun phrase syntax:
Can a phrase with an adjective in second attributive position be broken up by a genitive?
Luke 23:35 reads: εἰ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ ἐκλεκτός.
Can this be, “if he is the chosen anointed one of God”?
The short answer is: “Yes.” Let us see if we can substantiate that with some search data. The structure of Luke 23:35 in Cascadia Syntax Graphs has the following structure:
The search to produce this structural pattern would look like this:
Here are the results that search produces:
|Luke 23:35||οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ ἐκλεκτός||this is God’s chosen messiah|
|Acts 3:1||ἐπὶ τὴν ὥραν τῆς προσευχῆς τὴν ἐνάτην||At the nineth hour|
|Acts 13:10||οὐ παύσῃ διαστρέφων τὰς ὁδοὺς κυρίου τὰς εὐθείας||will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?|
We can see that this particular pattern is not particularly common in the New Testament. Still, it’s consistently Lukan, which is interesting.Acts 3:1 makes more sense as epexegetical/appositoinal, since τὴν ἐνάτην effectively functions as a parenthetical for those readers who wouldn’t know when the hour of prayer at the Jewish temple would be. On the other hand, Acts 13:10 is a solid instance of a attributive adjective naturally following the genitive NP. This is not “the paths of God—the straght ones.”
That leaves us at a sort of impasse. Luke 23:35 could arguably follow the pattern of either Acts 3:1 (appositional) or the pattern of Acts 13:10 (attributive).
We can expand the pattern, however, if we allow for other types of genitives other than full noun phrases to also include pronouns. Here is the result (lots of synoptic parallels here):
|Matt 3:17||Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα||“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”|
|Matt 17:5||Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ||“This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”|
|Mark 1:11||Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα||“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”|
|Mark 9:7||Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ||“This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”|
|Luke 3:22||Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα||“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”|
|Luke 20:13||πέμψω τὸν υἱόν μου τὸν ἀγαπητόν||I will send my beloved son.|
This is not at all unexpected. The shift from appositive to attributive in the NRSV’s rendering is striking though. The appositive renderings here are odd, though most would likely not recognize it. There’s a long standing misunderstanding of how the syntactic position of enclitic pronouns function in phrase and clauses that traditional accounts do not do well with (see Constituent Order). Genitive enclitic pronouns default to a post nominal head position within the noun phrase. My view would be that “my beloved son” is the appropriate understanding of the syntax.
We can look at one more dataset, the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the LXX Apocrypha & Deutero-canon (if there’s no link in the translation, then it is my own).
|Esdr A 6:14||τὸν κύριον τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ τὸν οὐράνιον||the Lord of Israel who is in heaven|
|Esdr A 8:83||διὰ τὰ ἔργα ἡμῶν τὰ πονηρὰ||because of our evil deeds|
|Esther 6:9||ἑνὶ τῶν φίλων τοῦ βασιλέως τῶν ἐνδόξων||one of the king’s honored Friends|
|Tobit 3:11||τὸ ὄνομά σου τὸ ἅγιον||your holy name|
|Tobit 8:5||τὸ ὄνομά σου τὸ ἅγιον||your holy name|
|1 Macc 7:26||ἕνα τῶν ἀρχόντων αὐτοῦ τῶν ἐνδόξων||one of his honored princes|
|1 Macc 9:35||τὴν ἀποσκευὴν αὐτῶν τὴν πολλήν||the great amount of baggage that they had.|
|1 Macc 16:2||καὶ ἐκάλεσεν Σίμων τοὺς δύο υἱοὺς αὐτοῦ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους Ἰούδαν καὶ Ἰωάνην||And Simon called in his two eldest sons Judas and John|
|4 Macc 18:6||Ἔλεγεν δὲ ἡ μήτηρ τῶν ἑπτὰ παίδων καὶ ταῦτα ἡ δικαία τοῖς τέκνοις||Then the righteous mother of sven sons also said these things to her children|
|Ps Solomon 5:1||τὰ κρίματά σου τὰ δίκαια||your righteous judgments|
|Ps Solomon 17:7||τὸ ὄνομά σου τὸ ἔντιμον||your honored name|
The pattern is quite clear.
These kinds of questions are most effectively examined with treebanks, but we only have data for a fairly small corpus. We need more treebank data.
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