Saturday, 18 June 2016

Confusion over a *case* in the NT: anarthrous Moses vs arthrous Peter

I am a bit confused, I must admit, to discover some quite curious statistics around the Greek in the New Testament. Some will know I am quite interested in the case of the presence or absence of articles in this fascinating language. It occurred to me that in order to better understand the practice of including articles with proper names, e.g. the John writing this blog post, it would make sense to look at other examples in the New Testament, and see how case  comes into it. If we include the vocative, there are actually five Greek cases: vocative, nominative, genitive, accusative and dative.

It had already become clear to me when I did the series of posts on arche that Greek case had a role to play, and other readings have confirmed that (BTW I remain a total novice to Koine Greek, but that does not prevent me from asking what I think should be a legitimate question, which I will get to in a second).

So I decided to take Moses, Peter and Jesus as three prominent proper names to look at. I haven't done Jesus yet - and I wish to re-count Moses and Peter before proceeding. What did I find?

I'll publish some stats when I have gone through it more thoroughly, but there was a surprising difference between Moses and Peter in the Nominative case. Moses occurs in the New Testament 80 times. Of those 80, slightly over half are in the nominative case. For example:

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children...” (Matt 22:24). This Moses is in the nominative: Μωϋσῆς. And there is hardly ever an article with the nominative in the instance of Moses (my first count was 3 out of 43). However, in the case of Peter, it is quite different. Peter is mentioned 156 times in the New Testament, of which 100 are in the nominative case, Πέτρος. So my question is: why do we get so many articles with Πέτρος? Approximately half of these have the article appended. OR, why do we get so few articles with Μωϋσῆς? I hope the same enquiry into Jesus will highlight which of these two questions is the most pertinent.

UPDATE: While this discrepancy remains a little unclear to me, John (Ἰωάννης  OR Ἰωάννου) is more in line with what we might expect: anarthrous in the genitive and nominative cases to the tune of 18%, and especially in the genitive (only 8%).

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