2 Thessalonians 2:15

[bible passage=”2 Thess 2:15″]

In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε δι’ ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not). If he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the article. I’m interested in the grammatical question. What do y’all think?

n Bart Ehrman

Bart D. Ehrman

James A. Gray Professor

Department of Religious Studies

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

http://www.bartdehrman.com

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24 thoughts on “2 Thessalonians 2:15

  1. George F Somsel says:

    Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ
    λόγου εἴτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν.
    ARA OUN, ADELFOI, STHKETE KAI KRATEITE TAS PARADOSEIS hAS EDIDAXQHTE EITE DIA
    LOGOU EITE DI’ EPISTOLHS hHMWN.
     

    It is generally understood that mentioning an item with an article indicates
    that the subject is known to the reader.  Whether one can therefore say that
    when there is an absence of an article it indicates an item which is not known
    to the reader might be a bit questionable.  In this case I would think that
    while it does not point to any specific letter (despite the fact that this is
    known as 2nd Thess), but rather it must be understood in the same way that DIA
    LOGOU is to be understood.  It is not some specific statement to which reference
    is made but rather to whatever ORAL tradition he may have imparted.  So DI’
    EPISTOLHS would reference any written communication.

     george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 10:12:55 AM

        In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε
    δι’ ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does
    not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a
    general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not).  If
    he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the
    article.  I’m interested in the grammatical question.  What do y’all think?

    n  Bart Ehrman

    Bart D. Ehrman

    James A. Gray Professor

    Department of Religious Studies

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

  2. Mark Lightman says:

    On the other hand, it is alleged that in Koine a noun in a prepositional phrase
    may omit the article even if a definite reference is intended. εἴτε δι’ τῆς
    ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν may have sounded funny with the extra syllable, but there is a
    chance that that is what Paul meant.

    Mark L

    FWSFOROS MARKOS

    ________________________________

    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 10:32:08 AM

    Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ
    λόγου εἴτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν.
    ARA OUN, ADELFOI, STHKETE KAI KRATEITE TAS PARADOSEIS hAS EDIDAXQHTE EITE DIA
    LOGOU EITE DI’ EPISTOLHS hHMWN.

    It is generally understood that mentioning an item with an article indicates
    that the subject is known to the reader. Whether one can therefore say that
    when there is an absence of an article it indicates an item which is not known
    to the reader might be a bit questionable. In this case I would think that
    while it does not point to any specific letter (despite the fact that this is
    known as 2nd Thess), but rather it must be understood in the same way that DIA
    LOGOU is to be understood. It is not some specific statement to which reference

    is made but rather to whatever ORAL tradition he may have imparted. So DI’
    EPISTOLHS would reference any written communication.

    george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 10:12:55 AM

    In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε

    δι’ ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does
    not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a

    general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not). If
    he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the
    article. I’m interested in the grammatical question. What do y’all think?

    n Bart Ehrman

    Bart D. Ehrman

    James A. Gray Professor

    Department of Religious Studies

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

  3. Carl Conrad says:

    by whom? “It is alleged” has the air of a “divine passive.” Was that the intent?

    Carl W. Conrad
    Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

    It really would be funny if Paul had written δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν [DI’ THS
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?

  4. "Ehrman, Bart D" says:

    Good point about the elision. 🙂 (I bet he didn’t copy and paste as I did, either!)

    — BDE

    Bart D. Ehrman
    James A. Gray Professor
    Department of Religious Studies
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

    —–Original Message—–
    Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 1:27 PM
    Cc: George F Somsel; Ehrman, Bart D;
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

    by whom? “It is alleged” has the air of a “divine passive.” Was that the intent?

    Carl W. Conrad
    Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

    It really would be funny if Paul had written δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν [DI’ THS
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?

  5. Mark Lightman says:

    Carl wrote

    < On the other hand, it is alleged by whom? "It is alleged" has the air of a "divine passive." Was that the
    intent?>

    Hi, Carl,

    No, that was not my intent, although I do think that the grammarians were
    created a little lower than the angels. How much lower is a matter of opinion.
    I phrased it that way I did because I forgot where I read that, and I don’t
    really know whether it is true.


    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?>

    Yes, a good point. I was cutting and pasting too. So, including the article
    would add TWO syllables. I really do believe that the presence of the definite
    article, like some other things in Greek–word order, which connective is used,
    even the tenses, is often more a matter of euphony than semantics. Thus, any
    way, it is alleged.

    Mark L

    FWSFOROS MARKOS

    ________________________________
    Cc: George F Somsel ; “Ehrman, Bart D”
    ; “b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 11:27:09 AM

    by whom? “It is alleged” has the air of a “divine passive.” Was that the intent?

    Carl W. Conrad
    Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

    It really would be funny if Paul had written δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν [DI’ THS
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?

  6. Carl Conrad says:

    I take the “allegation” here to be that grammar sometimes matters and sometimes
    doesn’t. I’ve always thought grammar was primarily a matter of speaking and
    writing in such a way that what you say and what you write conforms to the
    patterns that people expect, and that when what you say and what you write does
    not so conform, there’s the peril of ambiguity.

    One thing (?) seems clear: there’s a bit of ambiguity in the phrasing of EITE DI’
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN in 2 Thess 2:15.

    Carl W. Conrad

  7. Ken Penner says:

    I have always taught that the article may be dropped in a prepositional phrase.

    Robertson’s Grammar XVI.VIII(c) (page 791) has the following under “The Absence of the Article.”

    “(c) PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES. These were also often considered definite enough without the article. So ἐν οἴκῳ (1 Cor. 11:34. Cf. ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ, ‘in the house,’ Jo. 11:20)=‘at home.’ So we say “go to bed,” etc. Moulton pertinently cites English “down town,” “on ’change,” “in bed,” “from start to finish.” This idiom is not therefore peculiar to Greek. It is hardly necessary to mention all the N. T. examples, so common is the matter.”
    “For διά note διά νυκτός (Ac. 5:19), διὰ μέσου (Lu. 4:30), διὰ μέσον (17:11).”
    “For classic examples see Gildersleeve, Syntax, p. 259 f. The papyri furnish abundant parallels (Völker, Syntax, pp. 15–17) as do the inscriptions (Radermacher, N. T. Gr., p. 92).”

    The next section continues:

    “(d) WITH BOTH PREPOSITION AND GENITIVE. It is not surprising to find no article with phrases which use both preposition and genitive like εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ (Ro. 1:1), ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου (Lu. 19:42), ἐκ δεξιῶν μου (Mt. 20:23), ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κόσμου (Mt. 24:21), παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας (Heb. 11:11), ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (Lu. 8:13), ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (Mt. 25:34), ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ (Lu. 1:51), etc.”

    I hope this helps,

    Ken M. Penner, Ph.D.
    Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic vocabulary memorization software:
    http://purl.org/net/kmpenner/flash/

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca

    —–Original Message—–
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ehrman, Bart D
    Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 1:13 PM
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

    In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε δι’ ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not). If he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the article. I’m interested in the grammatical question. What do y’all think?

    n Bart Ehrman

    Bart D. Ehrman

    James A. Gray Professor

    Department of Religious Studies

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

  8. Donald Vance says:

    It seems to me that this is a question of “definiteness,” which may be indicated by a definite article. Does not the possessive serve to mark the noun and thus make the article superfluous? If Paul had meant “any ole letter,” this would require specific grammatical marking, would it not?

    In Biblical Hebrew, a possessive pronoun makes the noun definite and if one wishes to indicate ownership of an indefinite entity, a prepositional phrase with lamed is required.
    מכתבנו “the letter of ours” = “our (specific) letter”
    מכתב לנו “any ole letter of ours”

    Sent from my iPhone

    Donald R. Vance
    Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature
    Oral Roberts University

    href=”mailto:donaldrvance@mac.com”>donaldrvance@mac.com

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ehrman, Bart D
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

  9. George F Somsel says:

    In Hebrew the fact that there is a possessive does not necessarily indicate that
    the noun is to be considered definite.  I have lifted two examples from Futato,
    _Beginning Biblical Hebrew_

    סוּס־הַמֶּלֶךְ *the* king’s horse (the horse of the king)סוּס־מֶלֶךְ *a* king’s
    horse (a horse of the king or perhaps a royal horse)
     
    Whether the noun is considered definite or indefinite is determined not by the
    construct relation (which is one way to indicate possession among other uses)
    but by whether the nomen rectum is definite and not simply by its presence
    following a noun in the construct.  As noted, there are other ways to express
    possession such as pronominal suffixes to nouns and the use of the prefixed
    preposition ל with the “owner.” 

     
    I really don’t think an appeal to Hebrew can be used to determine how Greek may
    have functioned.
     george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Cc: “b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 1:52:18 PM

    It seems to me that this is a question of “definiteness,” which may be indicated
    by a definite article. Does not the possessive serve to mark the noun and thus
    make the article superfluous? If Paul had meant “any ole letter,” this would
    require specific grammatical marking, would it not?

    In Biblical Hebrew, a possessive pronoun makes the noun definite and if one
    wishes to indicate ownership of an indefinite entity, a prepositional phrase
    with lamed is required.
    מכתבנו “the letter of ours” = “our (specific) letter”
    מכתב לנו “any ole letter of ours”

    Sent from my iPhone

    Donald R. Vance
    Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature
    Oral Roberts University

    href=”mailto:donaldrvance@mac.com”>donaldrvance@mac.com

    phrase.

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

  10. Ken Penner says:

    George and Donald are both right, but George might have misunderstood Donald. Donald’s point was not that just ANY possessive makes the noun definite, but that the Hebrew possessive PRONOUN suffixed on a noun makes the noun definite.

    The appeal to Hebrew to explain a usage in Greek would be appropriate if there is a reasonable chance of linguistic interference, for example, if the author’s native language was Hebrew. But Ephesians certainly does not give me that impression.

    I think Donald’s point was that the rule regarding the definiteness of noun in Hebrew is a cross-linguistic phenomenon. Even in English, “our letter” is definite, and if we want to express indefiniteness, we need a circumlocution such as “a letter of ours.”

    Ken M. Penner, Ph.D.
    Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic vocabulary memorization software:
    http://purl.org/net/kmpenner/flash/

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca

    Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 6:47 PM
    Cc:
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

    In Hebrew the fact that there is a possessive does not necessarily indicate that the noun is to be considered definite. I have lifted two examples from Futato, _Beginning Biblical Hebrew_

    סוּס־הַמֶּלֶךְ *the* king’s horse (the horse of the king)

    סוּס־מֶלֶךְ *a* king’s horse (a horse of the king or perhaps a royal horse)

    Whether the noun is considered definite or indefinite is determined not by the construct relation (which is one way to indicate possession among other uses) but by whether the nomen rectum is definite and not simply by its presence following a noun in the construct. As noted, there are other ways to express possession such as pronominal suffixes to nouns and the use of the prefixed preposition ל with the “owner.”

    I really don’t think an appeal to Hebrew can be used to determine how Greek may have functioned.

    george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Cc: “b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 1:52:18 PM

    It seems to me that this is a question of “definiteness,” which may be indicated by a definite article. Does not the possessive serve to mark the noun and thus make the article superfluous? If Paul had meant “any ole letter,” this would require specific grammatical marking, would it not?

    In Biblical Hebrew, a possessive pronoun makes the noun definite and if one wishes to indicate ownership of an indefinite entity, a prepositional phrase with lamed is required.
    מכתבנו “the letter of ours” = “our (specific) letter”
    מכתב לנו “any ole letter of ours”

    Sent from my iPhone

    Donald R. Vance
    Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature
    Oral Roberts University

    href=”mailto:donaldrvance@mac.com”>donaldrvance@mac.com

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ehrman, Bart D
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

  11. "Iver Larsen" says:

    —– Original Message —–
    Sent: 30. december 2010 20:12

    I would agree that the lack of article indicates that he is not focusing on any
    particular letter, but teaching in a written form.

    It is helpful to look at the fuller statement:

    στήκετε, καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι᾽
    ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν

    STHKETE KAI KRATEITE TAS PARADOSEIS hAS EDIDACQHTE EITE DIA LOGOU EITE DI’
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN

    Stand firm and hold on to the handed-down (teachings) which you were taught
    either by means of a word or a letter from us.

    What does the hHMWN qualify? TAS PARADOSEIS or EPISTOLHS or both LOGOU and
    EPISTOLHS.
    Is the genitive hHMWN possessive or a genitive of source?

    It seems to me that both LOGOS and EPISTOLH are here general rather than
    focusing on a specific word or a specific letter. It is somewhat similar to Phil
    1:20: εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου EITE DIA ZWHS EITE DIA QANATOU. The words
    are general, life or death, not THE life or THE death. Of course, the context
    may well limit the reference to the life or death of a particular person, here
    Paul. We need to distinguish between grammar, semantics and reference.

    The main point in 2:15 is to “hold on to the the teachings you received from
    us”, so I would take the genitive pronoun as indicating source. Whether these
    teachings came to you through oral or written means does not matter, but it does
    matter that they came from “us” as we are the ones with apostolic authority to
    teach you.

    The LOGOS would refer to when Paul (and other apostles) taught them in person,
    and the EPISTOLH to one or more letters. That would include 1 and 2 Thess, but
    we don’t know if there were more letters. Paul has just warned them in 2:2 that
    they should be critical about information whether by word or letter purporting
    to come from “us” when in fact they did not. Therefore, the source is important,
    not which particular letter or letters of his he was referring to. Compare 2:2:

    μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε δι᾽ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς δι᾽ ἡμῶν
    MHTE DIA LOGOU MHTE DI’ EPISTOLHS hWS DI’ hHMWN

    neither through a word (oral teaching) nor through a letter as if (it was) from
    us.

    One of the ways that the recipients could judge whether a particular letter
    truly came from Paul was that they could recognize his hand writing. This proof
    of authenticity is what he refers to in 3:17:

    Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου, ὅ ἐστιν σημεῖον ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ· οὕτως γράφω.
    hO ASPASMOS THi EMHi CEIRI PAULOU, hO ESTIN SHMEION EN PASHi EPISTOLHi. hOUTWS
    GRAFW.

    The greeting is by my own hand, from (me) Paul, which is a sign/proof in every
    letter (of mine). This is how I write.

    Signed,
    Iver Larsen

  12. James Ernest says:

    What Iver says seems right to me.

    As for the article usually being dropped after DIA or other prepositions, a
    quick search for DIA THS in the letters of Paul turns up quite a few hits.
    One could dredge through them, comparing them with similar phrases without
    the article. I haven’t done that. I’ll just point to the most pertinent hit
    in the list: 2 Thess 3:14, EI DE TIS OUX hYPOKOUEI TW LOGW hHMWN DIA THS
    EPISTOLHS, TOUTON SHMEIOUSTHE.

    In 3:14, LOGOS and EPISTOLH are count nouns referring to a particular
    utterance in a particular letter (NRSV says “in this letter,” which seems
    slightly non-obvious to me; I don’t know what Marxsen and others make of
    that–this letter or a previous letter?); in 2:15 (and in 2:2, which Iver
    points out) both words are in effect mass nouns, referring not so much to a
    particular utterance or a particular letter but to (possibly faked–the
    concern expressed in 2:2 and 3:17) utterance-of-Paul or letter-of-Paul as
    means of communication.

    James Ernest

  13. George F Somsel says:

    Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ
    λόγου εἴτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν.
    ARA OUN, ADELFOI, STHKETE KAI KRATEITE TAS PARADOSEIS hAS EDIDAXQHTE EITE DIA
    LOGOU EITE DI’ EPISTOLHS hHMWN.
     

    It is generally understood that mentioning an item with an article indicates
    that the subject is known to the reader.  Whether one can therefore say that
    when there is an absence of an article it indicates an item which is not known
    to the reader might be a bit questionable.  In this case I would think that
    while it does not point to any specific letter (despite the fact that this is
    known as 2nd Thess), but rather it must be understood in the same way that DIA
    LOGOU is to be understood.  It is not some specific statement to which reference
    is made but rather to whatever ORAL tradition he may have imparted.  So DI’
    EPISTOLHS would reference any written communication.

     george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 10:12:55 AM

        In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε
    δι’ ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does
    not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a
    general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not).  If
    he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the
    article.  I’m interested in the grammatical question.  What do y’all think?

    n  Bart Ehrman

    Bart D. Ehrman

    James A. Gray Professor

    Department of Religious Studies

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

  14. Mark Lightman says:

    On the other hand, it is alleged that in Koine a noun in a prepositional phrase
    may omit the article even if a definite reference is intended. εἴτε δι’ τῆς
    ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν may have sounded funny with the extra syllable, but there is a
    chance that that is what Paul meant.

    Mark L

    FWSFOROS MARKOS

    ________________________________

    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 10:32:08 AM

    Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, στήκετε καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ
    λόγου εἴτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν.
    ARA OUN, ADELFOI, STHKETE KAI KRATEITE TAS PARADOSEIS hAS EDIDAXQHTE EITE DIA
    LOGOU EITE DI’ EPISTOLHS hHMWN.

    It is generally understood that mentioning an item with an article indicates
    that the subject is known to the reader. Whether one can therefore say that
    when there is an absence of an article it indicates an item which is not known
    to the reader might be a bit questionable. In this case I would think that
    while it does not point to any specific letter (despite the fact that this is
    known as 2nd Thess), but rather it must be understood in the same way that DIA
    LOGOU is to be understood. It is not some specific statement to which reference

    is made but rather to whatever ORAL tradition he may have imparted. So DI’
    EPISTOLHS would reference any written communication.

    george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 10:12:55 AM

    In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε

    δι’ ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does
    not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a

    general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not). If
    he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the
    article. I’m interested in the grammatical question. What do y’all think?

    n Bart Ehrman

    Bart D. Ehrman

    James A. Gray Professor

    Department of Religious Studies

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

  15. Carl Conrad says:

    by whom? “It is alleged” has the air of a “divine passive.” Was that the intent?

    Carl W. Conrad
    Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

    It really would be funny if Paul had written δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν [DI’ THS
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?

  16. "Ehrman, Bart D" says:

    Good point about the elision. 🙂 (I bet he didn’t copy and paste as I did, either!)

    — BDE

    Bart D. Ehrman
    James A. Gray Professor
    Department of Religious Studies
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

    —–Original Message—–
    Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 1:27 PM
    Cc: George F Somsel; Ehrman, Bart D;
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

    by whom? “It is alleged” has the air of a “divine passive.” Was that the intent?

    Carl W. Conrad
    Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

    It really would be funny if Paul had written δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν [DI’ THS
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?

  17. Mark Lightman says:

    Carl wrote

    < On the other hand, it is alleged by whom? "It is alleged" has the air of a "divine passive." Was that the
    intent?>

    Hi, Carl,

    No, that was not my intent, although I do think that the grammarians were
    created a little lower than the angels. How much lower is a matter of opinion.
    I phrased it that way I did because I forgot where I read that, and I don’t
    really know whether it is true.


    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?>

    Yes, a good point. I was cutting and pasting too. So, including the article
    would add TWO syllables. I really do believe that the presence of the definite
    article, like some other things in Greek–word order, which connective is used,
    even the tenses, is often more a matter of euphony than semantics. Thus, any
    way, it is alleged.

    Mark L

    FWSFOROS MARKOS

    ________________________________
    Cc: George F Somsel ; “Ehrman, Bart D”
    ; “b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 11:27:09 AM

    by whom? “It is alleged” has the air of a “divine passive.” Was that the intent?

    Carl W. Conrad
    Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

    It really would be funny if Paul had written δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν [DI’ THS
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN] — how frequently is an alpha elided before a tau?

  18. Carl Conrad says:

    I take the “allegation” here to be that grammar sometimes matters and sometimes
    doesn’t. I’ve always thought grammar was primarily a matter of speaking and
    writing in such a way that what you say and what you write conforms to the
    patterns that people expect, and that when what you say and what you write does
    not so conform, there’s the peril of ambiguity.

    One thing (?) seems clear: there’s a bit of ambiguity in the phrasing of EITE DI’
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN in 2 Thess 2:15.

    Carl W. Conrad

  19. Ken Penner says:

    I have always taught that the article may be dropped in a prepositional phrase.

    Robertson’s Grammar XVI.VIII(c) (page 791) has the following under “The Absence of the Article.”

    “(c) PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES. These were also often considered definite enough without the article. So ἐν οἴκῳ (1 Cor. 11:34. Cf. ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ, ‘in the house,’ Jo. 11:20)=’at home.’ So we say “go to bed,” etc. Moulton pertinently cites English “down town,” “on ‘change,” “in bed,” “from start to finish.” This idiom is not therefore peculiar to Greek. It is hardly necessary to mention all the N. T. examples, so common is the matter.”
    “For διά note διά νυκτός (Ac. 5:19), διὰ μέσου (Lu. 4:30), διὰ μέσον (17:11).”
    “For classic examples see Gildersleeve, Syntax, p. 259 f. The papyri furnish abundant parallels (Völker, Syntax, pp. 15–17) as do the inscriptions (Radermacher, N. T. Gr., p. 92).”

    The next section continues:

    “(d) WITH BOTH PREPOSITION AND GENITIVE. It is not surprising to find no article with phrases which use both preposition and genitive like εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ (Ro. 1:1), ἀπὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου (Lu. 19:42), ἐκ δεξιῶν μου (Mt. 20:23), ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς κόσμου (Mt. 24:21), παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας (Heb. 11:11), ἐν καιρῷ πειρασμοῦ (Lu. 8:13), ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου (Mt. 25:34), ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ (Lu. 1:51), etc.”

    I hope this helps,

    Ken M. Penner, Ph.D.
    Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic vocabulary memorization software:
    http://purl.org/net/kmpenner/flash/

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca

    —–Original Message—–
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ehrman, Bart D
    Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 1:13 PM
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

    In his commentary on 2 Thessalonians, W. Marxsen claims that since 2:15 εἴτε δι’ ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν lacks an article (as in εἴτε δι’ τῆς ἐπιστολὴς ἡμῶν) it does not refer back to a specific letter (e.g., to 1 Thessalonians) but is meant in a general sense to refer to any ole letter that he may have written (or not). If he had wanted to refer to 1 Thessalonians in particular, he would have used the article. I’m interested in the grammatical question. What do y’all think?

    n Bart Ehrman

    Bart D. Ehrman

    James A. Gray Professor

    Department of Religious Studies

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    http://www.bartdehrman.com

  20. Donald Vance says:

    It seems to me that this is a question of “definiteness,” which may be indicated by a definite article. Does not the possessive serve to mark the noun and thus make the article superfluous? If Paul had meant “any ole letter,” this would require specific grammatical marking, would it not?

    In Biblical Hebrew, a possessive pronoun makes the noun definite and if one wishes to indicate ownership of an indefinite entity, a prepositional phrase with lamed is required.
    מכתבנו “the letter of ours” = “our (specific) letter”
    מכתב לנו “any ole letter of ours”

    Sent from my iPhone

    Donald R. Vance
    Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature
    Oral Roberts University

    href=”mailto:donaldrvance@mac.com”>donaldrvance@mac.com

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ehrman, Bart D
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

  21. George F Somsel says:

    In Hebrew the fact that there is a possessive does not necessarily indicate that
    the noun is to be considered definite.  I have lifted two examples from Futato,
    _Beginning Biblical Hebrew_

    סוּס־הַמֶּלֶךְ *the* king’s horse (the horse of the king)סוּס־מֶלֶךְ *a* king’s
    horse (a horse of the king or perhaps a royal horse)
     
    Whether the noun is considered definite or indefinite is determined not by the
    construct relation (which is one way to indicate possession among other uses)
    but by whether the nomen rectum is definite and not simply by its presence
    following a noun in the construct.  As noted, there are other ways to express
    possession such as pronominal suffixes to nouns and the use of the prefixed
    preposition ל with the “owner.” 

     
    I really don’t think an appeal to Hebrew can be used to determine how Greek may
    have functioned.
     george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Cc: “b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 1:52:18 PM

    It seems to me that this is a question of “definiteness,” which may be indicated
    by a definite article. Does not the possessive serve to mark the noun and thus
    make the article superfluous? If Paul had meant “any ole letter,” this would
    require specific grammatical marking, would it not?

    In Biblical Hebrew, a possessive pronoun makes the noun definite and if one
    wishes to indicate ownership of an indefinite entity, a prepositional phrase
    with lamed is required.
    מכתבנו “the letter of ours” = “our (specific) letter”
    מכתב לנו “any ole letter of ours”

    Sent from my iPhone

    Donald R. Vance
    Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature
    Oral Roberts University

    href=”mailto:donaldrvance@mac.com”>donaldrvance@mac.com

    phrase.

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

  22. Ken Penner says:

    George and Donald are both right, but George might have misunderstood Donald. Donald’s point was not that just ANY possessive makes the noun definite, but that the Hebrew possessive PRONOUN suffixed on a noun makes the noun definite.

    The appeal to Hebrew to explain a usage in Greek would be appropriate if there is a reasonable chance of linguistic interference, for example, if the author’s native language was Hebrew. But Ephesians certainly does not give me that impression.

    I think Donald’s point was that the rule regarding the definiteness of noun in Hebrew is a cross-linguistic phenomenon. Even in English, “our letter” is definite, and if we want to express indefiniteness, we need a circumlocution such as “a letter of ours.”

    Ken M. Penner, Ph.D.
    Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic vocabulary memorization software:
    http://purl.org/net/kmpenner/flash/

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca

    Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 6:47 PM
    Cc:
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

    In Hebrew the fact that there is a possessive does not necessarily indicate that the noun is to be considered definite. I have lifted two examples from Futato, _Beginning Biblical Hebrew_

    סוּס־הַמֶּלֶךְ *the* king’s horse (the horse of the king)

    סוּס־מֶלֶךְ *a* king’s horse (a horse of the king or perhaps a royal horse)

    Whether the noun is considered definite or indefinite is determined not by the construct relation (which is one way to indicate possession among other uses) but by whether the nomen rectum is definite and not simply by its presence following a noun in the construct. As noted, there are other ways to express possession such as pronominal suffixes to nouns and the use of the prefixed preposition ל with the “owner.”

    I really don’t think an appeal to Hebrew can be used to determine how Greek may have functioned.

    george
    gfsomsel

    … search for truth, hear truth,
    learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
    defend the truth till death.

    – Jan Hus
    _________

    ________________________________
    Cc: “b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”
    Sent: Thu, December 30, 2010 1:52:18 PM

    It seems to me that this is a question of “definiteness,” which may be indicated by a definite article. Does not the possessive serve to mark the noun and thus make the article superfluous? If Paul had meant “any ole letter,” this would require specific grammatical marking, would it not?

    In Biblical Hebrew, a possessive pronoun makes the noun definite and if one wishes to indicate ownership of an indefinite entity, a prepositional phrase with lamed is required.
    מכתבנו “the letter of ours” = “our (specific) letter”
    מכתב לנו “any ole letter of ours”

    Sent from my iPhone

    Donald R. Vance
    Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature
    Oral Roberts University

    href=”mailto:donaldrvance@mac.com”>donaldrvance@mac.com

    href=”mailto:kpenner@stfx.ca”>kpenner@stfx.ca
    href=”mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces@lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Ehrman, Bart D
    href=”mailto:b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org”>b-greek@lists.ibiblio.org

  23. "Iver Larsen" says:

    —– Original Message —–
    Sent: 30. december 2010 20:12

    I would agree that the lack of article indicates that he is not focusing on any
    particular letter, but teaching in a written form.

    It is helpful to look at the fuller statement:

    στήκετε, καὶ κρατεῖτε τὰς παραδόσεις ἃς ἐδιδάχθητε εἴτε διὰ λόγου εἴτε δι᾽
    ἐπιστολῆς ἡμῶν

    STHKETE KAI KRATEITE TAS PARADOSEIS hAS EDIDACQHTE EITE DIA LOGOU EITE DI’
    EPISTOLHS hHMWN

    Stand firm and hold on to the handed-down (teachings) which you were taught
    either by means of a word or a letter from us.

    What does the hHMWN qualify? TAS PARADOSEIS or EPISTOLHS or both LOGOU and
    EPISTOLHS.
    Is the genitive hHMWN possessive or a genitive of source?

    It seems to me that both LOGOS and EPISTOLH are here general rather than
    focusing on a specific word or a specific letter. It is somewhat similar to Phil
    1:20: εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου EITE DIA ZWHS EITE DIA QANATOU. The words
    are general, life or death, not THE life or THE death. Of course, the context
    may well limit the reference to the life or death of a particular person, here
    Paul. We need to distinguish between grammar, semantics and reference.

    The main point in 2:15 is to “hold on to the the teachings you received from
    us”, so I would take the genitive pronoun as indicating source. Whether these
    teachings came to you through oral or written means does not matter, but it does
    matter that they came from “us” as we are the ones with apostolic authority to
    teach you.

    The LOGOS would refer to when Paul (and other apostles) taught them in person,
    and the EPISTOLH to one or more letters. That would include 1 and 2 Thess, but
    we don’t know if there were more letters. Paul has just warned them in 2:2 that
    they should be critical about information whether by word or letter purporting
    to come from “us” when in fact they did not. Therefore, the source is important,
    not which particular letter or letters of his he was referring to. Compare 2:2:

    μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε δι᾽ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς δι᾽ ἡμῶν
    MHTE DIA LOGOU MHTE DI’ EPISTOLHS hWS DI’ hHMWN

    neither through a word (oral teaching) nor through a letter as if (it was) from
    us.

    One of the ways that the recipients could judge whether a particular letter
    truly came from Paul was that they could recognize his hand writing. This proof
    of authenticity is what he refers to in 3:17:

    Ὁ ἀσπασμὸς τῇ ἐμῇ χειρὶ Παύλου, ὅ ἐστιν σημεῖον ἐν πάσῃ ἐπιστολῇ· οὕτως γράφω.
    hO ASPASMOS THi EMHi CEIRI PAULOU, hO ESTIN SHMEION EN PASHi EPISTOLHi. hOUTWS
    GRAFW.

    The greeting is by my own hand, from (me) Paul, which is a sign/proof in every
    letter (of mine). This is how I write.

    Signed,
    Iver Larsen

  24. James Ernest says:

    What Iver says seems right to me.

    As for the article usually being dropped after DIA or other prepositions, a
    quick search for DIA THS in the letters of Paul turns up quite a few hits.
    One could dredge through them, comparing them with similar phrases without
    the article. I haven’t done that. I’ll just point to the most pertinent hit
    in the list: 2 Thess 3:14, EI DE TIS OUX hYPOKOUEI TW LOGW hHMWN DIA THS
    EPISTOLHS, TOUTON SHMEIOUSTHE.

    In 3:14, LOGOS and EPISTOLH are count nouns referring to a particular
    utterance in a particular letter (NRSV says “in this letter,” which seems
    slightly non-obvious to me; I don’t know what Marxsen and others make of
    that–this letter or a previous letter?); in 2:15 (and in 2:2, which Iver
    points out) both words are in effect mass nouns, referring not so much to a
    particular utterance or a particular letter but to (possibly faked–the
    concern expressed in 2:2 and 3:17) utterance-of-Paul or letter-of-Paul as
    means of communication.

    James Ernest

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