Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, May 13, 2024

The Case of the Missing Words (Mark 8:28)

Every once in a while, you have to guess as to what words have been omitted from a Greek sentence in order to explain the form of those that were included. Sentences are often abbreviated, and I have lost count of how many times I was stuck, trying to understand the form of a word, and the answer was that some word (or words) was assumed.

Mark writes, “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. On the way he questioned his disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do people say I am? (τίνα με λέγουσιν οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἶναι;)’ So they answered him, saying, ‘John (Ἰωάννην) the baptizer; and others, Elijah (Ἠλίαν); but others, one (εἷς) of the prophets.’” How do you explain the case of the three answers?

A clue is that the sentence is obviously abbreviated. There is no subject before the variant ὅτι that would paralel the later ἄλλοι, and if the variant ὅτι were original, the case of Ἰωάννην and Ἠλίαν would be difficult to explain.

It is possible that Ἰωάννην and Ἠλίαν are “picking up the case of με from v. 27” (France). That is how I have understood the use of the accusative.

However, Cranfield argues that the missing words are οἱ ἂνθρωποι λέγουσίν σε εἶναι, “People say you are ...,” following the grammar of με ... εἶναι in v 27. This would mean that Ἰωάννην and Ἠλίαν are in the predicate of εἶναι, agreeing with their subject σε, which is accusative.

But why then the shift to the nominative εἷς? Presumable Mark replaces the accusative + infinite construction with a ὅτι clause. οἱ ἂνθρωποι λέγουσίν ὅτι σὺ εἶ εἷς. εἷς is still in the predicate but this time its subject is the nomiantive σύ.

I have often lamented the fact that The Cambridge Greek Testament edited by C.F.D. Moule was never finished. But I am glad that Cranfield wrote the volume on Mark.