Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Emphatic First and Second Person Pronouns

Last week I talked about the emphatic use of αὐτός in the Beatitudes, and a related question came in this week about the use of the emphatic form of ἐμοῦ in Matt 10:18. The question specifically had to do with the word order and whether “on account of me” is emphatic because of its unusual word order.

Unfortunately, I do not have access right now to the commentators listed in the question so perhaps some of you out there could check this out.

The verse reads, “and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake (ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ), to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (ESV).

There are really two issues here. The first is word order, which is, roughly, “before governors and kings you will be dragged for my sake.” This does not especially strike me as unusual word order, the prepositional phrase following the verb it modifies.

But there is a second issue here. The basic rule with the emphatic forms of εγω and συ is that they are used for emphasis (either contrast or focus), but sometimes merely redundantly. However, when the pronoun is in an oblique case, it is usually anaphoric (i.e., referring back to its antecedent; see Wallace, 321-325). This is the case in our verse.

But the real issue is how personal pronouns behave with prepositions. As a general rule, the emphatic forms of εγω and συ are used after prepositions. Why, I don’t know. But if you look up all the uses of ἕνεκα (ἕνεκεν) in the New Testament, you will find that of its 24 occurrences, 8 times it is followed by a personal pronoun, and in every case the form is emphatic. 7 are examples with ἐμοῦ and once with σού (with an accent, Rom 8:36), although granted this is an editorial decision.

I did a search in Accordance for εἰς followed by a first or second person singular person pronoun. There are 25 occurrences, and in 21 times the pronoun is emphatic, and every example of the explicit first person pronoun (ἐμέ) was emphatic. What this tells us is that there truly is a preference for the emphatic form of the pronoun when it is the object of the preposition as it is in our verse. A quick survey of constructions like συν εμοι and ἐν ἐμοί confirms the pattern.

So back to the question. Is there any significance in the order of the words in Matt 10:18? I don’t think so (but I could be persuaded). Is there any significance of meaning that the form is ἐμοῦ and not μου? None.

So the lesson is that grammar is complicated, and different principles are often overlapping. Yes, there are cases in which the emphatic forms of ἐγώ and συ are significant, but when they are objects of prepositions, evidently not.