Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Grammarian, IX

Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. - St. Matthew 23:12

We note, class, that there is no exception to the rule here: Whosoever means anyone, everyone, all who exalt themselves -- these shall be abased. Even those who thought they did pretty well at humbling themselves in response to this little logion. Hah! Condemned and guilty are we all.

But now look carefully at the second part, which does not say "whosoever shall humble himself . . ."

What does it say, boys and girls? "He that . . ." See? It's a simple singular pronoun. There is only One who has truly humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And by His stripes we are healed.

Hat tip: Pr. H. R. Curtis (Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, IL; Zion Lutheran Church, Carpenter, IL


Brian P Westgate said...

Wow. That's a good point. And I figured out my blogger username too!

Luke said...

Interesting idea, but I don't think the point can actually be made based upon the grammar.

The Greek text uses the word hostis (sorry for the transliteration) in both clauses. That would mean the translator needs to use one word in the first clause and a different word in the second, where the Greek text does not. To me, that seems a bad practice of translation. Legitimately, the term "whosoever" may be used in both places.

IMO, it seems like Rev. Curtis may be making too much out of what the text actually says. Perhaps the point should not be made in a post about the text's grammar, but in a post about the text's meaning.

Just my two cents.

Pr. H. R. said...


The text under discussion here is Luke 14:11, which does not use hostis in either clause. In the first clause it's pas ho hyphwn "everyone who exalts" - but then in the second clause it's just ho tapeinwn "the one who humbles".

The parallel in the other Synoptics might have a different wording: and therefore deserves a different interpretation. But here St. Luke has reported the Lord's words in a specific way for a specific reason, I think. Thus the wisdom of the Church in choosing Luke's version for the lectionary.


Pr. H. R. said...

Ah ha - I see that the Grammarian mistakenly put the Matthew text at the top! Homer nods!

Put the point he makes is valid on Luke 14:11 and our Luke above rightly points out that the Spirit is making a different point through how St. Matthew reports the Words. Such is the gift of multiple Gospels.


Father Eckardt said...

Busted. Sort of.

In my haste, remembering that some time ago I had made the same point that Fr Curtis made here, I simply grabbed the nearest English, found the Matthean version, and went with it. But it must be the Lucan that is used to make this point. Homer nods indeed.

Yet in the Lucan Gospel the point is quite valid, especially since St. Luke is demonstrably fond of making profound points subtly through the use of grammatical devices.

Interestingly, the Matthean version is followed immediately by this: "woe to you grammarians . . ."

Luke said...

Prs. Curtis and Eckardt:

Apologies for jumping on the Matthean text rather than looking at the Lucan. (One would think I'd naturally look at the Third Gospel......) Wisdom indeed from the fathers in which one they chose for the lectionary. Even more wisdom from the Spirit in giving us two renditions of our Lord's words.

And yes, I do see your point from the Lucan text and his customary practice of making profound statements by use of grammar and words, even little ones. Indeed, it is a very good Christological statement being made and recognized by Pr. Curtis from the Lucan account--something I will use.