I have two questions about the Greek grammar in the divorce teachings in Matthew 19 and Mark 10.

(1) In Matthew 19:5, the phrase "and said" (καὶ εἶπεν) appears before the quotation of Genesis 2:24. Is this action performed by God (who is mentioned in the previous verse) or by Jesus? In other words, should it be read as "and God said" or "and Jesus said"? The fact that Genesis 2:24 seems to be either a statement by Adam or an editorial comment by Moses suggests the latter reading, which also would fit well with the omission of the phrase in the parallel saying in Mark 10:7. (On the other hand, if the action is performed by God, then that would fit with the idea of God joining the spouses in the next verse, as Jesus could then be interpreting the quotation from Genesis as a divine command.) I am not sure, however, whether the Greek grammar allows for the latter reading.

(2) In Matthew 19:8, what does the phrase "but from the beginning it was not this way" (ἀρχῆς δὲ οὐ γέγονεν οὕτως) refer to? Does it refer to the hardheartedness, the permission to divorce, or both? Or does the grammar taken by itself not settle the issue?

1 Answer 1

  1. Matthew 19:5 - We need to pick up at v. 4:
    ...ὁ κτίσας ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτοὺς 5 καὶ εἶπεν·...
    Here, the verbs (in bold) both have the same antecedent: epoiēsen and eipen both have as their subject ho ktisas. So it runs "the one who created ... made ... and said ...".

  2. Matthew 19:8 - the clue to handling ap' archēs again comes in v. 4:
    v. 4: ...ὁ κτίσας ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς... the one who made them from the beginning...
    v. 8: ...ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς δὲ οὐ γέγονεν οὕτως... but from the beginning it was not thus.
    That is, the entire situation of the corruption of human fellowship and its partial remedy in Moses' "command" did not obtain in the pristine created state. As Donald Hagner notes:

    "From the beginning" (ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς, a deliberate recalling of the phrase in v 4), argues Jesus, this was not the situation, as the cited OT material made clear. Jesus thus pits Moses against Moses. The implication is that the new era of the present kingdom of God involves a return to the idealism of the pre-fall Genesis narrative.

    ~ D.A. Hagner, Matthew 14-28 (Word Biblical Commentary, 33B; Dallas: Word, 1995), pp. 548-9.

  • I'm sure you're right (along with the English punctuation), but is there a reason to exclude the first ὁ in v. 4 as a possible subject of v. 5 εἶπεν? Or some unspecified "it/he"? After all, ὁ κτίσας isn't exactly the one who said that (v. 5 < ~Gen 2:24), though I'm not sure to whom the evangelists generally attribute the narration of Genesis.
    – Susan
    Jul 12, 2016 at 10:46
  • @Susan If ὁ κτίσας isn't "exactly" the one who said it, then it certainly wasn't "the first ὁ in v. 4" = Jesus! Grammatically it would be odd, to say the least, to differentiate the subjects of εἶπεν and ἐποίησεν. Here's how Hagner puts it (FWIW): "καὶ εἶπεν 'and he said,' the subject of the verb is probably to be understood not as Jesus (as the beginning of v 4) but as the Creator, who is regarded as speaking through Moses." (p. 548) Given Hagner's "probably", it seems gMark is less awkward (Mk 10:5-6) without the καὶ εἶπεν.
    – Dɑvïd
    Jul 12, 2016 at 11:20
  • Right, καὶ εἶπεν would need to be removed from both sets of quotation marks, to be followed by a double open quote, with the original source unstated. Hagner evidently doesn't find it awkward for Matthew to attribute the narration of Genesis to the Creator (not sure what Moses has to do with it here); I wouldn't know.
    – Susan
    Jul 12, 2016 at 19:52
  • Blurring boundaries between Moses' voice and the LORD's voice at this period has been fairly well observed: see, e.g. Michael Fishbane's Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel for discussion (of this and much more ;) ).
    – Dɑvïd
    Jul 12, 2016 at 20:06
  • Davïd, does Hagner say more about why the subject of the verb should be understood as the Creator rather than Jesus in v. 4? As for your own point, are you saying that there's a grammatical awkwardness in having the same verb applied to a single subject twice (Jesus said, "Have you not..." and said, "For this reason...")? If so, then one possible response could be that the Gospel accounts in general provide what are probably summary of Jesus' exchanges, so the repetition of a verb being applied to the same subject could be meant to indicate that more was said in between that was omitted.
    – Palpatine
    Jul 12, 2016 at 22:58

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