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I would like a good koine greek expert to explain the greek of this verse to me.

Because in my rusty greek, I am reading this as (which is probably not precise) ...

  • ἐὰν μὴ
    • if-never
  • ὁ κόκκος τοῦ σίτου
    • the kernel of grain
  • πεσὼν εἰς τὴν γῆν
    • falls into the earth
  • ἀποθάνῃ
    • dying-off
  • αὐτὸς μόνος μένει

    • it remains alone
  • ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ

    • but-if dying-off
  • πολὺν καρπὸν φέρει
    • many fruits it bears

Questions concerning the linguistics. My adherence is linguistics defines the doctrine, rather than allowing doctrine to define the linguistics. So I want this to be first purely a linguistic exercise.

  1. Is ἀποθάνῃ an instantaneous demise, or as the ἀπο prefix suggests, the effects from the dying which implies a process thereafter?

  2. Combinatorially, the logic table allows four cases. Let's use A and B as the binary algebraic variables.

    • A = falls into the earth
    • B = goes thro after death process (or whatever the actual meaning of ἀποθάνῃ)
  3. These are the four quadrants of the logic table

    • A=1,B=1 = falls into earth and has after death experience
    • A=1,B=0 = falls into earth and doesn't have after death experience
    • A=0,B=1 = does not fall into earth, but has after death experience
    • A=0,B=0 = does not fall into earth, and doesn't have after death experience
  4. The question set-up by #2 and #3 - which of the four logic cases does the resultants R1 and R2 map to?

    • R1 = remain alone
    • R2 = bears many fruits

There is actually only one big question. But first we have to define ἀποθάνῃ. And then the actual question - what is the mapping for stimuli to resultants?

  • A=1,B=1 => R2 (obviously)
  • A=1,B=0 => R1 or undefined?
  • A=0,B=1 => R1 or undefined?
  • A=0,B=0 => R1 (obviously)
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  1. ἀποθνῄσκω is the normal word for "die" in New Testament Greek. BDAG gives:

    to cease to have vital functions, whether at an earthly or transcendent level, die

    The OP proposes that the απο- prefix may indicate

    ....the effects from the dying which implies a process thereafter.

    (Really ἀποθνῄσκω is a verb, so more like "to experience the effects from....".)

    It's true that απο is basically an ablative preposition (i.e. signifying separation), so this approach is understandable, but in Koine Greek verbs with prepositional prefixes often don't have meanings that are fully predictable based on the meaning of the preposition. In fact, often (as here), the prefix apparently doesn't change the meaning of the verb. As Stevens put it:

    The original compound force was trivialized into insignificance by overuse.*

    Although the verb θνῄσκω was common in older forms of Greek and the απο- prefix was originally an intensive (per BDAG; whatever that means), in the NT θνῄσκω is used only 9 times, always in the perfect. The normal word for "to die" is what we have here: ἀποθνῄσκω (111x).

  2. (subsuming also ## 3 and 4 from the Q) I think the OP has organized the combinatorial options incorrectly. My translation:

    ἐὰν μὴ ὁ κόκκος τοῦ σίτου πεσὼν εἰς τὴν γῆν ἀποθάνῃ
    Unless the kernel of grain, having fallen into the earth, dies

    αὐτὸς μόνος μένει·
    it remains alone.

    ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ,
    But if it dies

    πολὺν καρπὸν φέρει.
    it produces much fruit.

    The OP's A = "falls into the earth" is not part of the contingency; it's a dependent clause modifying ἀποθάνῃ (i.e., "having fallen into the ground, it dies"). This form of the statement doesn't consider the instance without falling.

    I would then recast the OP's matrix as a simple contingency where:

    A = it dies
    B = it produces fruit

    The four lines in my translation above correspond to the protasis and apodosis of two conditional statements, the first negative and the second positive:

    If A=0, then B=0. (If it doesn't die, it remains alone.)
    If A=1, then B=1. (If it dies, it produces fruit.)


* Gerald L. Stevens, New Testament Greek Intermediate, (Wipf & Stock, 2008), p. 129.

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  • I have lately taken "intensive" as code for "we don't understand why it's there."
    – fumanchu
    Sep 15 '16 at 23:25
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    Perhaps.... similarly "emphasis".
    – Susan
    Sep 15 '16 at 23:32
  • Using my original parameters, your premise is (A=1)(B -> R). That is, your premise is that the case of (A=0) is undefined or not considered in the passage. That is, (A=0)&(B=0 | B=1) -> undefined. Sep 16 '16 at 7:18
  • Isn't πεσὼν a progressive-active-participle? And ἀποθάνῃ is present-active-subjunctive? So that the phrase is {unless A={grain falling into earth} B=would-die}. A subjunctive is subjunctive by virtue of a precondition/stipulation. Where the pre-condition/stipulation is {grain falling into earth}.Therefore, {A=1->(B=1?R2:R1)}, but {A=0->(undefined)}. In which case, you are still correct. Sep 16 '16 at 8:27
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    Hi Cynthia, πεσὼν is a 2nd aorist participle (the present tense stem is *πιπτ), here used adverbially to name a circumstance antecedent in time to the main verb ἀποθάνῃ. It may be considered a condition (the negation of which is undefined), but I disagree that the subjunctive inflection of ἀποθάνῃ has anything to do with the πεσὼν clause. This is a standard third class conditional (see Wallace, p. 689ff) and is subjunctive by virtue of its protasis status after εαν. Please head to Biblical Hermeneutics Chat if you would like to discuss further. Thanks.
    – Susan
    Sep 16 '16 at 11:56

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