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Mark 1:1 (ESV),

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God...

Mark 15:39 (ESV),

39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

The Greek text of both Mark 1:1 and 15:39, specifically for the phrase, the Son of God, is anarthrous, that is, it does not use the article.

Normally, in English, if a noun is anarthrous, we preface the noun with either "a" or "an" and many Greek nouns in the New Testament, being anarthrous, are so translated, with either "a" or "an" prefacing (e.g. Acts 12:22).

Does the lack of the Greek article in Mark 1:1 and 15:39 as outlined above suggest the phrase Υἱοῦ Θεοῦ (Huiou Theou) should be translated as "a Son of a God" instead of "the Son of God"?

Why or why not?

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  • 1
    The Greek article is not a 'definite' article. It is the article. Nor can the article in Greek be transposed into English as you suggest. The Greek article is derived from the demonstrative pronoun (that) and is a matter of concept. A concept is labelled (usually with a noun) and then it is located, usually in time and space. The locating is done with the article. See Daniel B Wallace Beyond the Basics pp206-290. I would say, myself, that this question lacks research, clarity and detail. As a result, it has reached unsupportable conclusions.–
    – Nigel J
    Feb 26 at 8:30
  • Hi, Nigel. According to: ntgreek.net/lesson13.htm, under the heading The Definite Article, there are four definite articles, namely ὁ (nominative), τοῦ (genitive), τῷ (dative), and τόν (accusative). Frequently the phrase "the Son of God" is rendered in koine as ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, using the nominative ὁ and the genitive τοῦ. Mark 1:1 and 15:39 use neither. Dr. Paul R. McReynolds writes "Another major exception concerned the forms of the definite article." in his introduction for Word Study Greek-English New Testament on page 9. See too: greekgrammar.eu/pdffiles/article.pdf Feb 26 at 18:19
  • Nominative, genitive, dative and accusative is a matter of case, in exactly the way that nouns and adjectives in Greek are declined. These are not 'four article' but one article inflected in four ways with regard to case. The Greek article also inflects in regard to number (singular and plural) and in regard to gender.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 27 at 17:51
  • Exactly the same situation exists for the phrase "son of man" which occurs 86 times - all referring to Jesus; in only four cases is the article omitted - all the rest have the article. There is no discernible difference. See John 5:27, Heb 2:6, Rev 1:13, 14:14.
    – Dottard
    Mar 1 at 9:28
  • Hi, Nigel. Thanks for the correction. You are right, there is only one article, not four, that is rendered four different ways depending on the case. Mar 4 at 3:42
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Mark 1:1 New International Version

**The** beginning of **the** good news about Jesus **the** Messiah, **the** Son of God,
        Ἀρχὴ           τοῦ   εὐαγγελίου      Ἰησοῦ         Χριστοῦ          Υἱοῦ Θεοῦ.

There are 4 English definite articles here but only one Greek article. The concept of the Greek article does not correspond exactly to the concept of the English definite article. They are different animals. There is no simple 1-to-1 correspondence.

Young's Literal Translation contains only one English definite article as in the Greek:

A beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, Son of God.

At https://biblehub.com/mark/1-1.htm, 23 out of 27 versions translate the phrase as "the Son of God".

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  • Hi, Tony. Thanks for answering. Care to go deeper in explaining how the anarthrous phrase Υἱοῦ Θεοῦ should be translated with the English definite articles, so that "a Son of a God" is incorrect? Feb 26 at 18:16
  • I added to my answer.
    – Tony Chan
    Feb 26 at 18:58
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As Tony notes in his answer there is one article in Mark 1:1:

ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ θεοῦ

The Greek article does much more than to make definite as the English article. However, if one wanted to approach the phrase from this view, then the use of a single article before Gospel means what follows is the specific Gospel, Jesus-Christ-Son-God. The one article eliminates the need for any other because it is not the Gospel about Jesus Christ the Son of God; It is the Gospel... When one reads the Gospel, one learns Jesus is the Christ who is the Son of God.

In addition, there is no article before ἀρχὴ "...showing that the expression is a kind of title. It is 'the beginning,' not of his book, but of the facts of the Gospel."1Using the article with Gospel functions to reinforce the titular nature of ἀρχὴ.

A similar use of a single article occurs in 15:39:

And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son[i] of God!” [ESV]
i. Mark 15:39 Or a son

ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ κεντυρίων ὁ παρεστηκὼς ἐξ ἐναντίας αὐτοῦ ὅτι οὕτως ἐξέπνευσεν εἶπεν ἀληθῶς οὗτος ἄνθρωπος υἱὸς θεοῦ ἦν

The phrase is literally, the man Son God was. As with the Gospel, the construction gives emphasis on the man leaving open the possibility the meaning is not the exclusive Son of God. [The ESV translator notes the phrase could mean a Son of God.] However, any ambiguity in meaning is of little significance because the source of the statement is the Roman centurion, not the Gospel writer. The lack of the article could be a result of "poor" Greek on the part of a Roman, or it may in fact reflect the Centurion's belief Jesus was "a" son of god based on his beliefs in his gods.

The Centurion's witness is not to prove Jesus' identity. It is to contrast his reaction with that of the Jewish people and particularly of the chief priests and scribes:

29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. (Mark 15)

Where the people with the knowledge of the true God mocked and scorned Jesus, the pagan(?) Centurion believed He was deity.

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