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... μερισμου ψυχης τε και πνευματος αρμων τε και μυελων και κριτικος ενθυμησεων και εννοιων καρδιας [TR - Beza, Stephanus, Elzevir and Scrivener all identical]

... dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Heb 4:12 KJV]

... dividing asunder both of soul and spirit, of joints also and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart; [Heb 4:12 YLT]

The KJV seems to ignore both uses of τε and only appears to translate και, 'and'.

Robert Young adds 'both' in the first instance, then says 'also' for the second ('both' and 'also' having slightly different meanings) and in the second instance he attaches 'also' only to 'joints' whereas he could have said 'also joints and marrow' covering both items.

I understand that τε is a conjunction like και and that both words may be used to link clauses and sentences. However I understand that often και may be used to link words, whilst only rarely is τε so used.

Moreover, I understand that τε ... και (both ... and) is somewhat weaker than και ... και.

All that being the case, what is the force of using τε και together in this sentence, which seems to have given translators just a bit of difficulty ?

How does the use of the combined conjunctions affect the appreciation of the concepts :

  • soul and spirit
  • joints and marrow
  • thoughts and intents

Particularly, I am looking at the contrast of soul/joint (mechanical-functional, see 'chariot')/thought . . . . . and spirit/marrow (living tissue)/intent.

That the soul, functionally, thinks ; and the spirit, livingly, intends.


I am aware that the first τε is disputed but my question is not about the matter of dispute and my question focuses wholly on the TR and the way in which translators have translated it.

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What is the force of τε as used in Hebrews 4:12 [TR] ?

As I already suggested, you are focusing on the wrong suspect; the force you speak of comes not from the more exotic te, but rather from the (deceptively) benign-looking kai, which gained terrain over the former in terms of frequency of use, for precisely this very reason, namely power of expression, or rather lack thereof.

Basically, the Greek term te corresponds to the Latin -que (as in Filioque), while the Greek kai is the equivalent of the Latin cum, meaning with. To complete the list, the Latin et (εt), which gave birth to well-known the ampersand sign (&), is a cognate of the Greek eti, meaning and.

Indeed, a quick glance over the above-linked dictionary entries reveals kai to convey a stronger (adverbial?) sense (at least according to the Romanian reckoning; apparently, the English convention does not distinguish between adverbs of strengthening and [other?] conjunctions; the term intensifier seems to have a different type of adverbs in mind, relating particularly to those of an epithetic nature).

To (better) grasp what I am getting at, take a look at how summarily the two possible meanings of te (and & also) are hurdled together in the above-provided link, in contrast to the more expanded list containing the various connotations of kai, particularly as relating to its second element:

  1. and
  2. even, also

Now, concerning the passage at hand:

ψυχης τε και πνευματος , αρμων τε και μυελων

which basically translates as:

of the soul, and even of the spirit ; of the joints, and even of the marrows

of the soul, and also of the spirit ; of the joints, and also of the marrows

of the soul, as well as of the spirit ; of the joints, as well as of the marrows

In other words, God's word is so piercing sharp, that it cuts through our inner being, not only -or not merely- until it starts slicing at our soul, but even further, until it touches our spirit as well; not only is it strong enough to split the bones from one another, by splicing their interconnecting cartilages, but, more than that, it can even crack the bone itself, reaching the meadow.

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  • You have proposed all of this as your own opinion. Are we to have any support from accepted authorities ? No links to substantiate ? I mean as to the subtlety of the grammar : the wiktionary links are not really needed, I would suggest. You are assuming Greek-Latin connections without any referenced support. And we need something more scientific if we are going to suggest 'adverbial' thrust from kai, I feel.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 31 at 4:04
  • What means 'hurdled together' ? And what support do you have for translating te kai as 1. 'and even' 2. 'and also' 3. 'as well as' ? And which are you suggesting of the three ?
    – Nigel J
    Jul 31 at 4:10
  • @NigelJ: The Romanian word for and has the same dual meaning as the Greek, and it appearing twice in a row is not uncommon. Also, in Romanian, it is quite common, albeit against literary norms, to add with after immediately and when enumerating. Romanian is a descendent of Latin, which, along with Greek, are Indo-European languages, possessing quite a lot of grammatical structure in common.
    – Lucian
    Jul 31 at 4:17
  • @Lucain That argument does not convince me for two reasons. 1. Etymological fallacy extends to whole language roots as well as individual words. 2. It is a broad opinion but has no practical effect in direct translation. Words are as they are used not as they are originated.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 31 at 4:19
  • @NigelJ: If unconvinced, either put it up for a bounty, or cross-post it over at Latin.SE, where they also handle Greek.
    – Lucian
    Jul 31 at 4:33
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As a general (but not universal) rule, τε is used to connect phrases/clauses as distinct from καὶ which is most (but universally) often used to connect words.

When these two occur together, τε καὶ, I get the feel of of a Hebraism with the grammatical force of "both A and B". The Author of Hebrews appears fond of this construction as is Luke in Acts. There are two cases to consider:

1. τε καὶ A καὶ B

The grammatical force of this construction when linking merely words, the surrounding verbs apply to both equally and simultaneously. Here are some examples from Hebrews alone (my translations):

  • Heb 2:4 - bearing witness of God both (τε καὶ) by signs and (καὶ) by various wonders ... . This means that both are used simultaneously with equal force.
  • Heb 5:1 - ... that he should offer gifts both (τε καὶ) for sacrifices and (καὶ) of sins.
  • Heb 6:19 - which we have as an anchor both (τε καὶ) secure and (καὶ) reliable
  • Heb 11:32 ... David, and both (τε καὶ) Samuel and (καὶ) the prophets

The constructions in Heb 9:2, 19 (τε A καὶ B) has a similar force.

2. τε καὶ in isolation

I note that BDAG suggests that on occasions when τε καὶ occurs, (in some cases) it has the simple force of "and"; eg, Heb 5:1, 7, 14, 8:3, 9:9, 10:33, 12:2, Luke 21:11, etc. See BDAG for more details.

Heb 4:12

The construction in Heb 4:12, if we follow the text of the TR, having a double τε καὶ in isolation in the one sentence is unique in the NT. It is difficult to regard the two τε καὶ as anything other than isolated because they occur in a sequence of pairs of nouns. Accepting that text, the force is likely to be simply equivalent to "and" as stated above.

If we accept the NA28/UNS5 text, the result is similar depending on whether we regard the τε καὶ as isolated or not. As stated abovem it is difficult to regard the τε καὶ as anything but isolated; thus, the force is simply "and".

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