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αρα ουν αδελφοι στηκετε και κρατειτε τας παραδοσεις ας εδιδαχθητε ειτε δια λογου ειτε δι επιστολης ημων [Stephanus TR 1550]

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. [2 Thess 2:15 KJV]

The Englishman's Greek New Testament (1870) translates this as 'whether by word or by our epistle'.

Young's Literal has 'whether through word, whether through our letter'.

The original seems to me to state :

whether by word whether by epistle of us.

In which case it seems to me that 'of us' relates both to 'whether by word' and also to 'whether by epistle'.

This has important bearing as to whether the 'word' is also the apostle's word (no longer available nowadays) or whether 'word' means 'the word of other than apostles'.

If the former, then we are dependent only on the epistles (which will convey both the content and the tenor of the 'word' which we can no longer access) or whether we are required to search out documentation (other than the apostolic epistles) in order to be fully aware of what Paul calls 'the traditions' (verse 15), of which we are to 'hold fast'.

The later use of the word 'tradition', 3:6, makes the reference, in that particular place, specific to only 'us'.

Am I correct in my reading 'of us' as applying, grammatically, to both the preceding 'word' and 'epistle' ?

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  • Note to edit : '. . . to which we are to hold fast' is ungrammatical ; or, at least, unidiomatic. ' ... to which we are to adhere' would be correct. ('Hold' is a transitive verb, taking a direct object. 'Adhere' is intransitive, taking an indirect object.)
    – Nigel J
    Mar 11 at 16:47
  • 1
    Thanks for correcting my correction =) Mar 11 at 18:31

1 Answer 1

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The short answer to the question is "Yes" - this is a standard Koine construction with the repeated use (to make a list of alternatives) of ειτε. Thus the meaning is:

  • either this or that
  • whether this or that
  • perhaps this or that

Note the longer lists in:

  • 1 Cor 3:22 - εἴτε Παῦλος εἴτε Ἀπολλῶς εἴτε Κηφᾶς, εἴτε κόσμος εἴτε ζωὴ εἴτε θάνατος, εἴτε ἐνεστῶτα εἴτε μέλλοντα, πάντα ὑμῶν = whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future. All of them belong to you
  • 1 Cor 13:8 - Ἡ ἀγάπη οὐδέποτε πίπτει· εἴτε δὲ προφητεῖαι, καταργηθήσονται· εἴτε γλῶσσαι, παύσονται· εἴτε γνῶσις, καταργηθήσεται. = Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
  • 1 Cor 12:13 - καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ Πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν, εἴτε Ἰουδαῖοι εἴτε Ἕλληνες, εἴτε δοῦλοι εἴτε ἐλεύθεροι. καὶ πάντες ἓν Πνεῦμα ἐποτίσθημεν. = For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink.

See also more examples in Rom 12:7, 1 Cor 8:5, 13:8, 14;7, 15:11, 2 Cor 5:9, 10, 2 Cor 12:3, etc, etc.

Ellicott says the same thing:

By word, or our epistle.—The “our” belongs to both:” whether by word or epistle of ours.” Unless, St. Paul had written them some other letter, now lost, this proves that the “First” Epistle was in reality the earlier written. “Have been taught” should be “were taught”—the historic tense.

This also means that "of us" applies to both the preached word and that found in Paul's letters. It also means that the "tradition" of the apostles is found in both sources as well. However, Matthew Poole observes:

whether by word or epistle, he calls by the name of traditions in the text here, and he commends the Corinthians, 1 Corinthians 11:2, that they kept the traditions delivered to them; but were not they all committed to writing in some place or other of his Epistles? And which were, and which were not, who can be certain? And why should traditions be confined only to those things which the apostle did not write? He exhorts the Thessalonians to hold the traditions which they had been taught, whether by word or epistle. And if they hold them with strength, as the word is, by this means they would stand fast.

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