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I looked it up in the dictionary, and found "add". That word is where we get the word "prosthetic".

Young's Literal Translation says:

And while they are hearing these things, having added he spake a simile,

(emphasis mine), which I'm finding hard to parse.

and the ESV says:

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, ...

which apparently leaves out any translation of προσθεὶς, or at least, does not interpret a literal meaning of "adding" anything.

What does it mean? He's adding the parable to what he just said (I'm not sure that makes sense: The Parable of the Ten Minas doesn't have an immediate connection to the story about Zacchæus that I can discern), or something else?

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  • 2
    It strikes me as similar to the English idiom "He went on to say ..." Oct 4, 2023 at 19:31

5 Answers 5

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The ESV translated "proceeded" which is quite literal meaning of the Greek prostithemi. Wiktionary lists these words to define >προστίθημῐ • (prostíthēmi)

to put in front of
to hand over, deliver
to grant, bestow
to impose
to attribute, impute
to add, increase

LSJ states: "5. in LXX and NT, continue or repeat an action", which includes προσθεῖσα ἔτεκεν υἱόν she bore another son LXX Ge. 38.5, which suggests the word means to continue.

Since it is better to use "proceeded" than "having added" in English, the ESV should be preferred, or NASB, NJB "went on to tell a parable". It would be crude and poor English to simply translate word for word like RV, YLT "added and spoke", this kind of phrase is unnatural. The verse states this is parable is spoken immediately in continuation of the same teaching in context, there is no missing story to what he is adding something to, but he is simply continuing.

It should be noted that the YLT is an extremely misguided version which is based on an interlinear approach of word for word, ignoring the great difference of verbal aspect in the original languages. It should be avoided at all cost for students trying to learn the original languages or to study translations in detail, lest such bad translations will only cause confusions and misguidance. The YLT make amateur Bible students an easy target as most of us are initially obsessed with comparing translations, and then move towards an interlinear, mechanical type translation hoping for accuracy without learning the linguistic technicalities.

Michael Marlowe writes about the Young's translation:

Young's translation is designed to assist students in the close study of the Biblical text by reproducing in English the Hebrew and Greek idioms, in an exceedingly literal translation. In the New Testament his translation is based on the text of Estienne 1550..... It will be noticed that the English is highly unnatural. In the pursuit of minute accuracy, Young tries to represent the Greek tenses with certain English tenses consistently, he tries to adhere to the word-order of the original, and he consistently translates a Greek word with the same English word in all of its occurrences. But in doing these things, he often fails to give the sense of the Greek correctly in English. It is doubtful whether the translation is really of much help to those who do not know Greek, because here the English is being forced to observe rules of the Greek language. The reader must become familiar with Greek syntax and vocabulary in order to make sense of the English! Regarding Young's translation of the Old Testament, F.F. Bruce writes that "it is largely vitiated by an eccentric theory about the tenses of the Hebrew verb." (The English Bible: A History of Translations, p. 132.) The method of the translation and its rationale—including his theory of the Hebrew tenses—are fully explained in the Prefaces.

I recommend easy self learning methods and books to learn Greek (John Dobson's Learn NT Greek, and duolingo) rather than falling in the trap of bad translations.

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First of all, the verse you are referencing is Luke 19:11.

The Greek breaks down as follows:

“Ἀκουόντων δὲ αὐτῶν ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν διὰ τὸ ἐγγὺς εἶναι Ἱερουσαλὴμ αὐτὸν” (Λουκᾶν 19·11 THGNT-T)

The main thought is: "He spoke a parable because they were near Jerusalem." Luke adds the adverbial phrase at the front of the verse, "While they were listening to all these things, he added."

What does "he added" (from προστίθημι, "to place on top of something else") mean here? The grammar, BDF, gives this helpful detail for this usage of the verb:

  1. The use of special verbs to express an adverbial idea: ‘secretly, unconsciously’ can be expressed by λανθάνειν with a participle as in H 13:2 (§414(3)), otherwise by the adverb λάθρᾳ as also in classical (Mt 1:19 etc.). ‘Continuously, further, incessantly’ by διατελεῖν, ἐπιμένειν, οὐ διαλείπειν (§414(1)). ‘Again, further’ by various constructions:

(b) προσθεὶς εἶπεν Lk 19:11; s. also §419(5).

Additional Notes

(b) Lk 19:11 ‘he continued and told a parable’ (something he had not just done), i.e. like Polyb. 31.7.4 προσθέμενος ἐξηγεῖτο ‘he appended the narrative’. ‘To continue the preceding activity’ is Semitic idiom in the LXX references cited below; further ApocP 4 προσθεὶς ἔφη ‘he said further (again)’, Acta Phil. 10 (ii 2, 5.27 L.-B.) ἔτι δὲ προσθέντες λέγουσιν αὐτῷ.

(F. Blass, A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), paragraph 20.)

Your instinct is correct. Luke is letting us know that, on top of what he has just spoken, Jesus also added this parable to what was previously taught.

It seems like the ESV included the participle by adding the words, "he proceeded to." There is no verb for "proceeding to" in that verse. Even though the ESV promoters (esp. Ryken) like to promote it as being a formal translation, there are many examples where they take a more functional approach. This is one of them.

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προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν is a Hebraism to be understood as “he continued his parable”. Consider the phrase προσθεὶς...εἶπεν in Job 29:1 which translates the Hebrew וַיֹּסֶף אִיּוֹב שְׂאֵת מְשָׁלוֹ וַיֹּאמַֽר (“and Job continued his parable”).

Note LSJ on the verb προστίθημι,

  1. in LXX and NT, continue or repeat an action, c. inf., “προσέθηκεν ἔτι λαλῆσαι” LXX Ge.18.29; οὐ προσθήσω ἔτι πατάξαι ib.8.21; οὐ μὴ προσθῶ πεῖν I will not drink again, Ev.Marc.14.25 (v.l.); also προσθεὶς Ἰὼβ εἶπεν Job continued and said, LXXJb.27.1; “προσθεὶς εἶπε παραβολήν” Ev.Luc.19.11; προσθεῖσα ἔτεκεν υἱόν she bore another son, LXX Ge.38.5:—also in Med., v. infr. B.111.
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  • Agreed, I edited that part out of my OP to try to tidy it up. BDF writes: "The denial of all Hebrew influence by Crönert in Wessely, Stud. Pal. IV (1904) 85, and by Helb. p. iv is unjustified. Cf. LXX Job 27:1, 29:1, 36:1 προσθεὶς εἶπεν (λέγει), Gen 38:5 προσθεῖσα ἔτι ἔτεκεν (Thack. 52f.)"
    – Epimanes
    Oct 4, 2023 at 20:46
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I agree with the OP and BDAG that the primary and fundamental meaning of the verb προστίθημι (prostithémi) is to "add" to something. This is perfectly illustrated by its use in Matthew:

  • Matt 6:27 - And who of you by worrying is able to add one cubit to his stature?
  • Matt 6:33 - But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

Indeed, BDAG offers two basic meanings of this word:

  1. to add to something that is already present or exists, add, put to, eg, (a) of things: Mark 4:24, Luke 17:5, Gal 3:19, Heb 12:19, etc. (b) of persons who are added to a group: Acts 2:47, 41, 5:14, 11:24, etc. (c) In accord with Hebrew usage, the adverbs the adverbs "again", "further", & similar, Luke 19:11, Mark 14:25, Luke 20:11, Acts 12:3.
  2. to add as a benefit, provide, give, grant, do, eg, Luke 17:5, Matt 6:33, Luke 12:31.

Thus, in Luke 19:11 we read (BLB):

While they were hearing these things, having proceeded, He spoke a parable because of His being near Jerusalem and of their thinking that the kingdom of God is about to appear immediately.

Thus, Jesus is adding to His teaching by adding a parable; that is, He added/proceeded in His teaching.

APPENDIX - Noun

Note that the cognate noun to προστίθημι (prostithémi) is πρόθεσις (prothesis) which has come directly into technical English usage meaning, to add something in a medical procedure to the body.

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The Greek construction ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν in Luke 19:11 can be clarified by comparing it to a similar Greek construction found in 2 Samuel 2:22, specifically προσέθετο ἔτι Αβεννηρ λέγων (prosetheto eti Abennēr legōn).

Let's start with the analysis of the Greek construction in Luke 19:11:

Luke 19:11

"Ἀκουοντων δὲ αὐτῶν ταῦτα προσθεὶς εἶπεν παραβολὴν διὰ τὸ ἐγγίζειν αὐτὸν Ἰερουσαλημ, καὶ δοκεῖν αὐτοὺς ὅτι παραχρῆμα μέλλει ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἀναφαίνεσθαι."

The construction προσθεὶς (prostheis) comes from προστίθημι (prostithēmi), which can be translated as "to add," "to join," "to present," or "to proceed." In the context of Luke 19:11, it signifies that Jesus "proceeded" or "added" something to what had already been said, introducing a parable.

Now, let's analyze the Greek construction in 2 Samuel 2:22:

2 Samuel 2:22 :

"καὶ προσέθετο ἔτι Αβεννηρ λέγων τῷ Ασαηλ ἀπόστηθι ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ ἵνα μὴ πατάξω σε εἰς τὴν γῆν καὶ πῶς ἀρῶ τὸ πρόσωπόν μου πρὸς Ιωαβ καὶ ποῦ ἐστιν ταῦτα ἐπίστρεφε πρὸς Ιωαβ τὸν ἀδελφόν σου."

In this context, προσέθετο (prosetheto) also means "added" or "proceeded." Abner is proceeding with his words, reiterating his warning to Asahel.

Therefore, the comparative analysis of the Greek constructions in Luke 19:11 and 2 Samuel 2:22 suggests that προσέθετο (prosetheto) indicates the action of proceeding, adding, or continuing with something in the discourse, whether it's a parable in Luke 19:11 or Abner's warning words in 2 Samuel 2:22.

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