Stephen Carlson wrote on Thursday, January 31, 2002:
> My take on the plural verb in Mark 16:6 is that it is an instance of
> using a 3d person plural in an impersonal or indefinite construction. See
> BDF § 130(2) "For 'one' it is much more customary to employ the 3rd plur.
> (without subject). The range of ideas expressed by verbs so used has been
> enlarged under the influence of Aramaic (which is not found of the
> See also N. Turner, pp. 216-7, in Elliott, ed., THE LANGUAGE AND STYLE OF
> THE GOSPEL OF MARK (Brill, 1993). Therefore, the plurality of the subject
> is not really present here.
[My response to Stephen which follows was sent originally to Synoptic-L, where
he had posted his reply]
You are quite correct that EQHKAN could serve in 16:6 to refer to "one" and that
it is possible plurality with respect to subject is not intended here. But I
find it quite curious that no English translation that I am aware of, incuding
those in reputable scholarly commentaries, translate EQHKAN other than as third
person plural with unspecified subject, namely, "they laid.".
For example, I quote Gundry_Mark_ (992): "'Look, the place where they put him!'
underscores Jesus' not being here, i.e underscores that the fullfilment of his
prediction in 14:28 has already started. The exclamatory use of 'look' (N.B.
that IDE is singular though the women are plural, and is not followed by an
accusative of direct object) and of 'the place where they put him' (N.B. that
the nominative hO TOPOS has no verb) and the asyndeton which introduces both
'look' and 'the place where they put him' intensify the emphasis. 'Here' and
'where they put him' hark back to the two Marys' 'observing where he was put'
(15:47). Mark likes indefinite third person plural verbs. Here, 'they'
betrays his hand; for though Joseph of Arimathea doubtless had help, 15:46
mentions only Joseph as putting Jesus in the tomb (15:46)."
Now, several things I observe in Gundry's exposition on the grammatical and
stylistic character of Mark's rhetoric in 16:6. He notes the fact, as you note
also below, that Mark has used IDE (singular) when the young man is addressing
women (plural). He notes that hO TOPOS (nominative) lacks a verb, and that
Mark uses an asynedetic construction. He notes, further, that Mark has a liking
for verbs in the third person plural, of which EQHKAN is one. However, he
does not make any mention of the possibility that EQHKAN is to be understood as
refering to singular unspecified subject, namely, 'one.' In fact, Gundry
repeatedly through the paragraph cited translates EQHKAN as a referencing a
plural but unspecified subject, namely, "they." Moreover, he goes on to say
that Mark in using EQHKAN, meaning "'they' laid him," "*betrays* his hand"
because, if I am understanding him correctly, Mark in 15:46 referenced a
singular subject, Joseph, when he penned the third person singular EQHKEN, even
though "doubtless" Joseph must have had help (putting, thereby, a collective
spin on the meaning of EQHKEN) in bury Jesus.
Thus, in Gundry's mind, if I am understanding him correctly, and all English
translators that I know of take Mark literally in his use of EQHKAN. Third
person plural means third person plural: "EQHKAN ("'They' laid").
>If that be the case, why did Matthew avoid rendering Mark's EQHKAN AUTON in
> >version of Mk.16:6 and replace the Markan EQHKAN AUTON with EKEITO (Mt.
> >And why did Luke avoid using the section of the Markan text of 16:6 which
> >contains EQHKAN AUTON? Yet, each seem to be quite comfortable with
> >the Markan EQHKEN of Mk.15:47: Mt.=EQHKEN AUTO; Lk.= EQHKEN AUTON. In
> >consider the following parallel comparison of Mark, Matthew and Luke with
> >respect to the text at issue (Mk. 15:46/Mt. 27:59f./lk. 23:53), and note how
> >closely Matthew and Luke adhere to the Markan vocabulary and syntax in their
> >appropriation of the section of the text containing EQHKEN AUTON. And note
> >they seem to exercise more variation in the rest of the text.
> If you look at the entire clause, IDE hO TOPOS hOPOU EQHKEN AUTON, there is
> little in it that commends itself as good high-register, literary Greek. For
> example, the singular IDE is applied to plural women, the nominative hO TOPOS
> follows where an accusative is more appropriate, and the verb EQHKAN functions
> as an impersonal passive. Matthew and Luke's aversion (on the assumption of
> Markan priority) is merely due to the colloquial nature of the entire clause:
> it is begging for a rewrite in more sophisiticated Greek. Given all these
> issues in the entire clause, I don't think is warranted to attribute the
> editorial behavior of Matthew and Luke strictly to a perceived narrative
> problem inferred from the 3d pers. plural EQHKAN.
I agree that Mark's Greek is not sophisticated Greek and that Matthew and Luke
try to raise the level of Mark's Greek in appropriating his texts for their
compositions. I do not, however, think it is clear in this case that
dissatisfaction with Mark's pedestrian Greek is the primary reason for doing
surgery on Mark's use of EQHKAN in 16:6. Given some interesting correspondence
between the use of EQHKAN in the texts of CG as I have noted, I think Mark may
have inadvertently and under the influence of the CG text, penned EQHKAN when he
meant EQHKEN. And Matthew and Luke caught the error and, in the case of
Matthew, corrected it along with the other Markan stylistic weaknesses.
My argument for my theory that Mark may well have used CG as a source for
composing his burial and empty-tomb stories is a cumulative one. I am not
placing all "my eggs" in the basket of a Markan error in 16:6. I am suggesting
it is plausible to see Mk. 16:6 as an error, and Gundry, for one, appears to
view it that way. CG offers an explanation for the error, and if additional
examples from CG account for other "odd" features of the Markan empty-tomb
story, in particular, then that gives more weight to the plausibility that 16:6
is an instance of Markan editorial fatigue.
Stephen, I appreciate and value your critical feedback. I hope we can continue
the dialogue as I post more parts of my theory.