Discontinous Syntax in 4 Maccabees

If you want to get a good grasp of how discontinuous phrases encode pragmatic functions such as Topic and Focus, go no farther than 4 Maccabees. You’ll pick it up quickly. Perhaps I’ll blog about it a bit this week.

I’ve put a few of them in bold, though not all (also note verses 3 & 4 with an interesting construction where both a genitive modifier as well as an adjective appear in the 1st Attributive position between the article and the noun):

1 Φιλοσοφώτατον λόγον ἐπιδείκνυσθαι μέλλων, εἰ αὐτοδέσποτός  ἐστιν τῶν παθῶν ὁ εὐσεβὴς λογισμός, συμβουλεύσαιμ̓ ἂν ὑμῖν ὀρθῶς ὅπως προσέχητε προθύμως τῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ. 2 καὶ γὰρ ἀναγκαῖος εἰς ἐπιστήμην παντὶ ὁ λόγος καὶ ἄλλως τῆς μεγίστης ἀρετῆς , λέγω δὴ φρονήσεως, περιέχει ἔπαινον. 3 εἰ ἄρα τῶν σωφροσύνης κωλυτικῶν παθῶν ὁ λογισμὸς φαίνεται ἐπικρατεῖν, γαστριμαργίας τε καὶ ἐπιθυμίας, 4 ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἐμποδιστικῶν παθῶν κυριεύειν ἀναφαίνεται, οἷον κακοηθείας, καὶ τῶν τῆς ἀνδρείας ἐμποδιστικῶν παθῶν, θυμοῦ τε καὶ φόβου καὶ πόνου. 5 πῶς οὖν, ἴσως εἴποιεν ἄν τινες, εἰ τῶν παθῶν ὁ λογισμὸς κρατεῖ, λήθης καὶ ἀγνοίας οὐ δεσπόζει; γελοῖον ἐπιχειροῦντες λέγειν. 6 οὐ γὰρ τῶν αὑτοῦ παθῶν ὁ λογισμὸς κρατεῖ, ἀλλὰ τῶν τῆς δικαιοσύνης καὶ ἀνδρείας καὶ σωφροσύνης ἐναντίων, καὶ τούτων οὐχ ὥστε αὐτὰ καταλῦσαι, ἀλλ̓ ὥστε αὐτοῖς μὴ εἶξαι. 7 πολλαχόθεν μὲν οὖν καὶ ἀλλαχόθεν ἔχοιμ̓ ἂν ὑμῖν ἐπιδεῖξαι ὅτι αὐτοκράτωρ ἐστὶν τῶν παθῶν ὁ λογισμός, 8 πολὺ δὲ πλέον τοῦτο ἀποδείξαιμι ἀπὸ τῆς ἀνδραγαθίας τῶν ὑπὲρ ἀρετῆς ἀποθανόντων, Ελεαζαρου τε καὶ τῶν ἑπτὰ ἀδελφῶν καὶ τῆς τούτων μητρός. 9 ἅπαντες γὰρ οὗτοι τοὺς ἕως θανάτου πόνους ὑπεριδόντες ἐπεδείξαντο ὅτι περικρατεῖ τῶν παθῶν ὁ λογισμός. 10 τῶν μὲν οὖν ἀρετῶν ἔπεστί μοι ἐπαινεῖν τοὺς κατὰ τοῦτον τὸν καιρὸν ὑπὲρ τῆς καλοκἀγαθίας ἀποθανόντας μετὰ τῆς μητρὸς ἄνδρας, τῶν δὲ τιμῶν μακαρίσαιμ̓ ἄν. 11 θαυμασθέντες γὰρ οὐ μόνον ὑπὸ πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐπὶ τῇ ἀνδρείᾳ καὶ ὑπομονῇ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπὸ τῶν αἰκισαμένων, αἴτιοι κατέστησαν τοῦ καταλυθῆναι τὴν κατὰ τοῦ ἔθνους τυραννίδα νικήσαντες τὸν τύραννον τῇ ὑπομονῇ ὥστε καθαρισθῆναι δἰ αὐτῶν τὴν πατρίδα. 12 ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ τούτου νῦν αὐτίκα δὴ λέγειν ἐξέσται ἀρξαμένῳ τῆς ὑποθέσεως, ὅπερ εἴωθα ποιεῖν, καὶ οὕτως εἰς τὸν περὶ αὐτῶν τρέψομαι λόγον δόξαν διδοὺς τῷ πανσόφῳ θεῷ.

The subject that I am about to discuss is most philosophical, that is, whether devout reason is sovereign over the emotions. So it is right for me to advise you to pay earnest attention to philosophy. 2 For the subject is essential to everyone who is seeking knowledge, and in addition it includes the praise of the highest virtue—I mean, of course, rational judgment. 3 If, then, it is evident that reason rules over those emotions that hinder self-control, namely, gluttony and lust, 4 it is also clear that it masters the emotions that hinder one from justice, such as malice, and those that stand in the way of courage, namely anger, fear, and pain. 5 Some might perhaps ask, “If reason rules the emotions, why is it not sovereign over forgetfulness and ignorance?” Their attempt at argument is ridiculous!a 6 For reason does not rule its own emotions, but those that are opposed to justice, courage, and self-control;b and it is not for the purpose of destroying them, but so that one may not give way to them.
7 I could prove to you from many and various examples that reason is dominant over the emotions, 8 but I can demonstrate it best from the noble bravery of those who died for the sake of virtue, Eleazar and the seven brothers and their mother. 9 All of these, by despising sufferings that bring death, demonstrated that reason controls the emotions. 10 On this anniversaryd it is fitting for me to praise for their virtues those who, with their mother, died for the sake of nobility and goodness, but I would also call them blessed for the honor in which they are held. 11 All people, even their torturers, marveled at their courage and endurance, and they became the cause of the downfall of tyranny over their nation. By their endurance they conquered the tyrant, and thus their native land was purified through them. 12 I shall shortly have an opportunity to speak of this; but, as my custom is, I shall begin by stating my main principle, and then I shall turn to their story, giving glory to the all-wise God. (NRSV, 4 Macc. 1:1-12)

2 thoughts on “Discontinous Syntax in 4 Maccabees

  1. It’s significant that this is a literate — i.e. a schooled — writer of Greek, one whose rhetorical training is evident.
    The hyperbata marked out in bold print in this passage are of two types, fundamentally:
    (1) Predicate word followed by the enclitic copula ἐστιν and the subject: (a) αὐτοδέσποτός ἐστιν τῶν παθῶν ὁ εὐσεβὴς λογισμός;(b) αὐτοκράτωρ ἐστὶν τῶν παθῶν ὁ λογισμός: this is a pretty standard configuration of this sort of clause;
    (2) Noun phrase with governing verb between attribute and substantive: (a) τῆς μεγίστης ἀρετῆς , λέγω δὴ φρονήσεως, περιέχει ἔπαινον (the fact that the parenthetical λέγω δὴ φρονήσεως follows upon the attribute doesn’t alter the construction; (b) εἰς τὸν περὶ αὐτῶν τρέψομαι λόγον: this is by no means an uncommon configuration in standard prose writing in both Greek and Latin in the Hellenistic era.

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