How to research this?

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Dominick Sela | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Nov 16 2010 10:42 AM

The subject of my investigation is Luke 19:-4, and specifically who is "small in stature" - (ESV) - who the "he" is. I have read  a lot of commentaries, it seems to me universally the "he" who is small in stature is Zaccheus.  Someone told me it could just as easily be Jesus, given the use of "he".  Now I did some looking at syntax graphs, and I look at the frankly ambiguous use of "he" in those two verses, and not being a linguist I see the cause for uncertainty. But is this so?

How could I research the validity of this opinion in Logos? Is there a particular approach that would offer a more conclusive proof? I figure there must be a way as it seems everyone I have read says it is Zaccheus, I must not be looking int he right place.

Thanks!

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Jerry M | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 16 2010 11:14 AM

I don't know if I can answer your question, but if you read Luke 7:2 you will find the same issue.  If you read Luke 7:2 in the NAS it sounds like the centurion's slave was highly regarded by Jesus rather than the centurion.  The ESV corrects this by making sure that you understand that the subject has changed to the centurion.  English has different ways of indicating who the subject is than Greek, but often I don't  think you can tell by grammar alone, but by common sense.  In Greek I believe it is often indicated by grammatical agreement.  If the grammar is ambiguous, I just try to follow the flow of thought to determine the subject of the sentence or clause.

"For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power"      Wiki Table of Contents

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Mike Aubrey | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 16 2010 11:28 AM

Dominick Sela:
I figure there must be a way as it seems everyone I have read says it is Zaccheus, I must not be looking int he right place.

Languages have basic patterns for how missing subjects are marked in linked clauses. There is no subject in the Greek text.

In English you could have the sentence:

"The woman hit the man and fell down."

Who fell down? The man or the woman?

Your interpretation is always going to be the woman because of the way English syntax works.

Greek is like English -- though not every language is, some languages would answer that the man fell down.

So when we have a list of coordinate and subordinate clauses linked with no subject:

 

  • (literal rendering of the Greek -- anything in brackets does not appear in the Greek text)
  • And there was a man called by the name Zacchaeus 
  • and he was a chief tax collector
  • and he was rich
  • and was trying to see who Jesus was
  • and was not able because of the crowd
  • because [he] was short in stature
  • and running ahead [he] climbed up into a sycamore tree,
  • so that [he] could see him.
  • because that [one/persons] was going to go through. 

 

Because Zacchaeus is the subject in verse 2, he must continue to be the subject of each following clause in verse 3 until a new explicit subject is introduced.

We don't get a new subject until that [one/persons] at the end of verse 4.

That's why Zacchaeus is the only option for who is short.

Dominick Sela:
How could I research the validity of this opinion in Logos? Is there a particular approach that would offer a more conclusive proof?

I don't know how you could find this kind of information in Logos. Your best bet would be Steve Runge's grammar. I would recommend an introductory book on grammatical analysis. 

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 16 2010 11:32 AM

"He" is not specific as your friend may have pointed out. It could refer to either Jesus or Zacchaeus. The flow of the verse in English, however, follows the flow of the Greek. In Greek, the 'he' at the beginning of verse 3, then the implied subject of the verb translated "was unable" are both Zacchaeus (note that to make the first reference clear the NAS inserts the word 'Zacchaeus in verse 3, but it follows from the end of verse 1). The general rule in Greek as in English is to indicate a change in the person a relative pronoun refers to if there is a change in mid-statement. Luke does not do this. So the rule would be that the referent to "was small in stature" is Zacchaeus.

Edit: I see Mike has given you a much more complete answer.

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 16 2010 11:43 AM

Well, nobody else seems to have trouble finding Jesus in crowds (think of the woman with the haemorrhage in Mark 5:24-34). And we have no other reason to believe Jesus was unusually short. In Luke 2:52 it says "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature." I think the context supports the understanding of "he" referring to Zaccheus. He had to climb a tree to see over the crowd. 

[I wrote this before seeing the excellent answers others gave you about the syntax]

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 16 2010 11:45 AM

Rosie Perera:
And we have no other reason to believe Jesus was unusually short.

A good point. It would also be a strange place to introduce a detail like this when it had never been mentioned by Luke before.

Besides my kids' church song book say "Zaachaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he..." That is external evidence for Zacchaeus' smallness of stature. Wink

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Bridgeport, CT USA

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Dominick Sela | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 16 2010 12:13 PM

Good points all, thanks, and I especially enjoyed the grammar lessons/insights!

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