Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post Reply
User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5067
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by Paidion » Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:45 pm

Almost every translation renders Hebrews 1:6 as, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." Yet the word "God" is in the nominative case rather than the vocative case. The nominative case is used as the subject of a verb.

The Greek does use the vocative case in addressing God. In Mark 15:34 and Matthew 27:46, it is recorded that Jesus cried out to God, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In these passages "God" is in the vocative case, the case of direct address.

But in Hebrews 1:6, the word "God" is in the nominative case, the case used as subject. So why isn't it translated as subject?
If it were it would be translated as "God is your throne, forever and ever."

I am aware of only one translation that has "God is your throne" and that is the New World Translation of Jehovah's witnesses. But many dismiss that translation on the ground that JWs reject the belief that Jesus is God. However, it is insufficient to reject their translation on that ground. We need to consider the Greek grammar of the statement. If the writer had meant that God were addressed, then why didn't he use the case of address, namely the vocative case?
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 83.

mikew
Posts: 418
Joined: Fri Aug 22, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: so. calif

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by mikew » Wed Jan 20, 2021 2:49 pm

I don't have any personal knowledge on this but thought to check a commentary for you. (I forget how much you rely on commentaries.) This may help a little for those curious about the issue you raise.

The Hermeneia makes this observation on Heb 1:8
Although it may have involved an address to the king as god, it is more likely to be construed as a predication, in parallelism with the following verse, to be rendered “your throne is (a throne) of God, eternal.”89 The LXX rendering is ambiguous, since the form used for “God” is nominative. It is, however, possible, even in classical Greek, to use the nominative for the vocative,90 and in the LXX91 and the New Testament this usage is common. That

Attridge, Harold W., and Helmut Koester. The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989.

It sounds like the parallelism reinforces the vocative reading.

User avatar
backwoodsman
Posts: 509
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:32 am
Location: Not quite at the ends of the earth, but you can see it from here.

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by backwoodsman » Thu Jan 21, 2021 11:06 am

Paidion wrote:
Fri Dec 04, 2020 6:45 pm
Almost every translation renders Hebrews 1:6 as, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever." Yet the word "God" is in the nominative case rather than the vocative case.
[,,,]
But in Hebrews 1:6, the word "God" is in the nominative case, the case used as subject. So why isn't it translated as subject?
If it were it would be translated as "God is your throne, forever and ever."
Robertson says it's unclear which case it is, but says either makes good sense. I know nothing about Greek cases, but tend to agree that it works either way.

Vincent says that, while he goes with the vocative, the translation of the Hebrew (Ps 45:6) is doubtful.

The Cambridge Bible points out that, while the LXX doesn't use the vocative, all ancient writers seem to have understood the Hebrew in a way that corresponds to the Greek vocative.

What authority are you following in saying it's nominative?
I am aware of only one translation that has "God is your throne" and that is the New World Translation of Jehovah's witnesses. But many dismiss that translation on the ground that JWs reject the belief that Jesus is God. However, it is insufficient to reject their translation on that ground.
I don't recall hearing that given as the reason to reject the NWT, but it's possible I heard but didn't notice it. I only recall hearing it's because they deliberately inject their beliefs into the text, which seems to me a very good reason. The occasional slip-up by a translator is one thing, but doing it deliberately and systematically to support one's otherwise Biblically unsupportable belief system is intellectually dishonest. The only other translation I'm aware of that does that is Witness Lee's Recovery Version.

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5067
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by Paidion » Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:51 pm

Backwoodsman wrote:What authority are you following in saying it's nominative?
By the authority of Hellenistic Greek grammar, which I spent a year studying at the Winnipeg Bible Institute, and an additional 3 years of studying at the University of Manitoba, where I received a BSc degree.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 83.

User avatar
backwoodsman
Posts: 509
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:32 am
Location: Not quite at the ends of the earth, but you can see it from here.

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by backwoodsman » Fri Jan 22, 2021 12:10 pm

Paidion wrote:
Thu Jan 21, 2021 4:51 pm
By the authority of Hellenistic Greek grammar, which I spent a year studying at the Winnipeg Bible Institute, and an additional 3 years of studying at the University of Manitoba, where I received a BSc degree.
Does it really seem reasonable to you that that little bit of study would make you a higher authority on New Testament Greek than those for whom it was a life's work, who were among the foremost authorities of their generation? That doesn't mean they're always unquestionably right, of course, but it does mean one would need a pretty solid basis on which to disagree with them. It seems wisdom and humility would suggest you think that through a little more carefully.

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5067
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by Paidion » Fri Jan 22, 2021 3:35 pm

I haven't claimed to be a "higher authority" than anyone else. It's just plain Greek.

Why should I believe a ridiculous aberration of plain Greek grammar? If the nominative case can be used as a vocative, one would expect to find more than one instance of such a use.

Would you accept the "English grammar" of the sentence, "I ain't got no money" just because a supposed important personage uttered it?

Why not translate the sentence using the nominative in the normal way—as the subject?

"God is your throne, for ever and ever."
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 83.

User avatar
Homer
Posts: 2705
Joined: Sat Aug 23, 2008 11:08 pm

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by Homer » Sat Jan 23, 2021 2:32 pm

Hi Paidion,

You may find the following of interest:
The question is a bit simplistic. The answer is that all occurrences of θεός in Heb. 1:8–9 are in fact nominative. Anyone who can read a declension table can tell you that. But, that isn’t actually the real question, which is, “Are all occurrences of θεός in Heb. 1:8–9 functioning as nominatives?” The answer to that question is, “No.”

Ηʹ πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεός εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου Θʹ ἠγάπησας δικαιοσύνην καὶ ἐμίσησας ἀνομίαν διὰ τοῦτο ἔχρισέν σε ὁ θεός ὁ θεός σου ἔλαιον ἀγαλλιάσεως παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου

We should note that the author explicitly states that verse 8 is said “to the Son” (πρὸς τὸν υἱόν). In v. 8, both «ὁ θρόνος σου» and «ὁ θεός» are declined in the nominative case, which, unless they are in apposition, is nonsensical, as both could not be the subject of the sentence. It is highly improbable that «ὁ θρόνος σου» is a nominative functioning as a vocative, but quite possible (and indeed, likely) that «ὁ θεός» is, especially considering the preceding «πρὸς τὸν υἱόν». Hence, the clause would begin:

8 O’ God (vocative address to the Son), your throne is eternal...

We have the same predicament concerning the occurrence of double nominatives in the next verse, v. 9: «ὁ θεός ὁ θεός σου». As before, one of these nominatives is functioning as a vocative, while the other is the subject of the clause (i.e., functioning nominatively).

9 You loved righteousness and hated iniquity. Therefore, O’ God (vocative address to the Son), your God (the Father) anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions.

If the nominative-for-vocative ὁ θεός in vv. 8–9 (one in each) refers to the Son, then the ὁ θεός functioning nominatively in v. 9 is the Father, as it is written in Acts 10:38 that the Father anointed the Lord Jesus Christ:
Quote is from a discussion at:
https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/ ... r-vocative

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5067
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by Paidion » Sat Jan 23, 2021 6:03 pm

We should note that the author explicitly states that verse 8 is said “to the Son” (πρὸς τὸν υἱόν). In v. 8, both «ὁ θρόνος σου» and «ὁ θεός» are declined in the nominative case, which, unless they are in apposition, is nonsensiboth could not be the subject of the sentence. It is highly improbable that «ὁ θρόνος σου» is a nominative functioning as a vocative, but quite possible (and indeed, likely) that «ὁ θεός» is, especially considering the preceding «πρὸς τὸν υἱόν». Hence, the clause would begin:

8 O’ God (vocative address to the Son), your throne is eternal...
If the author 'explicitly states that verse 8 is said “to the Son” (πρὸς τὸν υἱόν)' then why do the following translations render the phrase "of the Son", or "about the Son" or "concerning the Son" or "regarding the Son?
ASV, BBE, Diaglot, ESV, HCSB, LEB, NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV, Williams, and Weymouth

Also, the phrase in Greek is not "πρὸς τὸν υἱόν" but rather "προς δε τον υιον". (Ι discovered again how to shift languages on the keyboard.)
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 83.

User avatar
backwoodsman
Posts: 509
Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:32 am
Location: Not quite at the ends of the earth, but you can see it from here.

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by backwoodsman » Mon Jan 25, 2021 12:08 pm

Paidion wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 3:35 pm
I haven't claimed to be a "higher authority" than anyone else. It's just plain Greek.
You haven't explicity stated it in this thread, but you're clearly placing your own knowledge above that of the definitive Greek scholars. In a past thread you claimed your own knowledge of Greek as your authoritative source even though you were directly contradicting Robertson, Nicoll, Alford, and Zodhiates.
Why should I believe a ridiculous aberration of plain Greek grammar?
Because guys who know a whole lot more Greek than you do say it's right and you're wrong. No doubt you've heard the saying, "You don't know what you don't know." It means, when you know a little about something, you might get to thinking you know everything about it, but you have no idea how much more there really is to know about it. So it's wise not to draw conclusions from your very limited knowledge that contradict those who really do know.

I'm not trying to convince you of anything; as this is a public forum, I simply think readers should be informed how far some of your statements about Greek meanings differ from the authoritative sources.

User avatar
Paidion
Posts: 5067
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 10:22 pm
Location: Back Woods of North-Western Ontario

Re: Did the writer to the Hebrews use the nominative case as a vocative?

Post by Paidion » Tue Jan 26, 2021 5:13 pm

Backwoodsman wrote:No doubt you've heard the saying, "You don't know what you don't know." It means, when you know a little about something, you might get to thinking you know everything about it, but you have no idea how much more there really is to know about it. So it's wise not to draw conclusions from your very limited knowledge that contradict those who really do know.
Well, bully for you for possessing sufficient knowledge to be able to distinguish those who "really know" from us poor saps who merely have "very limited knowledge"!
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

Avatar shows me at 75 years old. I am now 83.

Post Reply

Return to “Acts & Epistles”