An example of evaluating grammatical evidence

In my prior post I set up an Accordance search to find evidence similar to the construction found in Philippians 3:10. The results of the search are actually quite limited. The only occurrence in the NT is the verse in question, Phil 3:10. I looked a little further afield into the LXX and found 31 verses which satisfied the search. Some of the results (like Dan 4:32) were false hits, but many were exactly what I was looking for. A very interesting hit was Nehemiah 9:32, which met the parameters of my search and then some. Here’s the text with the verb and accusatives in bold and the conjunction in italics:

“And now, our strong, great, mighty and awesome God, in keeping the covenant and your mercy, let all the hardship not be treated lightly before you, which found us and our kings and our rulers and our priests and our prophets and our fathers and among all your people from the days of the kings of Assour even until this day” (NETS).[1]

A brief review of these passages in the LXX led me to the conclusion that all the conjunctions here should be considered connective; there wasn’t a passage which used the following accusative nouns to clarify or explain the pronoun which occurs first in the sequence. That would be good evidence that the first conjunction in Phil 3:10 should be considered connective, not explicative, as well. But it’s worthwhile to ask why anyone would think differently. Thinking through contrary evidence is just as helpful and important as thinking through supportive evidence. The answer here in my view lies in the order and semantic content of the words. Here’s the relevant portion of Phil 3:10 again:

τοῦ γνῶναι αὐτὸν καὶ τὴν δύναμιν τῆς ἀναστάσεως αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν κοινωνίαν τῶν παθημάτων αὐτοῦ
"to know him _____ the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings

If each of the two occurrences of καί were to be considered connective, one could reasonably expect a similar semantic weight between the three terms which are connected, but that is not really what we have. The pronoun αὐτόν refers to Christ and although specific in terms of referent it is quite general in its semantic content. This is analogous to when a young man says to a young lady, “I’d like to know you better.” He says “you” but doesn’t really intend everything about her; rather he means a specific aspect of her existence: her preferences, hobbies, interests, etc. Contrary to the pronoun are the two following nouns. With their genitive modifiers they are more specific in content: “the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings.” So Paul goes from general to specific to specific. It would make a great deal of sense for Paul to clarify the first general idea with more specific ones. On that basis then the first καί could reasonably be considered as offering a clarification or explanation, while the second one is simply connective. In the next post I will decide between the two options.

  1. Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright, eds., A New English Translation Of The Septuagint (Oxford: OUP, 2007).  ↩