Grammatical Diagram of Luke 14:28-30

As promised, I went through Luke 14:28-30 and completed a grammatical diagram. Click here to see the PDF. (I used unicode with SBL Greek font, so hopefully it will show up properly for you! If you don’t have SBL Greek, you can download it here. It’s free, and is fun to type in.)


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The Grammatical Structure of Luke 14:29

Another quandary brought to you by Greek Tutorial. This week I was reading through Luke 14:25-30 with a couple of students, and verse 29 proved to be, shall we say, especially interesting. I’d like to examine the grammatical structure of the pericope to get a feel for what’s going on in Luke 14:29. Here’s 14:28-30:

[28] Τίς γὰρ ἐξ ὑμῶν θέλων πύργον οἰκοδομῆσαι οὐχὶ πρῶτον καθίσας ψηφίζει τὴν δαπάνην, εἰ ἔχει εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν; [29] ἴνα μήποτε θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι πάντες οἰ θεωροῦντες ἄρξωνται αὐτῷ ἐμπαίζειν [30] λέγοντες ὅτι οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἤρζατο οἰκοδομεῖν καὶ οὐκ ἴσχυσεν ἐκτελέσαι.

In verse 28, τὶς (nom masc sg) is matched by the participle θέλων (nom masc sg pres act ptc), and is modified by the genitive phrase ἐξ ὑμῶν to read, “For, who among you desiring”. The participle θέλων belongs to the infinitive οἰκοδομῆσαι which gives us the content of the desire, “to build.” The direct object of οἰκοδομῆσαι is the accusative masculine singular πύργον, “a tower.”

This phrase so far: “For anyone from among you desiring to build a tower”.

Next, οὐχὶ negates ψηφίζει, “does he not calculate,” which takes τὴν δαπάνην as its object, “does he not calculate the cost.”  ψηφίζει is modified by the attendant circumstance participle καθίσας, which describes the action that goes on as the person calculates the cost: “does he not, sitting down, calculate the cost”. The next clause, εἰ ἔχει εἰς ἀπαρτισμόν, appears to be a purpose clause (though this verse is missing an infinitive like “to see” or “to determine” to nicely shape this into a recognizable purpose clause), indicating why he calculates: “if he has [what is needed] for completion”.

This whole first verse is a question, noted by the interrogative form of τίς (which is anarthrous when it functions as an indefinite pronoun), and the Greek question mark ; at the end: “For who among you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down [and] calculate the cost [to determine] if he has [what is needed] for completion?” (Feel free to quibble with these conclusions; there is lots of room to move here in my understanding of the syntax!)

Moving on to verse 29. ἴνα starts this verse, which always introduces the subjunctive mood. The arrangement of this verse is a little odd, though, because the subjunctive verb, ἄρξωνται, is almost at the end of the verse. Immediately after ἴνα, the clause μήποτε θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον καὶ μὴ ἰσχύοντος ἐκτελέσαι is inserted before the ἴνα is completed. However, this arrangement may not be so strange, considering that ἴνα and μήποτε can function together as “a strengthened form of ἴνα μή” (Marshall [1978], “The Gospel of Luke,” 594). And according to BDAG, this ἴνα μήποτε combination is often used for denoting purpose, “(in order) that . . . not, often expressing apprehension” (BDAG, 648-2b).

With this in mind, verse 29 looks a little friendlier. (If I had thought to look at BDAG last night with those Greek students, I could have been a little more helpful!) After the ἴνα μήποτε construction we find a genitive absolute θέντος αὐτοῦ θεμέλιον, “he placed a foundation,” followed by the participle ἰσχύντος, negated by μή, “not being able,” and its complementary infinitive ἐκτελέσαι, which completes the thought, “not being able to complete [it]”.

So far in verse 29 we have: “In order that he does not place a foundation, and, not being able to complete it”.

The consequence of this ill-conceived plan is that “all who see it should begin to mock him.” πάντες is modified by the adjectival participle οἰ θεωροῦντες, “all who see,” and is the subject of  ἄρξωνται. ἄρξωνται takes ἐμπαίζειν as its complementary infinitive, “begin to mock.” αὐτῷ likely refers to the uncompleted tower, rather than the builder.

This verse all together states, “In order that he does not place a foundation, and, being unable to complete it, all who see it should begin to mock him”.

Verse 30 tells us the content of their mocking, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” (You can hear Nelson from The Simpsons in the background saying his customary, “Hah hah!”)

I was going to do a grammatical diagram of this as well, but I’ve run out of time! Tune in next time for that.

There are many details I didn’t focus on — again, time being the issue. There is just never enough time for exegesis!

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Luke 14:18, πάντες ἀπὸ μιᾶς (update)

According to Liddell-Scott-Jones’ Greek-English Lexicon, ἀπὸ μιᾶς means “with one accord,” as found in Eu. Luc 14.18 (LSJ 492, εἷς entry). This is very similar to Marshall’s “unanimously.” I’m pretty satisfied now.


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Luke 14:18, πάντες ἀπὸ μιᾶς

In Jesus’ story in Luke 14:18, a servant is sent to invite the guests for a feast, but none of them want to come. In response, Luke writes, καὶ ήρξαντο πάντες ἀπὸ μιᾶς παραιτεῖτσθαι (“and all unanimously began to make excuses”). The use of the feminine singular genitive μίας is confusing. There is no syntactical reason for it. According to I. Howard Marshall, “ἀπὸ μιᾶς is probably a Greek phrase (sc. γρώμης) meaning ‘unanimously’ . . . rather than a literal translation of [the Aramaic] min hada, ‘all at once, immediately'” (p. 588 from Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, NIGTC, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978).

At Greek tutorial last night, students were asking about μίας, and I had no clue what to say other than, “Check BDAG and see if πάντα or ἀπό works with μία in any idiomatic ways.” If Marshall is write, that appears to be the case.

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Pocket Paradigms for Biblical Greek


It’s been a few weeks, and I’m finally finished. In my spare time I’ve been putting together a little book of Greek paradigms to aid me in reading through the Greek New Testament. For a few years I’ve been looking for a pocket handbook for paradigms, similar to Mark Futato’s Pocket Paradigms for Biblical Hebrew, but haven’t found anything comparable. And since it’s annoying to lug around textbooks all the time, I compiled charts from a few standard textbooks, and with the magic of Microsoft Publisher, produced a Pocket Paradigms for Biblical Greek. (This confirms my descent into extreme nerdom.) If anyone has come across a paradigms book for Greek, I’d be very interested to take a look at it, to compare what it includes, and all that.


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Luke 14:12-14, Dinner Invitation Etiquette and the Grace of God

Last night while reading through Luke 14 with some Greek tutor students, I was struck by something Jesus said to the host of the dinner he attended. Jesus told him, “Whenever you should hold a meal or dinner, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, or your wealthy neighbours since they might invite you in return, and you might be repaid” (v. 12). Instead, Jesus tells him to invite the crippled, the maimed, the blind, and the poor — those who have no means to repay the gift of hospitality (v. 13). Jesus declares to him that “you will be blessed because they do not have [the means] to repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14).

This resembles exhortations Jesus gave elsewhere, such as Luke 6:32-36,

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Or like Jesus’ instruction on acts of righteousness in Matthew 6:1-4,

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

From Jesus’ words in Luke 14, it seems that there is no repayment (from God) for giving to those who have the means to give back to you. Repayment is received from the friend or relative or neighbour who does for you what you did for him. But God repays those who give out of grace with no hope of repayment. From the contexts of Luke 6 and Matthew 6, it is also clear that God rewards those who do these good things in secret rather than in plain view for the sake of a pat on the back, or the elevation of one’s status among his/her peers.

This is a big deal. Jesus wants us as his followers to be looking out for those who are truly down and out, to get our love working and acting in the real world. Inviting such people means also that your time is spent with them, and not only your food consumed by them. This isn’t just food-bank-filling. This is ministering truly and personally to those who have real need.

And in a very real way, this action is a picture of what God, in Jesus, already has done, and does each day, for us. He has given the gift of his love, his grace, his Fatherhood, his Son, the promise of his enduring presence — all things we can never repay. In this way in all of these passages, Jesus calls us to imitate the way the Father gives to us: out of grace.

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Participial Fun

Tonight was the first of many Tuesday nights that I will spend with aspiring Greek students as a Greek tutor. This evening I had a great deal of fun (I’m actually being serious!) explaining the differences between adjectival (specifically substantival) and adverbial participles. I remember when the world of Greek participles was opened to me, and so I felt very purposeful in trying to clear some of the fog looming over the students’ heads. “Look for the article,” I told them. And by the end of the hour and a half, they were looking, and, I hope, to a slightly increased degree, understanding. Greek Syntax is definitely the most challenging semester of the first four. Hopefully by Christmas these students will look at syntax with some measure of confidence rather than despair. That is my mission.

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