Saturday, November 03, 2012

The Etymological Significance of the Preposition DIA

Romans 11:36 has DIA + the genitive which can be translated either as "through" or "by." Either translation is able to communicate the notion of intermediate agency, I would say. Colossians 1:16 is also DIA + genitive and Hebrews 2:10 is DIA + the genitive case (DI' hOU). What will determine how one renders the construction should be context or translator preference. But, as I see it, nothing is wrong with communicating agency with "through" or "by." BDAG shows that DIA may be used as a "marker of instrumentality or circumstance whereby someth. is accomplished or effected, by, via, through" (page 224); DIA can also be a "marker of pers. agency, through, by" (BDAG, 225).

In John 1:3, 10; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16, DIA is used of "Christ as intermediary in the creation of the world" (BDAG, 225).

I examined a number of grammars that I own and one helpful resource I found was A.T. Robertson's A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. On p. 580, Robertson quotes Delbruck who has "nothing to say" about the origin of DIA. Nevertheless, Robertson proceeds to offer a number of illuminating comments on this Greek preposition, wherein he notes that "there is no doubt about DIA being kin to DUO, DIS. (cf. Sanskrit DVIS, Greek DIS, b = v or U); German ZWEI; English two (fem. and neut.), twain (masc.), twi-ce, twi-light, be-tween, two-fold, etc."


Anonymous said...

Don't stop your Blogs. I learn a lot with these type of post. Thank You. Can you expound upon the Greek words, pronunciation and meaning as you blog. I would appreciate it. Thanks again.

aservantofJehovah said...

Would it be proper to speak of "en"and"dia"as synonyms?

Edgar Foster said...

Philip: I'll try to post issues that revolve around Greek along with other matters. In order to save time, the blog posts normally are culled from things I've previously studied.

AservantofJehovah: I believe en and dia are synonyms (overlapping relations is one linguistic term). See 2 Corinthians 6:4-8; Colossians 1:15-17.

Edgar Foster said...

Aservant, see also

Anonymous said...


Why does the NWT translate "dia" as "on account of" at Matt. 24:22 but as "for the sake of", not once, but twice, at Mark 2:27?

Is there justification in the Greek grammar itself for this difference in rendering? Does not the rendering at Matt. 24:22 weaken the personal nature of the action? Is this justified at the low level of the Greek grammar, as contrasted to a higher-level theological justification that might exist?

Edgar Foster said...

I don't see a problem with either rendering. One principle of translating is that we don't necessarily treat a Greek or Hebrew word the same way each time we translate it. Context will be the determining factor in translation.

The expressions "on account of" and "for the sake of" are really synonymous or overlapping relations. It doesn't seem that the personal nature of Matthew's account is affected if we use the NWT approach.

Notice how some translations render MT 24:22:

"because of the elect" (Holman)

"because of the chosen ones" (Aramaic Bible)

"on account of the elect" (Darby)

The People's NT says:

"For the elect's sake. On their account, because there is salt to save the earth, and end shall be put to the awful work of death. The elect are the believers in Christ (Ro 11:5-7).