First, let’s consider Eugenius’ claims on the agreement of nouns, adjectives and participles:
“It is very well known, since all have experience with it, and it is clearly a peculiar genius of our language, that masculine and feminine nouns may be construed with nouns, adjectives and pronouns in the neuter, with regard to the actual sense (τὰ πράγματα, ta pragmata). On the other hand no one has ever claimed that neuter noun substantives are indicated by masculine or feminine adjectives or pronouns.”
This claim is so extraordinary that I once again checked the Latin to ensure that I had read it right. I’m particularly focusing on the second sentence, and there is no easy way to say it – it’s just simply wrong. In fact it’s a regular feature of the language that “neuter noun substantives” may be modified by adjectives or participles reflecting the “natural” gender of the word (i.e., the actual gender of the referent, that to which the noun actually refers). I will also note here that Eugenius does not specifically mention participles, but appears to group them under “adjectives,” since he is specifically in context talking about a participial construction. Here is Smyth:
- Construction according to the Sense (926 a).—The real, not the grammatical, gender often determines the agreement: ὦ φίλτατ᾽, ὦ περισσὰ τιμηθεὶς τέκνον O dearest, O greatly honoured child E. Tro. 735 (this use of the attributive adjective is poetical), ““τὰ μειράκια πρὸς ἀλλήλους διαλεγόμενοι” the youths conversing with one another” P. Lach. 180e, ““ταῦτ᾽ ἔλεγεν ἡ ἀναιδὴς αὕτη κεφαλή, ἐξεληλυθώς” this shameless fellow spoke thus when he came out” D. 21.117. (A Greek Grammar for Colleges, 1920).
The first example that Smyth gives shows a neuter noun, τέκνον, teknon, modified by a masculine participle, τιμηθεὶς, timetheis. The second example shows a has a neuter plural substantive, μειράκια, meirakia, modified by a masculine plural participle, διαλεγόμενοι, dialegomenoi, and further referred to by a masculine plural pronoun, ἀλλήλους, allelous. The third example has a feminine noun, κεφαλή, kephale, modified by the masculine participle ἐξεληλυθώς, exeleluthos. This is wide spread enough that it is mentioned in the grammar with no need to list more examples, and notice Smyth’s use of the word “often.”
So the next question is whether or not there are any NT examples, and actually, they are fairly numerous. Matt 25:32 (all texts are taken from the TR, all translations from the KJV):
και συναχθησεται εμπροσθεν αυτου παντα τα εθνη και αφοριει αυτους απ αλληλων…
“And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another.”
Here, ἔθνη (ethne, nations) is neuter plural, but the pronoun referring to them, αύτούς (autous, them) is masculine. The neuter substantive is referred to by a masculine pronoun.
Luke 19:37 …ηρξαντο απαν το πληθος των μαθητων χαιροντες αινειν τον θεον φωνη μεγαλη περι πασων ων ειδον δυναμεων…
“the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen…”
Here πλῆθος (plethos) is neuter singular and is referred to by χαίροντες (chairontes, rejoicing) a masculine plural participle, so once again a neuter substantive is referenced by a masculine (plural) participle.
What was it Eugenius said? “On the other hand no one has ever claimed that neuter noun substantives are indicated by masculine or feminine adjectives or pronouns.” His claim does not appear to be borne out by the facts of the language. More examples may be culled from the NT text, but these will suffice.
So now that we have determined that neuter substantives may be modified by masculine modifiers as the sense indicates to the author of the text, we have removed one of the major objections to the text of 1 John 5:7-8 as it stands in the CT. If, as many have argued, the writer of 1 John was thinking of the witnesses as personified, it would be perfectly acceptable for him to use a masculine modifier to refer to the three witnesses, even though technically grammatically neuter.
“But I will show you a better way…” In the next note on this subject.