μὴ φύλαξ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου εἰμὶ ἐγώ;

Here you can discuss all things Ancient Greek. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get help with a difficult passage of Greek, and more.
Post Reply
hairetikon
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:13 am

μὴ φύλαξ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου εἰμὶ ἐγώ;

Post by hairetikon » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:49 am

I am sure it is already clear to many of you, but the passage is from the Septuagint translation of the Cain and Abel story. My question is, what is the best translation of the μή in such constructions? I believe the text is trying to convey not "Am I not my brother's keeper?" but something like, "Now, you can't be serious, you don't mean to say that I am brother's keeper, right?". What, then, would be a good way of rendering this into English?

User avatar
jeidsath
Administrator
Posts: 3256
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2013 2:42 pm
Location: Γαλεήπολις, Οὐισκόνσιν

Re: μὴ φύλαξ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου εἰμὶ ἐγώ;

Post by jeidsath » Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:21 am

Well φύλαξ is probably better "guard". μου is strange, and probably only there because it's transliterating Hebrew, but comes across as emphatic. ἐγώ is very emphatic, especially given its position.

μή is a denial, and the question expects a negative response.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

User avatar
Barry Hofstetter
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1087
Joined: Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:22 pm

Re: μὴ φύλαξ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου εἰμὶ ἐγώ;

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:57 pm

μή is regularly used for questions expecting a "no" answer in Greek (Latin regularly uses num). There are different ways to express this in English depending on context. Most beginning texts start by suggesting using the negated verb at the beginning with the verb repeated at the end as a question, in this case "I'm not my brother's keeper, am I?"

I think both φύλαξ and the Hebrew שמר have the sense "one who keeps watch over, protects."

II. guardian, keeper, protector, Hes.Op.123, 253; κτεάνων Pi.P.8.58; δωμάτων, χώρας φ., A.Ag.914, S.OT1418, etc.; παιδός Hdt.1.41; τῆς γυναικός X.Cyr.6.3.14; τῆς πολιτείας And.4.16, cf. Pl.R.374d, al.; τῆς ἀρχῆς Lys.12.94; τῶν νόμων Pl.Lg.966b; τῆς εἰρήνης Isoc.4.175: as fem., E.Tr.462, Pl.Plt.305c, X.Mem.2.1.32; of a divinity, Ἄγγδιστιν .. φύλακα καὶ οἰκοδέσποιναν τοῦδε τοῦ οἴικου SIG985.51 (Philadelphia, i B.C.): also φ. Ἀργείου δορός a protector against it, E.Ph.1094; ἐπὶ τοῖς ὠνίοιςφύλακας κατεστήσατε, of the ἀγορανόμοι, Lys.22.16.

Liddell, H. G., Scott, R., Jones, H. S., & McKenzie, R. (1996). A Greek-English lexicon (p. 1960). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

hairetikon
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 24
Joined: Tue Mar 26, 2019 11:13 am

Re: μὴ φύλαξ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ μου εἰμὶ ἐγώ;

Post by hairetikon » Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:41 am

Thank you for the replies.

On the question of φύλαξ, I assume there to be a verb in Hebrew corresponding to the φυλάττω/φυλάσσω in the Greek that conveys the same tone (to guard, keep, etc.), from which the respective nouns are derived.

I think, however, that in this present context, the emphasis is not on "guarding" per se but rather being in close proximity to that which one guards (as a guard often is) so as to be able to answer questions concerning its presence or absence.

Post Reply