Reading the Book of Mark, I come across these references to Jesus:

Mark 1:24 Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ

Mark 14:67 τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ

Mark 16:6 τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν

And elsewhere in the Bible the common:

Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος

These geonyms are common also in Classical Greek, such as: Φίλιππος Β΄ ὁ Μακεδών (Philip II of Macedon), Ἀθηναγόρας ὁ Ἀθηναῖος (Athenagoras of Athens)

Can someone please explain to me in Classical Greek Grammar when to use the article and when to use the genitive τοῦ and when to use the accusative τὸν and when to exclude these articles altogether (eg. Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ, Maria Magdalene, Saulos Tarseus)? And how does this affect the case/suffix (eg. Ναζαρ-ηνέ, Ναζαρη-νοῦ, Ναζαρη-νὸν)?

As a hypothetical example to demonstrate please could you write the hypothetical name "Ἰωάννης τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ" in it's various mutations.

(Are the articles τοῦ & τὸν only used when the person in question is being referred to but their name isn't mentioned, so that "Ἰωάννης τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ" would be incorrect and should rightly be "Ἰωάννης ὁ Ναζαρηνοῦ"?)

  • 1
    You keep mentioning specific examples but aren’t giving any. Please give one. I have no idea what you mean. How does this pertain to Latin?
    – MPW
    May 1, 2018 at 8:27
  • 3
    If the grammar you are inquiring about is also used in classical Greek, then your question is on topic. If you can't use a Biblical example, then why not make up a classical example? Write in Latin letters if necessary. As it stands, I don't understand your question at all, I'm afraid.
    – Cerberus
    May 1, 2018 at 15:29
  • 2
    @Julian You can take an example from NT Greek or even modern Greek and ask whether the same thing happens in older Greek. It's perfectly fine to use those newer variants of the language to help formulate a clear question about the kind of Greek that is on-topic. As long as the question is about old Greek, the supporting explanation can draw from any Greek – or any other language for that matter.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    May 1, 2018 at 16:14
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    I think we are all confused by your question. Do you know what a "case" is? Do you realise that Greek has five cases?
    – fdb
    May 2, 2018 at 19:30
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    No, fdb is correct; this question is still very confusing. Are you asking how to say 'John of the Nazarene' (in the sense of 'John, the son/friend/etc. of the Nazarene') when 'John' fills various grammatical functions in the sentence (subject, object of direct address, direct object, etc.) – that is, when the noun is in various cases? Or do you really want to know how to say 'John the Nazarene' in various cases and learn why the article would be omitted in Ἰωάννη Ναζαρηνέ (as it is in Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ)?
    – cnread
    May 3, 2018 at 8:36

2 Answers 2


In ancient Greek, there is no article in the vocative, such as Ἰησοῦ Ναζαρηνέ in Mark 1:24.

Mary Magdalene is written without article in English because it comes from the Latin Maria Magdalena. In Greek, her name does have an article in non-vocative cases: ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ Μαρία (Luke 24:10 - http://biblehub.com/text/luke/24-10.htm), Μαριὰμ ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ (Matthew 27:61 - http://biblehub.com/text/matthew/27-61.htm) or Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνὴ (Mark 16:1 - http://biblehub.com/text/mark/16-1.htm). If there were a vocative of her full name in the Bible, I would expect it to have no article.

'Saul of Tarsus' in Acts 9:11 (http://biblehub.com/text/acts/9-11.htm) qualifies 'Tarsean' with ὀνόματι, so maybe the article is not used then. I can't find another instance of ὀνόματι in the sense of 'by/with the name ...' combined with an adjective, to confirm this (http://biblehub.com/greek/onomati_3686.htm).

'John the Nazarene' would be:

  • nom. Ἰωάννης ὁ Ναζαρηνός,
  • gen. Ἰωάννου τοῦ Ναζαρηνοῦ,
  • dat. Ἰωάννῃ τῷ Ναζαρηνῷ,
  • acc. Ἰωάννην τὸν Ναζαρηνὸν,
  • but voc. Ἰωάννη Ναζαρηνέ without article.
  • One final point: if I was to go round with a name tag saying John the Nazarene, would I use the Nominative or the Accusative?
    – Johan88
    May 4, 2018 at 17:14
  • 3
    @Julian: Without context, one would use the nominative.
    – Cerberus
    May 4, 2018 at 18:42
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I'll offer a partial/praeliminary answer. I don't know about those Biblical names—that is, I don't know how they are declined, because they're from Hebrew.

There are two situations that spring to mind:

  • Athenagoras the Athenian (using the adjective "Athenian")

  • Athenagoras of Athens (using the noun "Athens")

In classical Greek, I believe the adjective is generally preferred, if one is available. So you would rather say Ἀθηναγόρας ὁ Ἀθηναῖος, "Athenagoras the Athenian".

In that case, the adjective needs to agree with the head of the noun group, the noun Ἀθηναγόρας. Since Ἀθηναγόρας is in the nominative case, it probably being subject or subject complement in the sentence, both the article ὁ and the adjective Ἀθηναῖος are also in the nominative. Had it been an object Ἀθηναγόραν, as in "she saw Athenagoras the Athenian", the whole would be in the accusative case: Ἀθηναγόραν τὸν Ἀθηναῖον. The same applies mutatis mutandis to a possible genitive or dative.

If no adjective is available, or the second construction is chosen for some other reason, of Athens is not adjectival, but it is its own noun with article. Then you would not use the adjective, but you would use whatever the relevant noun is of the town. By the translation of, you can see that both Athens and the article must then be in the genitive case. The head noun Athenagoras keeps whatever case is warranted by its function in the sentence: if it's subject, it is a nominative; if it is I gave a present to Athenagoras of Athens, then to Athenagoras would be a dative; while of Athens remains a genitive in both cases.

It is possible in either case to omit the article where there is some specific reason for brevity, or when it is used attributively, as in "the Athenian Platonists are rubbish", or for other reasons that I'd have to think about. An example is the beginning of the History of Thucydides, Θουκυδίδης Ἀθηναῖος.

When you translate any such phrase into Latin, like Athenagoras Atheniensis, of course the article disappears, since Latin has no articles.

A third option is perhaps Athenagoras, he of Athens, but then I would expect two articles between the nouns. I'm not sure whether this construction even exists.

  • 2
    The article is not required before place adjectives, witness Θουκυδίδης Ἀθηναῖος (the opening words of his History).
    – fdb
    May 4, 2018 at 15:20
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    @fdb: Right! Of course. It seems Herodotus uses the adjective as well: Ἡροδότου Ἁλικαρνησσέος.
    – Cerberus
    May 4, 2018 at 18:35
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    Virtually all historians follow suit. It is the approved way for an author to identify himself.
    – fdb
    May 4, 2018 at 19:07
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    @fdb: Maybe older Greek did not require articles but biblical Greek did? Are there any unambiguous instances of names and adjectives without articles in the Bible? If there are, I'll have to change my answer.
    – Jasper May
    May 4, 2018 at 19:45
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    @Jul: I believe what FDB is saying is that one is more likely to use the article in Classical Greek, though even there it is not compulsory, whence the examples of Herodotus and Thucydides (and that is also my impression). In Koine, the use of the article varies a lot, so it's up to you. And an over-arching rule is that there can be no article in a vocative, for a vocative is directed at the second person ("you"), while articles are always third person. (There is ὦ, which can be used instead of an article, but it is really an interjection ("oh"), and it can only be used before the head noun.
    – Cerberus
    May 5, 2018 at 17:54

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