I and my Wife and Paul’s Grammar

“I and my wife are thankful God answered our prayers and gave us children.”

Yes, “I and my wife.”

Now, grammar grumps, cool your fingers and curb your complaints. 🙂 I claim divine precedent for putting myself before my wife. Or at least scriptural precedent. Or at least Pauline precedent.

Oh, and I’m not relying on mere gender doctrine, either—which would actually tell me to put myself last. I have better justification for my grammar.

In 1 Corinthians 9:6, Paul wrote, “Is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?”

Except that isn’t what he actually wrote.

This is what he actually wrote: “μόνος ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι;”

In Greek: “ἐγὼ καὶ Βαρναβᾶς” (“I and Barnabas”)

In English: “Barnabas and I”

That’s how the ESV “corrects” Paul’s good Greek grammar to make it good English grammar. The KJV and about a dozen other English translations retain Paul’s order, but most read like the ESV.

Surprisingly, however, here is the NIV: “I and Barnabas.”

Wow! I see no semantic reason for retaining the Greek order of these words, and the NIV places a high priority on using normal English language conventions. Yet here they are more hyper word-for-word than the ESV. What gives?

At any rate, there you have it: Both Paul and the NIV give me permission to put myself first.

I and you will just have to get over it.


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7 thoughts on “I and my Wife and Paul’s Grammar”

  1. It personally bugs me when people say me and John or me and you. It is almost common now a days. But since you point out the Biblical precedent to do so I guess I will need to get over it. I have been trained from little up. Jesus first, yourself last and others in between. My wife and I sounds better in my ears but then likely I is first far more then I realize in my vocabulary. Blessings, (:::

  2. I enjoyed this grammar lesson! Thanks!
    Is there Greek justification then for using “I” in the objective case, as so many careless English speakers do? Eg. “Thanks for blessing my wife and I with the gift.” I certainly hope not!

    1. Hi John Ivan! I hope you caught the fact that this post was written in fun, not to be taken seriously as a grammar lesson. 🙂 Every language has its one grammatical norms, of course, so what is normal and correct in one language cannot tell us what will be normal and correct in another.

      To answer your question: No, Greek emphasizes noun and pronoun case much more than English does, so it is certainly not right to use “I” (ἐγώ – nominative case, much like English subjective case) in places where we should use “me” (με – accusative case, much like English objective case). So you may rest easy. 🙂

      There are some exceptions that sound strange to English ears, however. For example, if you want a subject for a Greek infinitive (such as “to eat”), you use the accusative case. That construction (infinitive + accusative noun/pronoun) can function much as the more common construction of an indicative verb + nominative noun/pronoun. (Side note: In both options, the verb usually comes before its subject–another thing that sounds strange to English ears.) And of course, each finite Greek verb carries a built-in subject (by indicating person and number), so you can often skip the noun/pronoun altogether!

      Okay, can you tell I’m in the middle of studying for a Greek test?

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