More on “Presence” Language: Developing an Approach

Started looking into “presence” language. Here’s what I’ve got so far. Any feedback is appreciated; use the comments or contact form. Thanks!


In Hellenistic Greek, there appear to be two primary methods to indicate that one is in the presence of one greater, or one who commands respect, or one who has authority of some kind.[1] First is the use of πρόσωπον (“face”) as the object of a prepositional phrase. This structure happens at least 160 times across the corpus used for this research project[2] and involves use of several different prepositions and object cases. The other primary structure is a prepositional phrase with preposition indicating “in front of” or non-temporal “before” (variations on the improper prepositions ἐνώπιον and ἐναντίον, and other related terminology). This structure happens nearly 350 times across the research corpus.

The goal is to understand more about this language, particularly the sort of relationship indicated between parties when such language is used. In the research corpus, this language typically occurs when a human is in the presence of a greater authority, frequently deity.



A syntactic analysis of the SBL Greek New Testament provides the opportunity to gather data on prepositional phrases with particular prepositions and particular prepositional objects. For this research the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the New Testament[3] are used. For the Septuagint deuterocanon/apocrypha material, the data that backs the Logos Bible Software Clause Search of this material is utilized. This material may be available as a formalized syntactic analysis within Logos Bible Software at a future date.


Data were aggregated through custom code querying the underlying data for both datasets.


Prepositional phrases using the following prepositions were collected:

  • κατέναντι
  • ἀπέναντι
  • ἐναντίον
  • ἔναντι
  • ἐναντίος
  • κατεναντίον
  • κατενώπιον
  • ἐνώπιον
  • ἔμπροσθεν

Because a syntactic analysis was queried, information about the prepositional objects was also gathered. This included the lemma of the prepositional object as well as its morphological annotation. When a substantive, the case of the object was also explicitly recorded.

The Greek New Testament has been annotated to a deeper degree than the Septuagint material, so for it further information is available in alternate datasets, so these were queried for the New Testament word instances involved. This information includes:

  • Bible Sense Lexicon[4] sense analysis of the prepositional object
  • Syntactic Force analysis[5] of the preposition
  • Syntactic Force analysis of the prepositional object

πρόσωπον as Prepositional Object

In addition, Prepositional phrases with πρόσωπον as their object were gathered throughout the research corpus. Similar information about these instances


The approach, at present, is to first work through instances in the LXX deuterocanon and NT where πρόσωπον is the object of a prepositional phrase. These will be examined in groups where prepositions and case of object agree. So, there are 34 instances in the LXX deuterocanon where ἀπό is used with a genitive πρόσωπον as object; these will be evaluated both individually and as a group. The deuterocanon will be examined first, the New Testament second. After these have been evaluated, the instances based on prepositions indicating some sort of “in front of” relationship will be evaluated, deuterocanon first followed by New Testament.

[1] This is anecdotal based on my experience reading the material that comprises the research corpus.

[2] The corpus consists of the deuterocanonical and apocryphal books found in H.B. Swete’s edition of the Septuagint as well as the SBL Greek New Testament.

[3] Available for Logos Bible Software. A separate but related version of the underlying data is available under open source terms from the Global Bible Initiative (

[4] The Bible Sense Lexicon applies a cross-linguistic framework to encode semantic sense in a way similar to how WordNet ( encodes semantic sense. More information:

[5] “Syntactic Force” is an annotation regarding the function of a word in a particular context using terminology frequently found in grammars such as Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. The “syntactic force” annotation is a component of the Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament:


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