Mark 6:1-2 Continuity/Discontinuity
mike at sojurn.lns.pa.us
Fri Apr 21 10:47:32 EDT 2000
clayton stirling bartholomew <c.s.bartholomew at worldnet.att.net> said:
> This is a point that should be closely pondered by those who are
> trying to do exegesis from the bottom up. The coupling between the
> syntax layer and the semantic layer of a NT Greek text is very subtle.
> It would be very difficult to define a set of formal rules which would
> allow one to "move" from the syntactic structure to the semantic
> structure of a NT Greek text.
In my opinion, the above point is extremely important. I think
one should approach exegesis in two phases, with the first being of
First, one should read the largest possible cohesive unit of thought,
a semantic ceiling in the mathematical sense. For example, the book
of Galatians or John should be read and reread in one sitting till it
flows in one's mind. I Cor. has certain distinct parts and Proverbs
is uniquely a list. So, the ceiling takes different forms, but the
intent is to capture in one's mind the thought or cohesive stream of
thoughts which the original author had in mind when he wrote it.
This reading should be done in one's native language and should be as
close as possible to one's own vocabulary and grammar. That is, the
translation should linguistically sync-up with the reader. However (and
most interestingly) I think the question of which translation to choose
is much more forgiving then one might first suppose. And the reason
for this is that one is working at a semantically high level. A lot
of detail mistakes can be made in the translation (in terms of grammar
even by the original author!) and it will still convey the stream of
thoughts intended by that author. However, the better the translation
'syncs-up', the more fluid is the communication from author to reader.
(I would like to address the benefits of communal translation here,
but this note is already going to be too long.)
The second phase is analysis of the details and this is where
a knowledge of the Greek pays big dividends. The intent is to
assess the choices the original author made in order to bring his
cohesive stream of thoughts from his mind onto the printed page.
As one determines these choices, they should support and clarify
the big picture. Admittedly, this somewhat flies in the face of
the typical grammar approach to exegesis; however, it appears to me
to support what Carl Conrad has many times mentioned on this list:
one needs to become familiar with Greek by reading large portions of
Greek and from many distinct sources. It is in this way (and others
that Carl has pointed out) that one becomes familiar with the choices.
May I say that some choices are simple and just don't seem to matter,
others are much more important; but one does not know that unless
I find at the end of the first phase, after I get the flow of the
author's thought into this dense head, that there appears a few odd
details--sentences and clauses--ones which don't seem to fit or ones
where the author appears to introduce or allude to an extraneous idea.
Invariably I find when analyzing the Greek text in these cases that
the translators were faced with multiple choices and they made the
choice which appears to fit the smaller context; however, when viewed
from the much larger flow of thought, the choice is indeed odd.
An apparently less likely choice, when selected, fits in with the
larger flow of thought much better.
A rather startling example of this, IMO, is Philippians 2:12,13.
Choosing the reciprocal use of hEAUTOU turns these verses into the
pivotal verses of the entire section of 1:3-2:30. And, in one
sentence, Paul captures the hugely important communal responsibility
of salvation and witness to that salvation. That, IMO, is the whole
point of 1:3-2:30. (I think this is very similar to D. A. Black's
understanding of 1:3-4:20 which he outlines as: "The need for Unity
in the Cause of the Gospel" See 'Linguistics for students of New
Testament Greek' page 191.) The NIV and others have chosen a highly
individualistic translation; and therefore, IMO, have hidden what Paul
is really saying.
This two-phased process is like a painter which sketches with pencil
and eraser the picture he is about to paint. After the sketch a
onlooker would have a pretty good idea of the theme of the painting.
Then the skilled painter makes his choices of color and texture and
detail. And the onlooker sees the beauty of the painting effloresce
from the outline on the canvas. This two-phased approach seeks to
reconstruct the process the author went through and thereby arrive
at the same result. Although the result is not on paper, but in head
and heart and life. The image is painted on me. The purpose of
exegesis is for the Word of God to eisegete itself into me.
> This does not mean that we should ignore formal features of the text
> while doing discourse analysis. It does mean that discourse analysis
> is going to involve top down analysis which will look foreign and
> perhaps suspect to those schooled in traditional approaches to NT
> Greek grammar.
I wanted to include the above quote since it so well balances and
reinforces what I've said above. Thanks Clay.
mike at sojurn.lns.pa.us
There is no 'do' in faith, everywhere present within it is 'done'.
More information about the B-Greek