James 1:5

George Blaisdell maqhth at hotmail.com
Tue Sep 4 15:40:39 EDT 2001

George Blaisdell
Roslyn, WA

"Be not troubling of you the heart..."

> > If it would not be too much to ask another question, this time 
>concerning word order in James 1:5...


> > I would have expected TOU DIDONTOS to follow QEOU. Is there any
> > significance to its location? And am I correct that it seems a bit
> > awkward?

> > Rob Matlack

The awkwardness for us is for the Greek the means of engaging the reader or 
listener into attentiveness.  So that when word order seems really awkward 
for us, for the Greek he[it] is but building tension, where he finally 
supplies at the end the one little word that makes the previous whole 
suddenly make sense.  So the words come but are not completed into a 
thought, and they must be held in mind, suspended as clues of the speaker's 
point, each one a kind of interrogative whose answer you may guess at or 
presume as you are listening, but then only to be dazzled by the actual 
meaning intended that is revealed at the end.  People who think and talk 
this way in English are often great story tellers.  They are also often 
annoying to listen to, for we cannot passively listen to them, hence they 
have an intrusiveness in their style of talking.  In the predominantly 
illiterate and oral culture of the Greeks, where remembering is so 
important, and where intense mental engagement is so crucial to remembering, 
such a style was understood as a matter of course.

>It is a feature of Greek word order that moving an item to the left 
>increases its relative prominence.... This is good Greek...

I think it is safer to say that it increases its stress, and therefore its 
prominence.  In this little example, AITEITW PARA TOU DIDONTOS QEOU, "Let 
him ask the one giving" is pretty straight-forward, except that the Greek 
ear is hearing TOU and is listening for a follow-up which it does not get 
until QEOU, which suddenly encloses the DIDONTOS within TOU QEOU, so that 
now we have the WHO that is the giver, but now what is it about this giving 
that is being said?  Thus the thought moves from the center of the word 
group TOU DIDONTOS QEOU to the next word in the sentence, PASIN.  It does 
not move from QEOU to PASIN. So for us it is awkward.  For the Greek, the 
enclosure of DIDONTOS centers it in the focus of the words that follow.


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