[B-Greek] Word order, prominence, and Acts 28:31

Mike Sangrey MSangrey at BlueFeltHat.org
Sat Jul 2 13:06:08 EDT 2005

On Sat, 2005-07-02 at 17:20 +0200, R Yochanan Bitan Buth wrote:
> Back to the META clause, one could argue that it, too, has an unmarked
> prominence by its being mentioned and by its explaining the main verb
> 'receiving'. The whole complex provides a 'fadeout' to the book,
> pointing out not only what Paul was doing, but that he was unhindered
> in doing it.

I just noticed something else.

First, I think of the main verb here as not APODECOMAI alone.  I think
of the main verb (I suppose in a rather novel way) as a complex composed
of both APODECOMAI and the previous EMMENW ("to stay in").  It's

Secondly, EMMENW is aorist and is therefore in an unmarked tense.  So,
it's just normal and carries the flow of the story.

Third, as Randall pointed out, APODECOMAI is imperfect and therefore
conveys backgrounded information for the story.  Therefore, EMMENW is
somewhat stronger and more front stage.

Fourth.  EMMENW implies Paul was limited in someway--he stayed put.
Luke could have used the simpler MENW but didn't.  In the Acts 28
context there's this sense with EMMENW that Paul perhaps was somehow
hindered. This fact requires some balance so the reader gets the right
idea.  EMMENW's other uses in the NT are: Acts 14:22, Gal. 3:10, and
Heb. 8:09. 

Now, here's the observation that just jumped out at me:  If EMMENW is at
the beginning and META PASHS PARRHSIAS AKWLUTWS is at the end (somewhat
hindered and not hindered), what's in the middle?  It's the participles
expressing the main theme of the entire book.  Hmmmmmmm...that's
chiastic!  And a chiasm with an odd number of parts (three in this case)
naturally grammatically marks the central part as prominent.

So, I think Iver is right that the theme of the book is the most
prominent, but there's this cleverly designed structure that creates a
beautifully balanced tension with that theme.  Paul is hindered in this
important activity; but, then again, he's not.  When you think back
through the entire Acts story, THAT is Paul's story.  Interesting!  What
a perfect summarizing statement!

BTW, this use of the chiastic structure is identical to Phil. 1:21-24.
Paul REALLY wants to be with Christ--that's prominent.  But!, it's more
important to stay in the body so as to serve the Philippians.  There's
even this sense of fading out of the chiasm that leaves the Philippians
with a sense that they are more important than something that is
incredibly important to Paul.

BTW, I like Randall's statement about "fadeout".  First impressions are
always important, but what one frequently remembers about a person is
the LAST impression.  The reader walks away from this book "feeling"
Paul never stopped preaching the kingdom, no matter what the

Mike Sangrey
msangrey AT BlueFeltHat.org
Landisburg, Pa.
                        "The first one last wins."
            "A net of highly cohesive details reveals the truth."

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