[B-Greek] To Diagram or not to Diagram

Mike Sangrey MSangrey at BlueFeltHat.org
Tue Mar 14 12:18:17 EST 2006

One of the significant downsides (in my opinion) to diagramming is that
it is sentential in focus.  This sets up a predisposition to linear
thinking as one works through a text--(say) a paragraph or more.
Diagramming works in English; it breaks down when applied to the ancient
literature of the Greek NT.  What that ends up meaning is that one can
actually miss the point by not seeing how the details connect together
according to the structure laid out by the original author.  That is,
one foists on to the text a modern English linear thinking framework
since the diagramming method does not take into account the larger,
ancient, structuring techniques used by the original authors.

I suggest that anyone who uses this analytical tool learn and carefully
consider some larger structural forms such as chiasm, inclusio,
chain-link interlock, what I'll call list parallelism (since I don't
know what scholars call it), etc.  These larger forms can be captured
via diagramming by extending the normal diagramming form.

For an excellent (very excellent!) 17 page article on chiasm, "Chiasmus:
An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature" by
Brad McCoy, visit
If anyone has any difficulty obtaining this PDF (you'll need acrobat
reader 7.0 or better), contact me directly and I'll forward a copy via
email.  It originally appeared in the Chafer Theological Seminary
Journal, Vol 9, No. 2, Fall 2003.

For a fascinating discussion of chain-link interlock, read the book by
Bruce W. Longenecker, "Rhetoric at the boundaries."  He compares
chain-link interlock with a number of other transition devices and
therefore gives good definitions of these other devices.

Lastly, a balancing word of advice to any who do diagramming:
Diagramming is an ANALYTICAL tool (and that's a good thing); however,
one needs to ALSO perform a SYNTHESIS of the details of the text.  This
is ultimately what Randall Buth and Carl Conrad are getting at when they
point out the need to learn warp and woof of the Greek language.  These
two ways of approaching the text require two fundamentally different
ways of thinking.  If you're good at the one, then you need to get good
at the other.  If you are drawn to the analytical end of the spectrum,
then recognize that as one side of a two sided coin.  The other side,
the one you're likely weak in, is the synthetic side.  Strengthen that
and you will have invested much more than a single coin in your future

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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