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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Helma Dik - Word Order in Greek Tragic Dialogue

The focus of Helma Dik's work on Word Order in Greek Tragic Dialogue is clause and sentence level word order. I have been critical in the past of word order studies which limit their focus to the clause or sentence. Since H.Dik has clearly set out her objectives in Chapter Two "... the domains of the analysis (clause and constituent) ... "page 17, there really isn't any reason to fault her for doing what she set out to do.

The notable Greek linguistics blogger Mike Auburey made the following comment in regard to my criticism H.Dik's recent book:

hmmm, the very concept of "Topic" itself is significant for textual cohesion above the clause level. I'd suggest you go back through Dik's book. Fronted Topics (and for Dik all Topics are "fronted") by definition influence the cohesion of a text.

Fronted topics may by definition imply cohesion in the text, but that doesn't make a clause level constituent order study into a work on discourse analysis. S. Levinsohn's treatment of "points of departure" is an example of analysis above the level of the clause. He devotes whole chapters to this in Discourse Features of NT Greek (SIL 2000). He also sends a lot time talking about the implications of particles and conjunctions for development in narrative and non-narrative.

My contention is that you cannot due justice to the topic of fronted constituents without looking at issues like "points of departure". Helma DIk nibbles at the corners of this talking about "Themes" but there is no extensive discussion or analysis with illustrations. Perhaps the problem is that Greek tragic dialogue doesn't really lend itself to this sort of analysis.

Anyway, I am not beating up Helma Dik's work. I gave her book the ultimate favorable compliment. I purchased a copy. This is rare indeed.

constituent order & textual cohesion in 2Cor 5:1

This morning while I was reading Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians when I happened upon some fronted accusatives in 2Cor 5:1:

2Cor. 5:1 Οἴδαμεν γὰρ ὅτι ἐὰν ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους καταλυθῇ, οἰκοδομὴν ἐκ θεοῦ ἔχομεν, οἰκίαν ἀχειροποίητον αἰώνιον ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

2Cor. 5:1 ¶ For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. [NRSV]

My question: What should we make of the clause initial OIKIADOMHN οἰκοδομὴν and OKIAN οἰκίαν?

Perhaps calling OKIAN οἰκίαν ... a clause will bother some people, perhaps we should say that it might be analyzed as a deep structure clause. Even that will bother some people. Let's do and end run on that one and just look at clause initial OIKIADOMHN οἰκοδομὴν. What can we say about the position of this word?

I'm thinking about it ....

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Friday, August 21, 2009

two interviews - Larry Hurtado & Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman

I listened to two interviews on today. The first was an interview of Larry Hurtado. What is important about Larry Hurtado? He is the author of "Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity". That alone makes him important. Some people would probably say he is important for other reasons. You can find out what those are by reading other people.

Hurtado's comment on history is worth quoteing:

One intellectual issue that I had to ponder early on and across the years (and I hope successfully) was how to engage with integrity the historically-conditioned nature of the biblical texts while also affirming their significance and function as scripture for Christian faith. It seems to me that both extreme “liberal” and “conservative/fundamentalist” views actually agree implicitly on the same premise (which I regard as fallacious, or at least not incontestably true): If the biblical texts are really historically-conditioned they cannot be “word of God”. Recognizing the historically-conditioned nature of the biblical texts, the extreme liberal concludes they cannot really function as scripture. Affirming the texts as scripture, the fundamentalist tries to dodge their historically-conditioned nature. Worse yet, both views are fundamentally boring! It would take more space than available here to lay out my own view, but in essence I think that it is theologically necessary to treat seriously the historically-conditioned nature of the biblical texts, and this is precisely integral to their scriptural function.

I would suggest that Hurtado has correctly diagnosed the disease but probably not found the cure. I will need to read more of what he has to say on this, but I don't think contemporary biblical-theological studies has ever recovered from modernism. I agree with Hurtado that the problem isn't one of liberals vs. traditionalists. The more conservative scholars who affirm theological orthodoxy are often thoroughly modern in both their thinking and methodology. Some have retreated into something like a premodern framework, but this doesn't really solve anything. The first thing the is required is an open repudiation of the modern framework, laying bare the evils, distortions and falsehoods that lay at the very foundation of the worldview that has been accepted for centuries as normative. Then perhaps it will be possible to find a way out of the nihilism of the post-modern.

The religion of Modernism brought with it horrors that even Joseph Conrad would not have imagined possible. Some of us who were born in the wake of that period of unpleasantness in Europe (1914-1945) had hardly learned to walk when we were introduced to the new reality delivered to us by the great minds of modernism, a cloud of death hovering over life on this planet. And for those of us who were living at "ground zero" this new reality completely undermined the pretensions of the modern. Anyone who would suggest that we should continue to look to the moderns to help us understand the most fundamental questions about existence was treated with the contempt that they deserved. Sadly, the revolt of the "sixties" against the modern lead many back into paganism and for those who turned to primitive new testament christianity, they certainly didn't look to "modern scholarship" for help along the way.

The second interview was with Woody Allen talking on Ingmar Bergman. This was a far better interview, not because Woody Allen is famous but because the interviewer knew what questions to ask and the discussion wasn't about trivialities. Woody Allen's thoughts on Bergman were -- this is going to sound silly -- they were profound. I cannot come up with a better way of saying it. Woody Allan knew what he was talking about, he went directly to the heart of the matter and he stayed there.

Why did I go and listen to Woody Allen talk about Ingmar Bergman? Today I was commenting on a series of portraits a man was posting. I told him his series reminded me of the photographer in The Passion of Anna (1970) who did portraits of people. When he was asked why he did portraits of people his response was something like "to capture the weakness in men's faces". That is not a direct quote. I couldn't find the quote. Not finding the quote meant that I spent all day with it in the back of my mind. Trying to reconstruct a line from a movie I saw only once in 1970.

Allen looks to "The Seventh Seal" as the essential Bergman film. This is the film that confronts modern man with the question left to us in that dark hour between the liberation of the camps and the beginning of the nuclear nightmare, the question "why is God silent?" left open and unresolved. For Woody Allen, the greatness of Bergman was his ability to raise the most fundamental questions with art, not just words, not just images but language and image, leaving a memory that still haunts us fifty years later.