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Thursday, September 24, 2009

myths about biblical language study

Myth #1

Mastering the biblical languages will give you more confidence in your exegesis and teaching from the bible.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2 Cor 3:14b-c information structure

Today I have been looking at exegtical problems in 2 Cor 3:14, here is the context:

2Cor. 3:12 Ἔχοντες οὖν τοιαύτην ἐλπίδα πολλῇ παρρησίᾳ χρώμεθα 13 καὶ οὐ καθάπερ Μωϋσῆς ἐτίθει κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τὸ πρόσωπον αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸ μὴ ἀτενίσαι τοὺς υἱοὺς Ἰσραὴλ εἰς τὸ τέλος τοῦ καταργουμένου. 14 ἀλλὰ ἐπωρώθη τὰ νοήματα αὐτῶν. ἄχρι γὰρ τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης μένει, μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμενον ὅτι ἐν Χριστῷ καταργεῖται· 15 ἀλλ᾿ ἕως σήμερον ἡνίκα ἂν ἀναγινώσκηται Μωϋσῆς, κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν αὐτῶν κεῖται· 16 ἡνίκα δὲ ἐὰν ἐπιστρέψῃ πρὸς κύριον, περιαιρεῖται τὸ κάλυμμα.

While contemplating Paul's argument where he uses the Moses' veil as a metaphor for the inability of those under the old covenant to see the glory of Paul's gospel, after working through all the traditional exegetical options, I decided rather arbitrarily to attempt an analysis of the information structure in verse 14b-c, not because it was a passage particularly suited for this kind of analysis but just to see if I could make any sense out it using a nontraditional framework. The text segment for analysis is:

2 Cor 3:14b-c ἄχρι γὰρ τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης μένει, μὴ ἀνακαλυπτόμενον ὅτι ἐν Χριστῷ καταργεῖται·

The first finite verb is μένει. I would suggest this is the focus, the most salient constituent. In other words the verb μένει is what this clause/sentence asserts. The initial constituent ἄχρι γὰρ τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας is a temporal orienter and a contextualizer. The noun phrase τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα is the topic which also serves as a contextualizer tying this clause to the veil κάλυμμα mentioned in v.13. My notion of a contextualizer is intentionally inclusive. Context is both textual and situational which includes temporal, local, cultural aspects. The separation of co-text from context is intentionally avoided.

The prepositional phrase ἐπὶ τῇ ἀναγνώσει τῆς παλαιᾶς διαθήκης is a setting identifier (another contextualizer) for the core clause τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα ... μένει. I would suggest that the position of this phrase makes it less salient than ἄχρι γὰρ τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας which is more inherently newsworthy and for that reason fronted.

An alternative approach might assign focus to the core clause τὸ αὐτὸ κάλυμμα ... μένει rather than the finite verb alone. What is salient is the relationship between the presupposition (the veil and the old covenant) and the current assertion that the veil remains even "today" when the old covenant is read. For that reason some might prefer to assign focus to the core clause.

The constituents following μένει raise a number of traditional exegetical problems. Here is what M.J. Harris (2Cor NIGTC 2005, p. 303) has to say about it.

more on this later ...

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Enjambment & Salience - Ajax 428-429

Ajax 428-429

{ΧΟ.} Οὔτοι σ' ἀπείργειν, οὐδ' ὅπως ἐῶ λέγειν
ἔχω, κακοῖς τοιοῖσδε συμπεπτωκότα.

In the case where a clause or a sentence is too long for a line and the final word spills over into the following line, the line initial position need not be understood as pragmatically marked. Helma Dik[1] cites Ajax 428-429 to illustrate how a line initial word like ἔχω, which is an auxiliary verb with Οὔτοι ... οὐδ'..., need not be read as particularly salient. Enjambment alone does not bestow pragmatic marking on a word.

[1] (Word order in Greek tragic dialogue, Oxford 2007, p204 n60)

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

TE DH in Ajax 414

Here is a greek syntax question for anyone who happens to drop in. I am curious how we should parse (i.e. build a generative parse tree) lines 412-415 πόροι ... χρόνον. I did a some reading today about TE and TE DH in Smyth and G.Cooper but didn't really find a totally satisfactory answer. Cooper actually addresses this particular passage ( v.4 p.2961) in reference to TE DH but I will withhold his analysis until you have time to think about it.

{ΑΙ.} <Ἰ>ὼ
πόροι ἁλίρροθοι
πάραλά τ' ἄντρα καὶ νέμος ἐπάκτιον,
πολὺν πολύν με δαρόν τε δὴ
κατείχετ' ἀμφὶ Τροίαν χρόνον·
ἀλλ' οὐκέτι μ', οὐκέτ' ἀμπνοὰς
ἔχοντα· τοῦτό τις φρονῶν ἴστω.

p.s. We don't actually need to see a parse tree, just explain the word order and relationships between the constituents with specific reference to the particles/conjunctions. The first two lines should be no problem but when you get to πολὺν πολύν με δαρόν τε δὴ things get a little more interesting.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Placement of Right Hand elements in Hyperbaton

This morning interrupted by various distractions I managed to progress to the middle section of chapter one in Discontinuous Syntax. I had to go back and review what I was reading yesterday, particularly the short hand notation (e.g, X Y Z, XP, Y1, Y2, AP, NP, VP, etc.).

A the point where the authors started to address the placement of the right hand hyperbaton Y2 in more complex text strings, it seemed that they were taking a very long and difficult road to a destination which anyone who has been reading Ancient Greek for a few years could reach by a much shorter path. In other words, the location of the right hand element in the hyperbaton was explained using a lot of fairly convoluted language about parsing trees, typical of generative syntax analysis. The intuitive observation of a semi-competent reader of these texts is that there are few restrictions on where the right element is placed. For my purposes, the generative analysis of the problem doesn't add any value to my current understanding of hyperbaton.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

not a review: Discontinuous syntax: hyperbaton in Greek

Why am I not reviewing Discontinuous syntax[1]? Several reasons. First, I am not qualified. The authors are writing within a framework I have not spent a lot of time with, some latter day derivation of generative grammar. Perhaps there is a name for it, I don't know. The book was published in the last millennium. I think this is the second time I have tried to read it. The first time I just profiled it as "How Ancient Greek Syntax is Different from English" book. Generative grammar assumes a prototypical simple English clause and then talks about departures from the prototype as "movement", "dislocation" and so forth. This is an oversimplification, never the less, if there had not been an English language there would not be a generative tradition in linguistics. The latter is dependent on the former.

I picked up the book from the library yesterday. After dinner I settled down for an evening of reading. This is not a book to read late in the day. I shelved it, decided it was lost cause. This morning I was reading Michael Aubrey's comments about it. After that I brewed a strong cup of tea, opened the windows (52f outside) and decided to give the the book a serious morning's effort. It took about 90 minutes to read pages 3-5 with frequent trips to the glossary in back, but it wasn't a complete waste of time.

I am still of the opinion that this framework privileges the English language at some very fundamental level. For that reason it is not the best framework for analysis of Ancient Greek. However, once you take that into consideration, you can glean some insights from a study like this if you are willing to pay price of learning basics of the how framework is put together. As the day progressed I found that it was possible to move a little faster. I was willing to settle for fuzzy comprehension at some points so I could keep moving through the text. By early afternoon I had my fill for one day.

[1] Discontinuous syntax: hyperbaton in Greek By Andrew M. Devine, Laurence D. Stephens Oxford 1999