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Friday, March 25, 2011

Peter’s question: Matt. 19:27

Peter’s question τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν Matt. 19:27

Matt. 19:27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι· τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν;

Matthew attaches a question τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν; to Peter’s statement not found in Mark or Luke. This could be understood as making an implied question explicit. Peter’s statement as reported in Mark and Luke, taken in isolation, might be understood as simply bragging. However, Jesus responds as if there were an implied question. Matthew account makes the implication explicit. 

Relevance Theory (RT) draws attention to the part cultural assumptions play in understanding speech acts. What is said, the speech act or surface structure, is considered a stimulus not a code. Jesus didn’t decode Peter’s statement, he understood it as an inquiry about the disciples future status relative to τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. In early Chomsky this would have been called “skewing”,  the disconnect between what is said and what is intended. In RT this illustrates what normally takes place in verbal communication. The contents of the speech act indicates the speakers intention to mean something but the content of that meaning is supplied from the cognitive framework shared by the speaker and hearer. Without the shared cognitive framework it would be either difficult or impossible to determine the speaker’s intention from an  analysis of the speech act. “Skewing” is the wrong concept since all verbal communication functions this way. A shared cognitive framework is required to understand the most simple statements. The shorter the speech the more it relies on implications from supplied from outside the speech act.

John 19:30 ὅτε οὖν ἔλαβεν τὸ ὄξος [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν· τετέλεσται, καὶ κλίνας τὴν κεφαλὴν παρέδωκεν τὸ πνεῦμα.      

The verbal expression τετέλεσται provides minimal information but the implications if they were written down would fill a library.  


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