Re: inconcinnities

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 24 Sep 1996 22:43:55 -0500

At 7:19 PM -0500 9/24/96, Stephen C. Carlson wrote:
>I looked this up in my Webster's Ninth New Collegiate:
>inconcinnity (ca. 1616): lack of suitability or congruity : INELEGENCE
>Its antonym's definition seems more useful:
>concinnity (1531): harmony or elegance of design esp. of literary style
> in adaptation of parts to a whole or to each other

I've seen the term used to describe a feature of Thucydides' style whereby
a parallelism is maintained with deliberate violation of perfect balance.
An example is the celebrated dictum of Pericles from the Funeral Speech
over the dead in the first year of the Peloponnesian War: FILOKALOUMEN TE
with simplicity and lovers of wisdom without softness" (not an elegant
version, but fairly literal); the inconcinnity here is the alteration of
the descriptive construction from the "with X" accompanying the first verb
to "without Y" accompanying the second verb.

I'm still not quite sure what inconcinnity is being referred to as a
feature of Marcan style, but one of the things that has struck me as
characteristic of Mark at some points is that the seams between what is
probably tradition and what is probably redaction are readily visible. For
instance, in the story of the Healing of the Paralytic (2:1-11) we have
LEGEI TWi PARALUTIKWi followed by an exhortation of Jesus to the paralytic
twice: at the end of vs 5a and again at the end of vs. 10. It looks
probable to me that vs. 5a was originally followed by vs. 11 and that Mark
(or his source in oral tradition, just possibly) has inserted the sequence
5b-10a in order to make the linkage between healing and forgiveness, themes
also linked in the pericope that follows immediately upon this. The
sandwiching of one narrative within another is a not uncommon Marcan
device, but the seams here seem glaring; the strange thing is that I cannot
help but think that the artificiality is deliberate--that Mark is out to
shock his audience by putting the unexpected exhortation to the paralytic
with the first LEGEI, then repeating the LEGEI with the original and
expected exhortation so that it wins new contextual profundity in the
equation of wholeness and forgiveness of sins. Is that the "inconcinnity"
being referred to? I don't know. Mike will have to enlighten us from the
commentary on Mark and how it actually uses the word.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR