Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Should we conjecture that the author may have aspired to emulate the style of social-science writing? I think I'd agree with you, Barry, that this is (a little) easier to read if we don't try to parse it, but, on the other hand, I think those who write with a deliberate intent to be understood write texts that are generally not difficult to parse.
That's a good observation. Does any writer write with intention to obfuscate or to communicate? I doubt the author here or at Ephesians 1 thought he was unclear. But maybe this is what the author of 2nd Peter had in mind when he said "ἔστιν [ἐν τοῖς τοῦ Παύλου γράμμασιν] δυσνόητά τινα
I was of course being facetious in comparing this to social-science writing. At the same time I no doubt betrayed my own anxiety about reading, as an alien to the discipline in question, what social-science writers produce: texts fraught with technical terminology that may evince theoretical allegiances or consensual usage. On the other hand, I think it’s the case in antiquity too that writers less than fully competent in the ἐπιστήμη or τέχνη in question might emulate such writing with middling success. The extant literature of the Hellenistic era has both technical treatises in abundance (medical, biological, cosmological) and even didactic poetry offering verse expositions of theory (Aratus’ Φαινὸμενα, Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura
, Vergil’s Georgica
, Horace’s Ars Poetica
). We should expect composition in these genres to be challenging and to be successful in varying degrees.
Stephen Hughes wrote:The only way that scripture has of looking at a body that I feel is close to my own understanding of how one is structured is Ezekial 37 - the dry bones. I find that both of the other ways of conceptualising a human body need to be understood analytically, viz. the references in the Gospels - with reversed order of the possesive and the name of the body part in the genitive - suggest that the person is the entirity, and these examples in Paul about a body being composed of individual parts that have to work together.
There are the authentic Pauline exempla in Rom 12:3-8 and 1 Cor 12:12-30 setting forth the notion of the community as an organism of mutually sustaining members. By comparison the formulation in Eph 4:16 is somewhat wanting in lucidity.
Stephen Hughes wrote:I assume (at the risk of ass-u-me-ing) that when you gentlemen suggest that loosening the reigns of grammar gives a clear enough sense of the passage you are referring to the word order. That, at least for me, makes things so a lot clearer. Allowing the horse's head to look backwards - effectively the reversal of πάσης ἁφῆς and ἐπιχορηγίας we achieve the sense of "what each joint supplies", which is readily comprehensible.
“Loosening the reigns of grammar” may be a typo or an intended pun. I’m not sure, however, that we’re talking about anything comparable to the solecisms of Revelation (ὁ ὦν καὶ ὁ ἦν …) or to the compositions of poets who defy grammatical norms and strain at intensity of expression. Rather, I think, what’s involved here is an intention to express a notion of intricate interdependent organic functioning. We get the idea — or we think we do — but we’re not quite sure how we got it. The better prose authors, in my opinion, take pains to set forth their intended meanings within the “reigns of grammar.”
I once had a graduate student who had written an essay that might have been brilliant, but the writing was somewhat tortured and his meaning was less than transparent. I urged him several times to rewrite it and aim at greater intelligibility; he tried a couple times but never quite achieved what I was hoping for. Maybe I was asking too much.
I do think that we sometimes seek to gain more clarity from some Biblical texts than they can yield. I don’t say that the effort to gain more clarity is wasted, but I do think that it’s just as well to be clear that we’re engaging in guesswork sometimes rather than resolving the problems.