Re: Punctuation in Greek Unicals

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Thu Jun 05 1997 - 14:07:56 EDT

Re: Punctuation in Greek Unicals

Paul Stevens Wrote
It seems to me that the modern editions of the texts of the NT are
"artificially" divided into paragraphs. By that I mean that they do not
necessarily reflect some system that could be recognized as from extant and ancient MSS.
I am still not sure that I am satisfied, and would like to
hear from someone who can say definitively yea or nay. Is there a
recognizable system, such as capitalization, in the text that tends to mark
thought units? Or are the ones we have represented in our modern editions more or less
drawn up by the editors according to their interpretation of the text?

Robert J. Petry Wrote:
. . . seems to ramble on forever without sentence,/paragraph breaks as
we are used to in English. Perhaps the reader in those days broke the
thoughts up by intonation and pauses that were never passed on in
written form. Plus, does this not "force" us in a positive way today to
be much more careful in how we read the Greek. i.e. it is not written
for casual reading by "skimming."Bob Petry, C.L.


To Robert and Paul

This post rambles also so stay alert!

I think I detect a possible misunderstanding. My question about NT Greek sentences was
not intended to imply any lack of *coherent structure* in the NT Greek text. I think the
structure is there and it is evident in the written text. I do not think we need to speculate
about the oral form of the language to solve problems of structure in the text.


Also, I don't get two worried about long paragraphs where the clauses are chained
together in long strings. Possibly my lack of stress over this comes from decades of
reading authors like Faulkner, Joseph Conrad and Virginia Woolf.


Discovering the structure of the NT text requires skill in both syntactic analysis and
semantic analysis. Paragraphs are not found by looking for flags in the text that say *new
paragraph*. Paragraphs are found by understanding the flow of meaning and detecting
where the breaks in meaning take place. The editors of the popular editions were very
knowledgable and highly skilled in these areas. There decisions should get some respect.
Of course they were not infallible.


My initial question about sentences was not intended to imply any difficulty that arrises
from long strings of clauses linked together. My initial question was raised because for
the purposes of discourse analysis I do not think that the concept *sentence* has much
utility. It is too slippery a construct and it blends too closely with the concept of a
*clause*. Therefore, strictly for the purposes of analysis I am willing to scrap *sentence*
as a discourse construct.

However, I do not intend to publish an edition of the Greek NT without periods. I am not
pursuing any radical agenda here.

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

Postscript on a different topic:

I agree with Robert, we need to read the text with care. However, I don't think that means
we need to read it through a microscope. You don't understand most literature by looking
at it with a microscope. I had a friend who was forced in school to do an excruciatingly
detailed analysis of "The Sun Also Rises", by Hemingway. He finished the paper and never
did understand the novel at all.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:18 EDT