Re: Punctuation in Greek Unicals

From: Robert J. Petry, C.L. (
Date: Thu Jun 05 1997 - 16:59:51 EDT

Paul F. Evans wrote:

> Clayton,
> Thanks for your reply. I have the edition of Metzger that deals with
> textual criticism, but have not seen the other vol. you mention. The
> way I have been taught to do hermeneutics is to seek to discover the
> original intent behind the text. My inclination is that a more
> precise understanding of the structure of an entire thought unit would
> go a long way. Carl brought up the notion that the paragraph rather
> than the sentence may be such a unit. Now I an left asking how can I
> delineate such units, what are the structural markers? I want to make
> that judgment myself if at all possible, or at least know on what
> grounds others have made it. This may also account, in my mind
> anyway, for the swift change of topics that seem to take place in the
> NT, so that sometimes one has to search deeply to grasp the connection
> between two paragraphs standing side by side (the Gospels spring to
> mind!). If I apply traditional English grammar I can detemine the
> elements of the sentence, but then I may be thinking in English when I
> ought to be thinking in Greek! If I am way off base with this
> conjecture then someone throw out a life line before I drown!

>>I was just reading "The Language ofthe New Testament" today by
Goetchius. I like his breakdown of the problem on pps 14-16. He explains
morphemes, words, construction, sentence. (And we could add paragraph,
based on Carl's input.) He says "A sentence is a construction which is
marked as complete by special grammatical devices proper to the language
in which it occcurs. We use this, in place of the familiar definition of
a sentence as 'a group of words expressing a complete thought,' because
the latter cannot be applied in practice. For how can we tell when a
thought is complete?" For those just beginning Goetchius' work may be a
beginning point. As also others. I suggest a read of pps 14-16 for those
who have access to it.

> 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 recognisable 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?

>>Dr. James Tabor is working on a new translation of the Bible that
takes this into consideration. Both the Hebrew Scriptures and Greek
Scriptures appear to have natural breaks that are not shown in our
translations today, nor the modern Hebrew Greek texts.Also, the
Concordant Greek Text strives to reproduce the Greek in an "original"
text form with all caps, no spaces between words, etc. I'm not sure how
well known this book is, but I find it helpful.

> Maybe I should ask if there is a recognisable structure to a Koine
> thought unit that would give provide clear delineation to between it
> and the other units around it? (I am sure I could have asked this in
> a better way.) In the back of my mind I am thinking of the clearly
> recognisable form of the the Greek letter that was adopted by Paul for
> his communication to the churches as an example of structure and
> form. Even though it does not correspond directly, I was wondering,
> if there was some structure that one would expect to find in Greek
> prose. And if the sentence is a less recognisable form in Greek, is
> it possible that there is a structure which expresses a unit of
> thought that is reconiable and if so what is it and how can it be
> recognized?

>>Paul 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.

> Paul F. Evans
> Pastor
> Thunder Swamp Pentecostal Holiness Church
> MT. Olive
> E-mail:
> Web-page:

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