Re: Emphasis and meaning

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Aug 30 1997 - 08:19:35 EDT

At 12:31 PM -0500 8/29/97, lakr wrote:
>Dear B-GREEK'ers,
>I have been attempting acquire a feeling for the Greek text without
>translating the words into English while I read (recite) parts of
>the text. To aid in this I have been memorizing portions of the
>Greek. I am finding that as I memorize and recite the text audibly,
>that once I have mastered to mechanics of knowing the words I desire
>to have the ability to stress the words with meaning in the same
>manner as I would when reading an English text. This is really exciting
>for me, because it is causing me to think about each word and how it
>relates to the entire context in a way that I have never done before.

Certainly a useful exercise, and even if one doesn't read aloud, it's
certainly worth while to make the lip movements without vocalizing the
words to be heard (this is, I think, what shocked Augustine to see Ambrose
doing in Milan as he read his Bible silently). Hear the rhythms and
memorize them. Jim O'Donnell (the Augustine scholar at U.Pa. and editor of
BMCR/BMMR) once noted that when he expects to be sitting a while in
doctor's or dentist's office, he takes a text of Cicero with him and
retires to an empty corner and mouthes the Ciceronian cadences aloud--but
not loud enough to startle others in the waiting room.

>Perhaps some of the things I am noticing are not important due to my
>lack of formal training, but if anyone has insight into what I am
>attempting, I would appreciate guidance.
>In the text below, I am unsure as to whether the word order is dictated
>by grammar, or is a concious effort on the writers part to stress his
>main points.
>For example, I am at a loss as to why 'everlasting life' in verse 2,
>and in verse 3 have a reversed word order between ZWH and AIWNIOS.
>Does placing AIWNIOS before ZWH give the emphasis as in *everlasting* life. ?

This may sound silly, but since you're bravely exposing your study methods,
I'll say it anyway, though it's perhaps too obvious to be worth mentioning:
I think that it is good to look for and expect everything in a Biblical
text to be meaningful, including the word-order; nevertheless, I think that
some of the differences we find in the word-order in adjacent clauses such
as you cite below are not really significant and ought to be understood as
the writer's intent to avoid redundancy by varying, however slightly, the
phrasing from one clause to the next (this probably bears also upon those
shifts back and forth from near-synoyms such as FILEW and AGAPAW in Jn 21
that some think are stylistic variation and others think are of
earth-shaking importance); and finally, I think there are occasionally
items within some Biblical passages that may have sounded clear as a bell
to the first readers but that leave the modern reader gaping open-mouthed
and helpless to make any convincing conjecture or speculation.

>Also, I notice that in verse 4, DE/DWKA/S has two accent marks, while
>in verse 2 it has but one. Is this an enclitic, and if so, should I
>emphasize the pronunciation differently when reading the Greek text
>aloud ? I think I recall someone on this forum saying that enclitics
>were prounced as one word as in EG/WEIMI. Would this be DE/DWKA/SMOI,
>for this example ?

Yes, that's the way I'd do it. And MOI is in fact an enclitic. What's more
awkward is a string of enclitics in which every word except the last one
has an acute on the ultima.

>I have up to now, tried to ignore the accents, with the exception of
>the rough breathing, but if it is important to the interpretation of
>the text, I will consider tackling them.

There aren't really an awful lot of instances where the accents make a big
difference, but there are some, which I'm not going to try to list
exhaustively, like interrogative and indefinite forms of TIS/TI
distinguished by accent as well as by word-order, a 3d-singular like
)ERWTA=i distinguished from a 2d-sg imperative )ERW'TA. Technically
speaking the breathing marks aren't "accents" but "diacritical" marks, a
more inclusive term for accents, breathing marks, diaereses, and crasis

>Also, If memorizing the Greek text is a valuable tool, what portions
>of the GNT lend themselves to this ? I have memorized John 1:1-18 and
>my concern is that if this is a hymn, that the pattern of word usage
>is different that for normal prose. I have not read enough of the
>Greek text to formulate an opinion on this.

I suspect everyone will have his/her own favorite. 1 Cor 13, lots of fine
rhetoric in the first four chapters of 1 Cor, Rom 8, especially the ending;
Heb 11 (why, there are some who would even choose that string of loosely
connected relative and participial clauses in Eph 1:3-13, but I am not
among them). I recall vividly the first passage I ever memorized: it was
for a Classics Department Christmas Party at Tulane in 1952 and the passage
was from Luke's nativity narrative: KAI POIMENES HSAN EN THi CWRAi THi
AUTHi ...

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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