Re: Word Order: Mark 3.1

From: George Blaisdell (
Date: Thu May 13 1999 - 16:51:21 EDT


>From: "George Blaisdell" <>

>I did a little exercise with these 7 words that I hope might prove of

>It has to do with the sequencing of ideas as they appear in the sentence,
>slowing them way down, so as to get the dramatic flavor and meaning of
>Greek language thinking as it exemplifies here.

>HN ~ 'Was' ~ Opens the thought sequence with a verb that already engenders
>in the listener the question: 'Was what?' ~ 'What was?' [The tension is

>EKEI ~ 'there' [in that place] ~ So something was 'there' ~ and the
>question remains: 'What??' 'What was there??' [The tension builds.]

>ANQRWPOS ~ Finally!! 'A man' was there. [The tension releases.]

>So the sequence, unlike English, requires questioning on the part of its
>hearer, an active participation in the thinking process. English relies on
>sequence, saying 'A man was there'. Greek, saying the same thing, poses it
>in a series of two implied questions, [EN and EKEI], answering them with
>the third word. [ANQRWPOS]

>Then comes EXHRAMMENHN ~ Just when you have figured out that a man was
>there, you are told 'being withered'... Another question! WHAT being
>withered?? And you are again actively engaged in the question of 'what?'
>being withered. [The tension re-sets, now with a little more context]

>So you get ECWN ~ 'Having'?? That's not 'what' is being withered!! >That
>obviously is ANQRWPOS having ~ not being withered ~ So at this point you
>know that a man was there having something being >withered, but you don't
>know what it is yet, and you are by this >point very ready to receive the
>glad news: [The tension has >escalated, including, as it now does, the
>previous context of this >very sentence.]

>TON CEIRA ~ Which finally lets you know what it is that the man there is
>having that is withered ~ The Hand'!!!

>So it appears from this little straightforward and uncomplicated >sentence,
>one that would be said without a second thought by a Koine speaker, that
>the sequencing of words engages the listener's >active participation in the
>thought process of the speaker in a way >that English does not do, because
>its word order builds in questions that are then answered, creating a
>tension of unanswered >questions until the end, when it finally all comes

>I would further submit that every word that begs such a question is
>emphasized precisely because of the question it >engenders. The answers to
>the questions are climatic, and thus have different emphasis, being
>cathartic of the tension of the >building sequence of unanswered questions
>presented by the word >order.

I received an e-mail from an astute list-member who noted that when this
sentence is approached this way, the possessive translation of the article
is utterly contraindicated, because by the time we get to it, we already
know WHOSE hand it is. By that point in the sentence, the only thing we are
gasping for is the WHAT??? that this sentence is about! And the answer is
THN CEIRA. A possessive here would be utterly redundant.

Another interesting aside to this approach is the English we would employ to
achieve the same effect:

Something was existing. [HN]
There. [EKEI]
What was existing there?
So what that a man was existing there?
Something withered. [EXHRAMMENHN]
What something withered and what does that have to do with the man who was
Something he is having. [ECWN]
So what something withered is the man there having?
The hand. [THN CEIRA]

People who do this in English drive me crackers... Yet it is built into
ordinary Greek usage through their word order... Where illiteracy makes
remembering what is said so very important, and through word order the very
active art of listening is inculcated. You simply cannot listen idly and
understand Greek.

George Blaisdell
Roslyn, WA

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