Re: Word Order Signifigance: Mark 3.1

From: George Blaisdell (
Date: Sun May 16 1999 - 13:52:18 EDT


>From: "Jeffrey B. Gibson"

>George Blaisdell wrote:

> > 1) The first word announces something existing, and alerts us that
>whatever this existent might be, its existence is the main focus of this
>sentence. It is the beginning of the first sub-unit of thought of this
>sentence, as well as the first word of the whole sentence. It remains in
>focus throughout the entire sentence with every word in it.

>Two questions about your continued efforts in what appears to be a good
>example of someone straining out a gnat to swallow a camel.

Jeff ~ I am forever indebted to you for this image... :-)

And I very well may be trying to squeeze more into this gnat of centers than
it can hold. However the existence of inverse parallel structures IS common
in the GNT, so perhaps I am just trying to strain out the gnat to swallow a

It HAS been central to my thinking for a long time now, and where better to
test its mettle than here, where we are graced by the presence of the best
gnat nutritionists anywhere? You guys know what a gnat can swallow and what
it can't!

>First, if the sentence's structure is as important as you say it is >in
>creating the particular effect upon the reader that it is for it >to have
>if the significance of what is being said is ever to be >grasped,

Well, I am looking differently now, and seeing word order as fundamental to
structure, and reflective of stylistic manner of expression, and possible
difference of emphasis.

>why then do both Matthew and Luke abandon this structure and change >not
>only the word order of the sentence but its wording?

Differing narrative styles, each describing the same event, seem to be
reflected ~

Mark seems the better Greek, having more balanced compaction in his

Matthew the better Jew, being very brief and dramatic with his KAI IDOU!

And Luke gives a more pedantic Romanesque account, a listing, including a
detail omitted by the others.

>they saw nothing of what *you* see in this sentence.

Well, first blush has me simply seeing them as less competent with their
Greek compositional skills, addressing perhaps different audiences? Mark
seems to have the better Greek.

Both of them agree with the idea of the importance of the first word: HN as
a positing of an existent. Matthew uses the aorist imperative: "And LOOK!",
while Luke uses HN twice. [Thus affirming Carl's understanding.]

And both END in ZHRA[N] ~ Further affirming Carl's notion that importance is
at the beginning and at the end.

All of which leave me holding the bag that then would criticize their Greek!
  Yikes!! This is WAY beyond my competence.

>And surely this is curious since these authors, as
>(native?) Greek speakers and writers, would have been familiar with >what
>you claim are the esoterica of the language *had it actually >worked the
>way you think it does*.

"Esoterica" seems a little strong ~ Like 'camel'...

What I would like to see is a way for 'little greeks' to approach the text
and understand it without having to rely on a long and difficult process of
memorization of syntactical terms that require them to consult the 'experts'
in order to tell what goes with what, and why, and how. [To me, THAT is
arcane and esoteric!!] The terminology of Greek grammar is daunting enough
to put many off from it. I admire Carlton's approach to terms that seeks to
make them simple and descriptive so they are less hard for his students to
acquire. Yet even with his approach, for a neophyte, the list is long and
daunting, and does not provide a basic logic for a student to figure out the
meaning as it appears on the page. Instead it uses examples whose
translation is given, as illustrations of the categories that are named.

I am concerned with an even more basic approach than that, for the
self-teachers who want to figure out, rather than be told, the meaning.
Perhaps I am unrealistic, and tilting at windmills. I hope not.

I would hope that you might see my efforts here in that light, as well as in
the light of MY assertion of a theory, as you now seem to do. I confess the
latter and apologise ~ This has been 'in me' for some time now, and I do
want to see it tested ~ But I also care a great deal about those who go to
the Greek text with only rudimentary skills and an interlinear and a lexicon
and prayer...

Word order seems better than 'centers' as the most useful focus in this
regard. Both may have a place...

But the fact that they do what they do with Mk 3:1 shows that what you claim
lies within and behind the text of Mark is not there.

I can easily be wrong...

>Second, does the *context* of the sentence you strain at so >forcefully
>justify your claim of this sentence's importance?

I hope I did not make such a claim! This is but a simple little sentence in
a sequence of sentences comprising the narrative. I think that what it does
is to focus attention on the 'being withered', which carries into the next
sentence as its context.

>In other words, within the pericope in which it appears, does the >sentence
>really have the importance and central position you say it >does?

Goodness no! I was looking only at the sentence itself, as a linkage in a
sequence of sentences, and did not have the entire pericope in view at all.

Form criticism would say no, for the "center" of this pericope is not the
statement about the man, but the action of Jesus in healing the man, actions
which stand as a proof that Jesus' way of doing things vis a vis the Law is
God's way. So the meaning and significance of Mk 3:1 is derived not from
how it is phrased, but from what surrounds it.

Yes. I was just looking at the sentence structure of these 7 words.

>I think your studies of what the Mk 3:1 means would profit much more >if
>you would focus not on the reputed significance the verse's word >order,
>let alone what word is "central" within it, but of the >function the entire
>verse has as part of the set up for the main >point within the pericope of
>which it is a part.

No question about that!

Thanks Jeff ~


George Blaisdell
Roslyn, WA

Get Free Email and Do More On The Web. Visit

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:26 EDT