Re: Hebrews 11:1

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat May 08 1999 - 14:31:49 EDT

At 7:36 AM -0700 5/8/99, George Blaisdell wrote:
>>From: "Kevin L. Barney"
>>I view the structure of this verse as either a simple parallelism
>>(following the RSV):
>>Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
>> the conviction of things not seen
>>or as an ABCBA chiasm as you (George) suggest at the beginning of your
>>post. (Or, as is often the case, both.) That the C element (PRAGMATWN)
>>goes with both A elements ties the structure up quite nicely.
>Yes, that is exactly what stood out so clearly about this passage. The
>grammatical structuring is chiastic, forming a parallelism. [But not a
>chiasm per se, which is a literary term, where the elements are not
>individual words but sentences, as I am currently understanding the term.]
>>What was not clear to me was why a chiastic structure would have any
>>bearing at all on the translation (unless one were intentionally trying to
>>preserve the structure in English, something that is often difficult if not
>>impossible to do).
>Preservation of this structuring in English would be sweet indeed! But I
>agree that doing so creates unavoidable ambiguity and fails miserably ~
>As to the bearing on translation of this chiastic grammatical structuring, I
>am but exploring that possibility.
>Chiasmus itself has great bearing on translation, because it clearly
>connects elements of syntax that are otherwise ambiguous. [Swine, dogs,
>tearing open and trampling in the giving and casting of pearls and holy
>things passage comes vividly to mind.]
>Can a parallel understanding be applied to grammatical chiastic structuring?
> [That is a big part of my "11:1 obsession", as Jim so kindly 'methought'
>unwholesome! :-)]
>If yes, then the definition centers on and turns around [c], PRAGMATWN,
>which itself affixes to both parallels, so that the primary sentence becomes
>ESTIN DE PISTIS PRAGMATWN by chiastic emphasis, and the predicate
>nominatives are themselves modifiers of PRAGMATWN. This feature makes
>"things" as its gloss woefully inadequate, utterly losing the central and
>'pragmatic' emphasis so clearly indicated by the centrality and bifurcation
>of the term.
>The point of this passage, on this approach, is that "Faith is of practical
>actions..." ~ It is above all pragmatic [which is utterly missed in the RSV
>and I believe all other renditions]. And this pragmatism works out in two
>directions, forming the two predicate nominatives, each with its associated
>participle, first one, then the other. Which gives rise in my understanding
>to the question "Why first this one, then this other one? Would there be a
>different understanding conveyed if that order were reversed?" Hence my
>lingering question about implied causlality. [Is there any?]
>Our non-Greek diagrammaing of this sentence would have to focus on the
>subject plus the two predicate nominatives, with the rest peripheral to
>these. My 'look' contradicts this approach in favor of the chiastic Greek
>structuring of the grammatical elements, which 'turns' around [or 'hinges'
>upon] the center.

I'm going to argue partly with you and partly against you on this one,
George; I think that there is indeed a chiastic, or better a "ring"


I really think that PRAGMATWN depends upon the predicate nominatives found
on either side (hUPOSTASIS and ELEGCOS), and then the passive participles,
one of them negated, both qualify PRAGMATWN.

But I think it is fundamentally wrong and misleading to take PRAGMATWN
directly with PISTIS; while PISTIS is a verbal type of noun that might well
take a subjective or objective genitive (in fact we've seen the problem,
haven't we, of being sure whether CRISTOU IHSOU is subjective or objective
genitive in some of the Pauline contexts); nevertheless, I think it's
intolerable that PRAGMATWN should be construed as objective genitive to a
noun farther removed from either of those immediately adjacent to it.

Consequently I'd consider the "ring" to encompass only the elements
included from ELPIZOMENWN and OU BLEPOMENWN. And also, although in this
particular instance I think we do indeed have a deliberate "ring," I don't
think you can so readily make this concentric grammatical association that
you want to make every opportunity it seems to crop up; while there are
authentic enclosures, especially where an article and its noun enclose an
attributive element, be it an adjective, a participle, or even an adverb,
yet you cannot pick a word and say that it necessarily relates to what
immediately precedes and follows it as a general rule.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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