Re: Mounce's first year grammar

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Wed Dec 01 1999 - 10:09:05 EST

<x-flowed>At 10:03 PM 11/30/99 -0600, Michael Burer wrote:

>It is certainly appropriate to use a well-known, theologically
>freighted passage to illustrate an aspect of grammar or syntax as long as it
>is a true illustration of the point under consideration.

Frankly, I think that the well-known, theologically freighted passages are
the passages that are least likely to illustrate a point well, since our
theology tends to cloud our judgement, and also because these passages are
often subject to more than one legitimate interpretation on syntactic or
grammatical grounds. I find it much more helpful to illustrate a
grammatical or syntactic feature using a series of examples that are
theologically neutral, and in which the context makes the meaning of the
construct clear. In fact, I would like to teach students how to compare
textbooks and examine the examples they give to verify the principles they
teach, since texts often contain principles that turn out not to be true.

The essays in Mounce sometimes conflate linguistics with theology, making
it difficult to even see aspects of grammar or syntax are being
illustrated. For instance, in the vignette that starts Chapter 6 in my
edition, we have sentences like "Its lack of a definite article keeps us
from identifying the person of the Word (Jesus Christ) with the person of
"God" (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus
Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has..." or "the lack
of an article is against Sabellianism; the word order is against Arianism".
There is not enough detail in this essay to tell me exactly what the
linguistic features are that protect us against these heresies, and the
missing information is not provided in the chapter that follows.


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