[b-greek] Re: Acts 21:20: Who are these Jews?

From: yochanan bitan-buth (ButhFam@compuserve.com)
Date: Wed Oct 04 2000 - 04:31:12 EDT

the following may be "theological" for some,
but this relates to a language question of how meaning is extracted from a
text, so I've proceeded onlist.

>If you'll pardon the expression, asking them
>to toss 2000 years of God's direct involvement in their identity is like
>asking them to sew the skin back on. No self-respecting Jew would do that

>without giving it some very, very serious thought.
>I think
>the Greek text can lean either way; however, do any of the linguistic
>(semantic, pragmatic, syntactic) tools help us to lean more one way than

Yes, Relevance Theory does.

On the first point, I guess the point was that no one was asking Jewish
Christians to throw it out the Law.
Paul's visit and response in Acts 21 was just the opposite,

and he acted in a manner as to say that if anyone misunderstood him,...
WELL, then he would just have to show them how WRONG they were by going
into the temple and offering sacrifices for his brothers. I might add that
many Jewish Christians understand this passage as self-evident, while most
Christian commentators approach this passage as 'problematic'. Apparently
they wouldn't have made the same response themselves, which raises the
question as to which approach understands Paul best, and why? And this
leads us to the broad linguistic question framing the passage. (A corollary
question not pursued here is whether the Acts' portrayal of Paul is
accurate or can be considered to represent Paul? Acts is a 'secondary'
witness, not Paul himself, yet Paul's own statements are always within a
context of writing to gentile Christians and not "Jewish-in house" like
Acts 21.)

As for 'believers', from the context of the passage and the book it would
seem to refer to Jewish Christians.
"believer" in 21.20 is a subset of "Jew" and the first and main subset that
comes from Acts is "following Messiah's way-Messianic" versus "not
following Messiah's way-Messianic".
Plus, 'believe' is a recurrent word throughout Acts for joining the Jesus
finally, PEPISTEUKOTES is "perfect", which fits having joined a new
movement but does not fit "being faithful", which would expect the
adjective PISTOS.
In communication theory and Relevance Theory one does not need to spell out
what the belief is if everyone already has a good idea about it.
Relevance Theory would imply that with this information you would already,
immediately have your answer
and that anything else would need extra linguistic energy, which isn't
Thus, the "heretofore-having-believed Jews" were "Christian/Messianic"

For reference within linguistics and syntax, Relevance Theory can be
labelled a macro-Pragmatic theory, that is Pragmatics on a large,
macro-level as opposed to micro-pragmatics within grammar, especially
"functional grammars". Most generative grammarians would put Relevance
Theory outside of proper "syntax". Some linguists and philosophers would
simply label Relevance theory a semantic theory.

Randall Buth

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