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32.236 Connectives and Style in Biblical Greek

Please read Croy section 236 carefully. It provides an introduction to one of the most important stylistic features of Biblical Greek, which is the use of "and" to organize statement after statement, without indicating the logical connection between these statements. This kind of writing is called paratactic - which means "things arranged next to each other." The paratactic style is commonly found in writing that is still closely connected to the oral tradition. When people speak, they tend to use a paratactic style. You've probably talked to a little child who was capable of speaking in a continuous stream of statements lasting several minutes, with every single statement connected by the word "and" ("and I went to school and we had recess and it was raining and I was playing tether ball and it was totally wet and I got cold and the teacher told us to come in and Sandy didn't want to come in and we kept playing tether ball and then the bell rang and it was really wet and we had mud all over our shoes..."). When writing is close to oral speech, it is usually strongly paratactic.

The opposite of paratactic style is hypotactic style, which means "things arranged under each other." In other words, hypotactic style uses words that "subordinate" one statement to another, indicating their logical connections. A paratactic sentence like "He worked hard all day and he was tired and he went to bed" can be transformed into a hypotactic sentence like this: "Because he worked hard all day, he was tired, so he went to bed." Hypotactic writing is usually indicative of a more literate and educated writing style that is removed from oral speech.

Classical Greek writing (i.e., the works of Plato or Aristotle) then to be extremely hypotactic. The language of the Septuagint, however, is strongly paratactic, imitating the paratactic style of the Hebrew Bible itself. The language of the New Testament is somewhere in between. It is still strongly paratactic, but not to the same extreme degree as the Septuagint. When you read New Testament Greek, it is definitely worth paying attention to the style of a given book or a given section of a book. You can ask yourself if it is strongly paratactic (following in the tradition of the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint) or if it is more strongly hypotactic (influenced by the styles and prescriptions of classical Greek literary culture). The linguistic style can give you some clues as to the cultural environment in which the text itself was created. So as you start reading extended passages of Biblical Greek, think about the style and about the meaning of the Greek. Most English translations remove some or all traces of the paratactic style, so this is a stylstic quality that you will be able to perceive much more clearly once you start reading the Bible for yourself in Greek: enjoy!

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Biblical Greek Online. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. Page last updated: December 4, 2005 8:42 PM

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