The use of δέ in Mark

January 12, 2013

A consistent observation that I have made in Mark is the use of δέ rather than καί. Although Mark overwhelmingly prefers καί as his clausal connective (all occurrences of καί, 1,087 times), δέ is used consistently to indicate some shift in the narrative (157 times). Often this is a shift of speakers in dialog, but others times it may be a shift of grammatical subjects, of topic, a turning point in the argument, or a contrast between two concepts. By contrast, καί joins equal items that continue with no shift, whether that is a subsequent element in the storyline, the same speaker, etc. There are only a very few instances where δέ does not fit this pattern (e.g., the “additive” use in 7:7). The relative frequency of καί over δέ is consistent in narrative genre in the NT (5,775 versus 1,976 for Matt – Acts), but Mark’s proportion shows both a higher frequency of καί and a lower frequency of δέ, making his use of the less common δέ more noteworthy. The increase in καί and decrease in frequency (relatively over the range of narrative books) can be seen in the graphic below.

Markan DE+