Emphasis (EMPHASIS!?) :)

July 1, 2010

FWIW observation: The longer I study the serious, exegetical Mark commentaries who actually deal with grammar and syntax,* the more skeptical I’m becoming of some common claims. As just one example, one of my favorite commentaries (and it is that) on Mark is Robert Gundry’s massive tome. It’s really a magisterial work, worth the price just for the introduction. He’s read everybody and interacts with most of them in massive sets of notes on each section. These notes sections may not be the best organized, but they are loaded with helpful material, even if you often disagree with him. But to my point, the more I read Gundry the more leery I am of claims to “emphasis.” If there is as much emphasis in Mark as Gundry finds, then Mark comes across as a writer who always uses his caps lock key for email. (Or maybe like an Oliver B. Greene commentary filled with CAPS, or an A. W. Pink book! —I think Pink got a fire sale special! and bought an entire warehouse full!! of exclamation points!!! 🙂 ) When everything is emphatic, then nothing is, even if you dress it up with fancy names like hyperbaton, aposiopesis, trajection, etc.

*Surprisingly, not all “exegetical commentaries” spend much time on grammar and syntax. So long as I’m naming names in this post, Craig Evans’ WBC vol on the 2d half of Mark is a good example of this. His notes with the translation are almost entirely text critical, and his commentary (about 600 pgs on 8 chs) rarely discusses grammar or syntax. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a helpful work–but its forte is Second Temple backgrounds, not the language.

7 responses to Emphasis (EMPHASIS!?) :)

  1. This is precisely why I live Steve Runge’s grammar.

    I’m curious, though, about what specific comment of Gundry spurred this post. Care to share?

    Emphasis is such a nebulous word covering so many categories, but they all seem to be connected to what the writer (of grammars and commentaries) thinks should receive phonological stress in the clause *in English.* Hopefully we can get beyond that and talk about what Greek actually does — hyperbaton is used two or three different functions, not all of which are “emphatic.”

    • Mark 11:32 (though it’s only one of many). The issue there is what word does the adverb ὄντως modify? εἶχον (in the same clause)? or ἦν (in a subsequent ὅτι clause. Here’s my conclusion in a draft for the Mark Handbook.

      ὄντως. Adverb, formed with the suffix –ως on the participle of εἰμί (ὤν; gen. ὄντος), modifying εἶχον. There is a debate as to what verb this adverb modifies. It seems best to keep it with εἶχον (so RV, ASV, TEV(?), ISV; Gould, 219; Swete, 264) rather than ἦν, as most recent commentators (Taylor, 471; Cranfield, 363; Bruce, 420; Gundry, 658; France, 455) and translations (NIV, NRSV, ESV, NET, etc.). Thus, “they truly thought that” (not, “they thought he really was”). The word order is the primary criteria and many defending the connection with ἦν admit that the order is “strange” (e.g., France, 455), concluding that Mark moved ὄντως ahead of ὅτι for emphasis. That is possible, but it seems more likely that Mark included his adverb in the correct clause. The difference in meaning is minimal.

  2. You make a great point about the nebulousness of “emphasis” as a descriptive term. I was forbidden from using it in my doctoral work. I have begun to play the Emphasis Game, wherein one tries to identify the pragmatic effect that underlies the comment. Usually something is going on (though not always), it is just a matter of doing a little digging and reflecting on foundational principles. Claims of emphasis are not a complete waste, they just foist the responsibility onto the reader.

    I’ve been wishing you were here lately, making the final check of the copy-edited version of the discourse grammar before it heads to the typesetter. WWRD is a recurring thought. I appreciate your eye for detail, wishing I had more of it at the moment.

    • > the discourse grammar before it heads to the typesetter.

      That’s an intriguing comment! Does this mean that Logos is actually going to release a printed book? (Or is this some other publisher?) Any idea as to when it will be available and the estimated cost?

      > WWRD

      ??? Forgive my ignorance, but I’ve no clue on this one. (The Urban Dictionary def. at http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=wwrd doesn’t seem quite appropriate!)

  3. What Would Rod Do with regard to citation details. The grammar is being printed by Hendrickson, due out in September, and is currently listed at Amazon for pre-orders.

  4. Steve, have you got an Amazon link for that? I searched and couldn’t find it listed. Glad to see it’s going to print. Reading Greek grammars on screen is not my cup of tea.