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Syntax and Linguistics

Logos Bible Software 3 offers syntactic databases for the Hebrew Bible and for the Greek New Testament. Some of these resources (the Andersen-Forbes Analyzed Text and Phrase Marker Analysis and also the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament) are informed to one degree or another by linguistics.

I can hear the feedback now: “Huh? Linguistics? Why? Isn’t syntax just syntax? You mean I need to learn about linguistics too?!

David Alan Black, in his helpful book Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek, describes the importance of linguistics for students of New Testament Greek in this way:

When we study linguistics we are learning how to put the Greek language in its rightful place as a part — perhaps the most technical part — of our work in the text of the New Testament. Through exposure and practice, we can acquire a broader, more confident command of New Testament Greek. …But more importantly, the study of linguistics can contribute a great deal to our understanding of the meaning of the New Testament. It can help us become more aware of why we understand a text the way we do when we read it, and it can help us talk about the text more precisely, by providing us with a methodology through which we can show how interpretation is in part derived from grammatical considerations. Linguistics may also help solve problems of interpretation by showing us why one meaning is possible but not another. Above all, however, linguistics can give us a point of view, a way of looking at a text that will help us develop a consistent analysis, and prompt us to ask questions about the language of the text that we might have otherwise overlooked. (Black 3, emphasis mine)

I’ve highlighted the final portion of the quote because it describes so well one of the primary ways in which the syntax graphs (more on graphs here, here and here) for both the Hebrew Bible (more here) and the Greek New Testament (more here and here) can be used in one’s study.

Much of the information about linguistics is already dealt with in the encoding of the databases. The syntax graphs merely make the underlying information explicit. They give you a picture to visualize the linguistic goings-on, here described mostly in terms of syntax.

The bottom line is if you start to read the text using the syntax graphs, a few things will happen.

  • First, you’ll slow down and take a look at the bigger picture.
  • Second, you’ll see clause structure (verbs, subjects, objects, etc.) that you likely would not have seen just reading through a paragraph of original language text.
  • Third, you’ll begin to look across passages for, say, what sorts of things (objects/complements/adjuncts/adverbs/prepositional phrases) further modify verbs (predicators) to track action through a passage. You’ll start to look at subjects to see if the subject is the same, or if it changes.
  • Fourth, as you begin to look at the text in this different way, you’ll have different cues to remind you of things you’ve seen before.
  • Fifth, as Black notes, you’ll start to develop the basis on which to ask further questions of the text. You’ll notice new, different things. And those new, different things will complement your study of the text.

All of it will help you draw connections — here formulated on the basis of syntax and linguistics — to complement other connections you’ve already made based on other reading, morphology, commentary, text-critical aspects, and the like. In short, slowly reading through the syntax graph (by all means read the normal text first, and read translations too!), keeping track of the text at a syntactic level as opposed to just words on a page draws on other influences and helps with developing a larger picture of what’s going on in a particular passage.

Syntax Search Example: More Searching for Qualification


Once again, in the home group study, I ran across a phrase that caused me to ask a question. This time I’m in First Thessalonians 5.2 and the phrase is “day of the Lord”.

Earlier, I’d searched for “What other things qualify παρουσία?” (see post here). In this example, I use that same search as a starting point (sort of like a template) to search for “What other things qualify ἡμέρα (‘day’)?”

So this video (Flash, 11 megs, with sound) shows how to load the old query (which was saved) and modify it.

But as I was making the video, I had a flash of insight: I could use the OpenText.org semantic domain tagging to search for something similar but not constrain myself to vocabulary. I could search for where references to deity qualified words in the time domain. So I run through that aspect of modifying the search as well.

Organizing an Outline with Syntax Graphs

Awhile back, I blogged on how syntax graphs aren’t just helpful when it comes to searching. They can be very helpful when reading through the text as well. And they can help one organize thoughts and approach when teaching or preaching on a passage.

A case in point is First Thessalonians 5.12-13. I dug into this passage in preparation for a home group Bible study. The OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament: Clause Analysis helped me to organize my thoughts on how this passage is structured, therefore it helped in thinking how this passage should be understood.

Continue Reading…

Syntax Search Example: What “Qualifies” another Word?

As folks who have followed these syntax search examples know, I’ve been in a home group Bible study that is going over First Thessalonians. This has served as the background for many of these syntax search examples.

In the process of doing this, I’ve noticed that I’ve begun to ask different questions of the text.

So when the study group was in 1Th 4.15, and when the word παρουσία occurs (yet again), I asked myself, “What other things qualify παρουσία?” Why did I ask that question? First, we need to define Qualifier:

Qualifier: A Qualifier is a modifier that in some way limits or constrains the scope of the word it modifies. Common examples of qualifiers are words in the genitive and dative case, and also negative particles functioning at the word group level.

Porter, S., O’Donnell, M. B., Reed, J. T., Tan, R., & OpenText.org. (2006; 2006). The OpenText.org
Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament Glossary
. Logos Research Systems, Inc.

So a Qualifier limits scope. In terms of παρουσία, which can be translated “return” or perhaps “coming”, when it occurs with a qualifier the qualifier limits the scope of the coming. Thus in phrases like “coming of the Lord”, the phrase “of the Lord” acts as the qualifier. It’s not just any “coming” or “return”, it is the return of the Lord. Just like in 1Th 4.15:

So when I ask the question “What other things qualify παρουσία?” I”m really asking “Are there any other similar sorts of ‘return’ or ‘coming’ phrases in the New Testament?” After all, to understand more how the word παρουσία is functioning here, it could help to see it operating in similar syntactic contexts — to see how παρουσία stands in relationship with other instances of words that modify it.

So I put together this video (Flash, 8.5 megs, with sound) to show how I constructed the query to find qualifiers of παρουσία.

After searching, ask yourself the question again: “What other things qualify παρουσία?” Now you have data to use when considering this question. As you evaluate the hits, you can ask further questions:

  • Are there any qualifiers that seem to repeat (hint: “his”, “of the Lord”, “of the son of man”, “of the Lord Jesus Christ”)?
  • What are the unique qualifiers (hint: 1Co 16.17; 2Co 7.6; Php 2.12, etc.)?
  • Is there anything that would allow one to say that the use of παρουσία in 1Th 4.15 is the same as or different from other syntactic usages?
  • If so, is 1Th 4.15 the use typical or non-typical?
  • How does the general understanding of the use of παρουσία with a qualifier in the New Testament affect how we look at the specific use of παρουσία in 1Th 4.15 (or does it)?

Here’s a link to the video: Flash, 8.5 megs, with sound

But note well: If you’d rather not go through the hoops of constructing the search as described in the video … just right-click the Greek word and run the Bible Word Study report. Check out the Grammatical Relationships section. One of the standard word relationships searched for is that of qualification. So this search is done automatically for you in the Bible Word Study report! No assembly required! And it even groups like qualifiers together, so you can see what repeats and what is unique just by looking at the result section.

Also note: A future post will show how to make this query even more generic and search for some things a little differently. So keep comin’ back!

The Find Bar

There are more than 100 new features in Logos Bible Software 3. One of the smallest is becoming a favorite of many users.

The Edit > Find Dialog has been replaced with a Find Bar. You can open it on a report or resource by selecting Edit > Find from the menus, or pressing Ctrl+F. This opens a small toolbar at the bottom of the window where you can immediately start typing. It then searches the text in that window as you type, putting a little starburst on the first occurrence.

FindBarCloseup.jpg

The Find Next button (or Enter key) moves to the next occurrence. Find Previous (or Shift+Enter) moves back to the previous occurrence.

The Find feature is not a replacement for searching, but it’s very helpful when you know you’re in the right place, but want to quickly jump to a specific word or phrase. For example, you might open a very long article on Moses in the Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary and want to find where in the article Moses’ sister Miriam is mentioned. The Find feature takes you right there, without launching a whole-book or whole-library search.

Syntax: Not Just For Searching

In previous blog posts, I’ve focused on how the syntax databases we offer are used when searching, when asking questions of the text. But this is not the only use. I don’t even know if it will end up being the primary use. I was reminded about this with a recent comment on one of my posts:

These blogs are extremely helpful for things like [structure searching], but make it difficult for an average joe like me to get a search result and have confidence that all the cases of what I’m looking for would be covered. . .I’d think “what kind of clause component will this show up in that I’ll miss with this search”. Certainly, I’ll get some results I’d want, but will I get them all?

Instead of focusing more on searching, I figured I’d step back and show another use that doesn’t require any searching knowledge at all. Just being able to see the structure of the text in a different way is helpful when reading through the text.

We read through the text in translations with paragraphs/etc frequently. Reading through a syntax graph in addition to reading the text in modern translation can help us slow down when we read, and take note of not simply each word but also the things going on around each word at the clause level.

Ephesians 5.18b-21 offers a good example. I’ll give you two hints: Look only at the clauses (primary and embedded) and the verbs in those clauses, and the relationship between these things. No searching necessary. Just reading slowly paying attention to the annotated syntax.

And there’s a video (Flash, 3 megs, with sound) that provides a little more information to help in seeing how this can be done.

Here’s Eph 5.18b-21 in the ESV, just plain text. Read it in this form and try to think about the underlying structure of the text:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Eph 5.18-21, ESV)

What can we see from just looking at the syntax here? Check out the video for more explanation, but in short, you’ll see how to:

  • View only clause information in your graph, removing some of the word group annotation since we’re just looking at clause level data here
  • Find verbs in the annotation
  • Show why this is relevant when looking at the annotation for Ephesians 5.18b-21 (which is a whole primary clause)

Update: If you’re interested in using the Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament to assist as you’re reading through the text, check out this post from May 2006. It’s a handy way to work through the Greek text of, say, First John and beef up your knowledge of the syntactic goings-on at the same time!

Update II: Note that I’ve blogged again about how reading the syntax graph can help when analyzing or outlining a particular passage: Organizing an Outline with Syntax Graphs.

Bible Word Study Report Part VI: Lemma Reports

This is the sixth post in my on-going series on the Bible Word Study (BWS) report.
This post will look into the Lemma Report sections of the BWS report.

To refresh our collective memories, we’re looking at 1Th 2.16. Here it is in the reverse interlinear, with the phrase in question marked up using new Visual Markup features.

The Lemma Report sections have to do with understanding how the study word (ἀναπληρόω) is used both inside of the Greek New Testament and in other Greek literature, like the LXX (Greek Old Testament) and the Works of Philo.

Continue Reading…

Syntax Search Example: Preposition with Dative Object

On the Logos Newsgroups, a user asked a question about syntax searching:

I’d like to search for every instance of the construction in Heb 1:2 — ἐν υἱῷ – i.e. ἐν followed by noun without article … Also (I think) in 1 Thess 1:5 – ἐν λόγῳ — our gospel did not come to you not simply “by means of word\speech”

I could do a normal search, but is this a category of construction that I could find with a syntax search? If so, could someone perhaps suggest how to go about it?

The answer is a resounding “YES!” It was like a slow-pitch softball that I couldn’t resist swinging at. So I did. You can watch the video now (Flash, 9 megs, with sound) but be sure to read the rest of the post too.

I should note that I’m running 3.0a beta 2, and you may see some visual changes inside of the Syntax Search Dialog.

Continue Reading…

How is that Hebrew or Greek Word Translated?

One feature request that we’ve had a lot in the past 10 years or so runs something like this:

So, I have this Greek word. I want to know all the ways it is translated in the New Testament. How do I do that?

Another similar question is frequently asked as well:

What are the different Greek words that get translated as this English word in the New Testament?

We couldn’t always answer these questions before. In some ways, we could use Strong’s numbers as a bridge, but it wasn’t one-click easy to search the text to answer these sorts of questions.
With Reverse Interlinears, answering these questions is quick, easy, and elegant.

You’re using Logos 3 and hadn’t realized this yet? That’s OK, there is a lot of new stuff in Logos 3.
I figured I’d make a video to run you through how to use Reverse Interlinears to start to answer these questions as you study the Bible.

For those of you who haven’t upgraded and added Reverse Interlinears yet … you can do that on our upgrade page.

Bible Word Study Report Part V: Translation

This is the fifth post in my on-going series on the Bible Word Study (BWS) report.
This post will look into the Translation section of the BWS report.

To refresh our collective memories, we’re looking at 1Th 2.16. Here it is in the reverse interlinear, with the phrase in question marked up using new Visual Markup features.

Continue Reading…

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