Using Syntax in Exegesis and Preaching

For the past two summers, the church that I attend has had a series called “Summer of Psalms” as the basis of its evening services during the summer. They have someone (not the pastors) do a teaching from a psalm. It’s pretty fun, and we end up learning a lot from the different ways in which the lessons are presented.
This year, I taught during one of those services. My text was Psalm 20. And I couldn’t help myself; the teaching is heavily influenced by the underlying structure implied by the syntax of the Hebrew—even though I don’t really know Hebrew.
If you’ve read the blog for awhile, you know that I have some level of understanding of the Greek of the New Testament and its grammar and syntax. However, I’ve not been lucky enough to study Hebrew. I know the alphabet and can vocalize the letters, but I have no understanding of it.
I used the lesson as an opportunity to look at the structure of Psalm 20 using the Andersen-Forbes Phrase Marker Analysis (aka Hebrew Syntax Graphs). I’d always heard that Hebrew poetry was a beautiful thing, but using the syntax graphs I was finally able to see it for the first time. It gave me a newfound appreciation for Hebrew poetry.
I couldn’t help myself; the lesson I put together focused on the structure of the Hebrew of Psalm 20. I didn’t do a single syntax search; I just examined how Andersen & Forbes broke the text down (that is, I looked at the arrows) to get an understanding of the poetic structure of Psalm 20. Using the View | Interlinear feature, I throttled the Hebrew Syntax Graphs down to only display “Clause-Immediate Constituent” and “English Literal Translation”, so I could track clause constituents without worrying about the other levels (supra-clausal structures and phrase levels). So Psalm 20.7 (in the Hebrew it’s v. 8) looks like this:

Psalm 20.7 (v. 8 in Hebrew), click for larger image

I didn’t know what to expect from the teaching, but folks said they liked the lesson. That’s encouraging. So if you’ve ever wondered how in the world “syntax” could be directly useful to exegesis and preaching, well, this could be an example. I thought I’d upload the sermon so y’all could look at it and perhaps see how simply looking at the structure implied by the syntax graphs (and not actually searching for stuff) could be used in the context of exegesis and teaching — particularly by someone who has a basic understanding of language and syntax but no formal training in Biblical Hebrew.

Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers (English) Updated

Awhile back, we released the Apostolic Fathers in Greek and English (3 editions, with morphology).
In this collection, J.B. Lightfoot’s classic English translation was only versified to chapter boundaries. That’s the way it is in the print, so that’s how the Logos edition was done.
Or, I should say, that’s how it was originally done. We’ve updated the resource and added versification down to the verse level. So it should now synch-scroll properly. If the Lightfoot English translation is one’s preferred Apostolic Fathers edition, then it will keylink more accurately.
You can download the resource (APFTHLFTENG.lbxlls) from our FTP site: ftp://ftp.logos.com/lbxbooks/APFTHLFTENG.lbxlls. First, shut down your Logos Bible Software if it is running. Next, save the above referenced file to wherever you keep your resources on your hard drive (typically c:\Program Files\Libronix DLS\Resources). Then start up your Logos, and you’re ready to go.
Enjoy!

The Lost Tomb of King David

What have archaeologists and biblical scholars recently learned about the location of King David’s tomb? What are some misconceptions about the tomb’s whereabouts? What implications would a discovery of such magnitude have on the Christian faith?

David Sielaff will be driving up to Bellingham from Portland, Oregon to address those questions in tonight’s lecture The Lost Tomb of King David. David Sielaff has been the Director of the Associates for Scriptural Knowledge since 2002. The mission of ASK is to strengthen the faith of Bible believers through education and improved understanding of biblical themes. Much like Logos, ASK places special emphasis on studying original documents and primary sources.

Tonight’s event will be the seventh lecture in Logos’ continuing Lecture Series. The lecture will begin at 7:00 PM at Mount Baker Theatre. As with each previous event, The Lost Tomb of King David is free to attend and open to the public.

For those who are not able to attend the lecture, an extended version of it can be found in MP3 format at the Associates for Scriptural Knowledge website. In addition to this lecture, the ASK website has dozens more audio presentations, articles and commentaries. This is one website that should definitely be bookmarked by every pastor and student of the Bible.

For those who live within driving distance of Bellingham, we hope to see you there!

Happy Trails, Daniel Foster

A key member of the Logos Blog team has packed up his keyboard and headed east, to live near family. Daniel Foster was a regular contributor to this blog and his wide variety of posts displayed extraordinary versatility and knowledge of biblical studies and technology.

Two years ago Daniel introduced himself to the blogosphere and since then he has contributed an amazing 241 posts. For those who wonder what he’ll be doing with his newfound spare time after his retirement from blogging, much of it will be filled taking care of his soon-to-be-born third daughter (also known as Foster 3.0 around the office).

Daniel was always a stickler for quality and grammatical correctness, but here are a few of his more memorable posts:

If you are interested in filling Daniel’s shoes check out www.logos.com/jobs and fill out the ‘application’.

Also, feel free to comment on this blog article to show your appreciation for Daniel’s hard work on the Logos Blog.

Greek Syntax: Unordered Group, Part II

In last week Friday’s post, I blogged about something that J.H. Moulton calls the “Pindaric Construction”. In a comment to that post, David Pereira noted:

The other cases I would question are those in which the “singular things” are joined by “or” or “nor” rather than by the word “and” such as in Matt 12:25. Though these might technically fit the description you gave earlier (i.e. where “a group of singular things in the subject have a singular verb in the predicate”), I don’t think they represent any diversion from standard grammar. Take this for example: “Neither a CAT nor a DOG IS allowed inside.” Though there are multiple subjects, the conjunction serves to relate each singular noun to the singular verb individually. So, I don’t think this is anything more than standard grammar for subject/predicate agreement.

Following up with David, I wrote:

On the search generally — I was surely thinking but apparently didn’t write that syntax searching like this is a way to evaluate assertions made in grammars like Moulton’s. Yes, the hits “techincally” match the description; they must be further evaluated to see if they all really do function as proposed. I think, in this sort of application, syntax searching is a way to narrow initial hits (the same search using only morphology and proximity would be complex if at all possible), not always acheive 100% grammatical accuracy (particularly when context can play a role in analysis).

I don’t know how special the structure is. There are instances like Mk 4.41 (joined by και) where the two singular things are combined with a singular verb, and it might be interesting to note them. But there are also the sorts of things you mention. Perhaps the better search would be to skip the ‘anything’ on the second word group, add και as connector, and see how the hit list changes. I smell a follow-up post …

This is that follow-up post. Here’s the modified query I mention above:

There are a few changes to note in this modified form of the previous query.

  1. I removed the anything operator between the two word groups in the Subject component.
  2. I added a Connector to the second word group, the word και in an effort to search for conjunctive relationships between the groups (or, an ‘and’ style relationship) instead of disjunctive relationships (‘or’ relationships) or negative relationships (‘nor’/’not’ relationship).
  3. I added the requirement that the first word group in the query also be the first word group in the Subject. This means that even if there are more than two word groups, the query will only find the structure once — instead of one hit for each combination of two word groups in the structure (as happened in Col 3.11 with the previous query).
  4. I changed some highlighting so the whole subject would be highlighted instead of individual word groups within the subject.

The result? Well, the hit list shrinks, from 275 hits to 81 hits. Many of the sorts of hits that David mentions in his comment are weeded out. Additionally, we only have one hit for verses like Col 3.11 (instead of the many hits of the previous query). That’s all good.
But some other hits are weeded out too. Re 9.12, one of Moulton’s original five examples, is no longer present. Further evaluation leads me to think that Moulton really meant Re 9.2 (which is located by this query) instead of 9.12, which just doesn’t make sense.
What does it all mean? I really don’t know. Chances are this just once again proves that the nice-and-tidy syntactic structures mentioned in passing in grammars (along with examples) aren’t necessarily as nice-and-tidy as they’re made out to be. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Language is messy.
But what is possible now with these syntactic annotations is to begin to evaluate these sorts of statements about grammatical structures. We can now, with the assistance of syntactic annotations, build searches that take these larger-level clause and phrase structures into account, along with morphology, and then examine the supposed structure in greater detail to see if there really is something there.
And that was what I was angling toward in the first blog post (along with showing the new Unordered Group object), though I didn’t really say it: Here’s a structure mentioned in a grammar, what do we find if we actually search the whole corpus for something like it? Well, that is just one of the things we can do now. In the long run, this sort of work will end up making grammars sharper in their discussion and presentation of data.

Greek Syntax: The New “Group” Objects

I don’t know offhand how many have installed the latest beta (3.0e RC 2 as of the writing of this post) of the LDLS; and I have even less of an idea of how many of those users have explored the Syntax Search dialog. But we added two new “objects” to the query model, and they’re pretty nifty.
These objects are available for all syntax databases, though my example below is from the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament.

  • Group:Used to group things together. Order and structure matter in the group operator. This is best used when you want to use OR on groups of objects. Think of it like parentheses in other search/grouping syntax—it allows multiple things to be treated as one, as a “group”.
  • Unordered Group:One hindrance of the Syntax Search dialog in the past was the necessity to specify all possible options when component order was not important. Let’s say I wanted to search for a clause with a particular noun as subject, and a particular verb as the predicator but I didn’t care about the order in which the subject and predicator occurred. It could be S-P or P-S. In the past, I would’ve had to specify both orders and use the OR operator, as well as anything operators between components. Now the components (and their content) can be specified as an Unordered Group, and the software permutes the possible combinations.

Perhaps an example would help explain the Unordered Group object.
Just the other day I was reading J.H. Moulton’s Prolegomena volume in the Moulton-Howard-Turner Grammar (which is on pre-pub, BTW … make sure to get your copy while it is relatively cheap!) and on page 58 he mentions something called the σχημα Πινδαρικον, or the “Pindaric Construction”. This is when a group of singular things in the subject have a singular verb in the predicate.
That’s not exactly easy to understand; an example would help. A good example is Mark 4.41, ” … that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The subject consists of two singular nouns, but the verb is singular too. A more literal translation might be “the wind and the sea it obeys him”. So the subject here acts as a single unit instead of as two things, and the verb is singular instead of plural (“it obeys” vs. “they obey”). Kinda weird. [NB: see the comments to this post for some important clarifications — RB]
Moulton gives five examples: Mt 5.18; 6.19; Mk 4.41; 1Co 15.50; Re 9.12. But I was curious to know how many more might exist in the NT. Moulton says “It is really only a special case of anacoluthon, no more peculiar to Pindar than to Shakspere (sic).” (Moulton, 58). Looking at Mark 4.41, we can see the structure in question:

Note the two word groups in the subject, each with a head term that is singular in morphological number. And also note the predicator, which contains a head term that is singular in morphological number. That’s the structure, essentially. So what does it take to find further instances? Here’s a screen shot of the query:

A few things to notice in the query.
First, note the use of the Unordered Group object. The contents are two clause components, one a Subject, the other a Predicator. These objects are what are permuted, so you’re searching for the equivalent of ([subject]-anything-[predicator]) OR ([predicator]-anything-[subject]) though you didn’t have to specify it.
Second, a general note. This query shows how syntax searching takes advantage higher-level phrase-and-clause annotation (clauses, subjects, verbs, groups, etc.) but also relies upon word-level morphological information. Morphology, lemmas, and other word-level information is important and foundational; but syntax searching takes the next step in building additional annotation upon that foundation and allowing interaction between all available levels.
Below is an example of some of the results. All told, there are 275 instances of this query located in the OpenText.org Syntactically Analyzed Greek New Testament.

Once results are available, they can be graphed. Below is an example of a graph charting hit density in chapters. (Or, you could export the hit data from here to Excel, and do your own charting/math/analysis/whatever). Interesting in the chart is Colossians 3, which is densest area listed. Here’s the chart:

The hit density in Col 3 is a result of Col 3.11, which has a number of word groups in the Subject. You know, “Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free”:

Anyway, queries that search for groups of things (most syntax queries do this to account for varying structures) should be easier now. And once you have that data, you can still do nifty things with it—reviewing highlighted hits, graphing the hits to check different measures of distribution, and the like.

Taking One for the Team

This past Saturday, August 4, eight stalwart Logos employees journeyed to Lynden, Washington (25 minutes north of our offices in Bellingham) to participate in the 2007 Mushball tournament. The tournament was a fundraiser for the Lynden Firefighters Association. Mushball is essentially volleyball, but instead of playing on a court or a sunny beach we trudged around in a slurry of soft mud and water for three hours. Sound gross? We thought so too but boy was it ever fun!

Becoming one with the mush

Yours truly getting a faceful of mushPhoto courtesy of Sarah Richardson

“Go time” for Team Logos

Eliminated!

Team Logos dominated its first game thanks to some hot serving from Mark French (Technical Support) and Heidie Godfrey (Accounting). However, we didn’t last long in the winner’s bracket – losing our next two games and being quickly ousted from the tourney. Despite a few bruised knees and a lingering feeling of griminess we all had a great time and were able to help the firefighters raise thousands of dollars for some upcoming projects.

Fourteen Years and Counting

Today, August 8, 2007, marks my 14-year anniversary as an employee of Logos.
It was back in the summer of 1993, after I graduated from college, that I pestered my way into a job at a small Bible software company that had just moved to my hometown of Oak Harbor, WA. I would never have dreamed that I would grow and the company would grow in the ways we have.
I started in the sales department, answering calls from magazine ads to our 800 number. I can remember devouring the old Logos 1.6 product (on DOS 6.2/Windows 3.1, no less). This was before we even had company email at Logos; before we even had a web page at Logos.com. Hey, some of you long-time Logos users may have even purchased your software from me.
After two and a half years in sales, I moved over to the technical side of the operation, writing short programs to turn files supplied from publishers into Logos books. We worked on pioneering the pre-publication process with projects like Kittel’s 10-volume TDNT and the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek lexicon.
This has continued to change and evolve as both Logos and I have developed; now I get to play around with the annotation of Greek corpora on multiple levels, (that’s “syntax”, which I’ve blogged about a few times :)) and think about ways to represent that information and make it more accessible and profitable for exegesis of the Holy Scriptures.
Along the way, I met and married a wonderful woman and began a family. What an awesome blessing!
I can’t underscore enough what a great place Logos is to work; and what great friends the people I work with have become. Bob and Dale Pritchett, along with my colleagues Eli Evans, Vincent Setterholm, Michael Heiser, Steve Runge and Sean Boisen (and their respective families) are less like colleagues and more like family to me. They challenge me, they encourage me, and they keep me honest. Working here is fun and rewarding. And the cook-offs!
As year 15 begins, I’m more excited than ever. We have some really cool stuff we’re working on. Have you followed Sean Boisen’s Bible Knowledgebase posts? And have you heard about BibleTech 2008? That’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’m anxious to see where it all leads, and I’m privileged to play a part, however small, in making it happen.
Of course, you might be able to come and join us. We have a bunch of jobs posted online. Don’t let the old dates on some of the descriptions fool you; these are typically standing openings—if you’re the right person, we want to talk with you. So if any of this stuff sounds like it is up your alley, then check out the jobs page and come join the fun. Maybe you’ll be writing your own “Fourteen Years and Counting” blog post on the Logos blog in years to come!

Atoms and Molecules; or, Morphology and Syntax

Anyone who has taken a science class has likely had an introduction to the basic concept of an atom (the smallest particle still holding the properties of an element). This person also likely has an understanding that molecules are built up of atoms.
This is all loosely speaking, of course—serious scientists would differ with my imprecise descriptions and use of these terms. This is why we have a periodic table of the elements. The table visually represents the basic ingredients of what I will loosely call “stuff”.

Thus atoms of hydrogen (H) are different from atoms of oxygen (O). This is well and good; these basic elements that make up “stuff” need to be kept separate and properly defined.
However, life is not so neat. Outside of a science lab, welding shop or hospital, we rarely concern ourselves with pure elements. We concern ourselves with molecules, like the ever-popular H20; two atoms of hydrogen combined with one atom of oxygen—better known as “water”.


H2O, better known as “water”
(courtesy http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Water/)

This same sort of relationship exists in grammar. Consider words and information about words (known as “morphology”) are the atoms. And this sort of information—definition, part of speech, etc.—is very helpful.


First Timothy 1:1-2

Here each word (or “atom”) has information associated with it such as a dictionary form (thus a meaning), morphological information (like part of speech) and an English-language literal translation (or a “gloss”).
This information allows one to attempt to deduce further information about groups of words, but relationships are only implied and not expressly denoted. That is, while one may know that the και at the end of line one above functions to join things together (based on morphology as a conjunction that is a “logical connective”), and while reading the text one can intuit what is connected (“God our Saviour” and “Christ Jesus our hope”, based on common noun cases joined by the conjunction), these things are not explicitly marked. They are free-floating atoms that happen to have proximity, their underlying relationship has not been quantified. These relationships (molecules) can be guessed at using atom-level data and proximity, but they cannot be specifically known.
A syntactic annotation makes molecules (word groups, phrases, clauses) of the atoms that are words. The graph below shows that “God our Saviour” and “Jesus Christ our hope” are the items connected by και.


The structure of 1Ti 1.1-2

This is why we think syntax (more specifically, syntactic annotations) is so important. Not because it’s cool (though it is), but because it puts together the individual words (atoms) into more meaningful structures (molecules). It lets us talk about “water” instead of talking about “an atom of hydrogen, followed by an atom of oxygen, followed by an atom of hydrogen”.
Syntax also allows for the combination of molecules, as seen in the above syntax graph. There are relationships between words. So Παυλος (“Paul”) is a “head term word” that is modified (here “defined”) by the whole phrase αποστολος Χριστου Ιησου κατ’ επιταγην θεου σωτηρος ημων και Χριστου Ιησου της ελπιδος ημων (“an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the will of God our Saviour and Christ Jesus our hope”). The relationship between the word and the phrase is one of “definition”. In this case, a new “molecule” is created by adding an “atom” (Παυλος) to an existing molecule (the “definer”) and the relationship that creates the new molecule is specified.
That “definer” consists of two parts, or molecules: the “qualifier” Χριστου Ιησου (“of Christ Jesus”) and the “relator” κατ’ επιταγην θεου σωτηρος ημων και Χριστου Ιησου της ελπιδος ημων (“according to the will of God our Saviour and Christ Jesus our hope”). Both of these molecules further modify αποστολος (“apostle”), telling who Paul serves and by what authority he serves. And this whole structure, the definer, clarifies Paul’s apostleship.
Additionally, because these “molecular” relationships have been specified across the whole of the text, these relationships may now be searched. To use the present example of Παυλος modified by a definer, we can search for where words that are “Names of Persons or Places” (Louw-Nida domain 93, one piece of information assigned at the “atom” level) are modified by definers.
To do this, a search dialog that allows one to visually represent syntactic structure is used to create a query.


A query based on word structure (a.k.a. “syntax”)

This query specifies that a head term must contain a word (or “atom”) that specifies it is within Louw-Nida domain 93, it must also contain a modifier (or “molecule”) that is a definer. This search, when run, locates 473 instances of the syntactic structure in the New Testament. An example search hit is Mt 27.37, which has Ιησους ο βασιλευς των Ιουδαιων (“Jesus, the King of the Jews”) where Ιησους is the head term word (or atom) and ο βασιλευς των Ιουδαιων is the definer (or molecule).
Summary
Much like molecules are groups of atoms that allow us to talk about “water”, “sugar” and “gasoline” without needing to specify the molecular make-up, a syntactic annotation allows one to talk about “subjects”, “predicators” and “complements” without needing to approximate contents.
The syntactic annotations do the analysis, building up higher-level structures from the “atomic” level of word data (word, morphology, lemma, etc.). These structures are useful by themselves in that they document how a particular syntactic approach or philosophy has analyzed the structure of the text. They are further useful in that they provide for higher-level combinations of things to be queried. Rather than approximating all of the ways that words (atoms) may potentially combine to form the molecule “subject”, one simply specifies “subject” to bound one’s search to such structures.
In this way, the text can be read, queried and analyzed at a higher level (clauses, phrases, etc.) without sacrificing the necessary and useful information at the foundational word level.

New Product Guide: Church History

With about 7,000 titles for Libronix Digital Library System, one of the challenges we have is getting the word out about what is available. One of our recent experiments has been to write topical product guides to assemble in one place all the titles for a given subject. The latest product guide is a survey of Church History titles. Past guides include Historical and Cultural Background of the Bible, Greek Tools, and Hebrew Tools. Click here to see all the available product guides.