An Introduction to the Men-De Greek Discourse Feature

I was recently studying 1 Peter 3:18 which in the ESV ends with:

being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit

Using the inline interlinear feature I observed at the beginning of the first clause was a Greek word (μέν or men) that wasn’t translated. Then at the beginning of the second clause was a Greek conjunction (δέ or de) which was translated but.

I immediately recognized the μέν – δέ construction that Faithlife’s scholar-in-residence Dr. Steve Runge taught me years ago. In The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament Glossary he refers to this as a Point-Counterpoint Set.

To summarize his explanation: the first point is setting up the second point which is the biblical author’s emphasis in the construction.

An English example might go something like this: Even though I like spaghetti, I love pizza.

I like spaghetti (counterpoint) sets up I love pizza (point) which is the emphasis or point I want to make in my statement.

In 1 Peter 3:18, being put to death in the flesh (counterpoint)  sets up made alive in the spirit (point) which is the emphasis in Peter’s statement.

One of the challenges is, most English Bibles don’t translate the μέν (men) so we don’t easily recognize this discourse construction. As Steve points out, a very literal, albeit awkward,  English translation might be something like: one the one hand…but on the other hand… Because of the clumsiness of such a wording, many English Bibles simply don’t translate it.

So how do we discover it in our English Bibles? If you’re a Faithlife Connect Essentials (former Logos Now included) or higher member you’ll have access to Dr Runge’s Discourse Features Visual Filter which clearly labels this, as well as many other, discourse constructions.

I, however, want to show you another way to see the μέν – δέ construction:

  • Open an English Bible with the interlinear option such as the ESV, NKJV, or NASB
  • Navigate to 1 Peter 3:18 (A)
  • Click the Inline interlinear icon on the Bible’s toolbar (B)
  • Check at least these boxes:
    • Inline (C)
    • Surface (D)
    • Lemma (E)
    • Lemma (Transliterated) (F)

  • Notice to the left of the English word being a bullet with the Greek word μέν (men) under it (G)

The bullet indicates an ellipsis (Hebrew/Greek word that isn’t translated in the English Bible)

  • Notice under the English word but the Greek word δέ (de) (H)

So using the inline interlinear we can see the μέν – δέ construction with the men not being translated and the de translated but.

Hopefully as we explore commentaries, the authors will point out the presence and significance of this discourse feature. Recognizing this construction really is vital to tracking with the biblical author’s flow of thought.

To absolutely make sure you see this discourse construction I strongly encourage you, if you haven’t already, to invest in Lexham Discourse Bible. With this collection you’ll have Dr. Runge’s notations and explanations of Hebrew and Greek discourse features.

In the next blog I’ll show you how to discover occurrences of the μέν – δέ construction using just the English interlinear Bible.

If you’d like more information about the reverse interlinear and explanations of the Discourse Features Visual Filter, be sure to order your copy of the Logos Training Manuals Volumes 1-3 in print or digitalor attend a Camp Logos training seminar.

And for 24/7 Logos training, check out the new MPSeminarsOnline.com website.

Remember to follow Faithlife.com/mpseminars and you’ll automatically receive a FREE digital download of Dr. Grant Osborne’s commentary Ephesians Verse by Verse.