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A Syntactic Analysis of the Septuagint

Jn 3.16 in the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the New Testament

One of the Pre-Pubs I’m most anticipating has the misfortune of being an extremely big project of seemingly narrow interest.

I’m talking about the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the Septuagint, which has been on Pre-Pub since mid-2010, and at present  is only about 20% of the way to the development threshold.

Why am I so interested in a syntactic analysis of the Septuagint? Simply put, using the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the Greek New Testament helps me think through the text as I read it, and my Greek has gotten much, much better because of it. Sure, there are benefits to being able to search the syntax. But for me, the primary benefit comes when reading and working through the text. The Cascadia Syntax Graphs help me see the high-level components of the text, and in so doing help me see the text as phrases and clauses, and less as a string of words to be decoded.

Let me give you an example that has absolutely nothing to do with searching.

One thing I like to do when reading Greek is to use the ‘Display’ feature to turn off certain levels of the analysis. With Cascadia, if you turn off the “Phrases” and “Terminals” (and, if you’re daring, the “Literal Translation” as well), you get a structure that consists of clauses and clause functions. With the intermediary levels turned off, you can begin to see the components (subjects, objects, verbs, adverbials like negators and prepositional phrases, etc.). Even better, you start to see these when reading the text outside of the graphs, too. Here’s an example from John 3:16:

Jn 3:16 in the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the NT
Jn 3:16 in the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the NT

The dotted lighter-colored lines in the graphic above (dotted lines in the program) are where phrase and terminal level items are elided out. Reading the Greek from top to bottom, you can work through the Greek while referencing the structure of the sentence according to the Cascadia analysis. When I do this, I typically don’t worry about the “embeddedness” of the clauses, I just pay attention to the S, V, O, IO, ADV and other clause function notation. I can also readily see conjunctions and other particles, and get ideas in how they are functioning in the verse as well.

I’ll admit it’s a little selfish, but this is why I so want the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the Septuagint Pre-Pub project to start — because I want to read the Septuagint the same way. I muddle through, and I’m getting better, yet I can’t help but think I’d get better faster with graphs of the Septuagint, though.

This brings me to my point: If you’ve had some Greek in the past (either recently, or not so recently), then try this little trick with the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the New Testament. If you want, keep the “Literal Translation” portion active too. Do this diligently for awhile, and see if your Greek improves. If it does, and you think, “Wow, it really would be great to have this for the Septuagint too!” then please subscribe to the Pre-Pub, and help make it happen.

As I said, we’re only 20% of the way to funding the Cascadia Syntax Graphs of the Septuagint project. We need more people to subscribe to the Pre-Pub to make this happen. Will you be one of them?

Written by
Rick Brannan
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Written by Rick Brannan