Syntax Search Example: Hands, Heads and Feet as Subjects in the New Testament

Here’s a fun syntax search. For some reason I thought of searching the New Testament for places where body parts — hands, feet, heads, etc. — served as the subject of a clause.
You know, things like Mt 17.2:

And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.(Mt 17:2, ESV)

As seems to be my habit, I constructed the search and made a video of the process so I could share it with y’all. Enjoy!

Greek Syntax: Components and Head Terms

I received an email from one of y’all with some further questions about word groups, head terms, clausal hierarchy and syntax searching.

Rather than writing something, it was easier to make a video to point out some of the different ways one can structure a syntax search — particularly if you’ve wondered what “Must be an immediate child of parent” does.

I’ll warn you that I rambled a bit, the video is almost 13 minutes. Hopefully the information therein is usable.

Logos Culinary Secrets Revealed!

As Bob has mentioned and as regular blog readers know, from time to time we love to do some cookin’ here at Logos.

Bradley Grainger preparing some condimentsfor his 2006 Curry Cook-off entry

When we have cookoffs, we usually post winning recipes on this blog.

If you’re interested in some of the winners, try searching the blog using the search box on the sidebar for the word recipe. Or just click this link.

Who knows, you could find something you’d like to make for dinner next week!

Syntax Searching and Epistolary Form Criticism: Charge Form

Read the first five posts in this series: Intro | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4.
2Ti 4.1 offers an example of the Charge Form.

Charge Form in 2Ti 4.1

The discussion of this form is very much preliminary because Smith’s recent book, Timothy’s Task, Paul’s Prospect is the first to propose this form. If Smith is right, it could affect how one interprets the whole book of Second Timothy. One should at least weigh this when working through the book of Second Timothy.

Description of Form
Smith defines the form as follows:

My research has identified four basic elements which comprise the charge: the Charge Verb, Person/s Charged, Authority Phrase, and Content of the Charge. A fifth element sometimes present in a charge is the Implications of the Charge, though this is not a necessary component.[1]

Smith provides more explanation of each of these elements:

  • The Charge Verb: Could be διαμαρτύρομαι, παραγγέλλω, μαρτύρομαι, ἐνορκίζω, εχορκίζω, ὁρκίζω, κελεύω, παρακαλέω, ἐντέλλομαι.[2] Smith notes these are to be active apart from deponents, which will occur in the middle.[3]
  • The Person Charged: A second person singular or plural, though third person singular or plural are possible. The case of the noun is either accusative or dative. This item is not always a part of the charge, sometimes it may be implied from context.[4]
  • The Authority Phrase: Typically following the verb, it may or may not use a preposition. When no preposition is present, the phrase uses the accusative case.[5]
  • The Content of the Charge: Typically in a ἵνα clause and a verb second or third person subjunctive, though it may be an infinitival clause or perhaps even a series of imperatives.

Because the charge verb and authority phrase are always present, those will be used as the basis of the query.

The Form in SAGNT
Smith reports the following instances of the charge form: Mt 26.63; Mk 5.7; Ac 16.18; Ro 12.1-2; 15.30-32; 1Co 1.10; Eph 4.17; 1Th 4.1; 5.27; 2Th 3.6; 2Th 3.12; 1Ti 5.21; 1Ti 6.13-14; 2Ti 4.1-8.[6] The query follows:

Charge Form

  • A primary clause with a first-person indicative charge verb as predicator. A second clause component, either an adjunct or a complement contains:
    • “supernatural being or power” (Louw-Nida domain 12) as head term, or
    • οικτιρμος, οικτιρμων or ονομα as the head term

This query, when run, returns 29 instances. Some are duplications based on the “OR” criteria in the word group of the second clause component.

  • Instances from Smith located by the query: Mt 26.63; Mk 5.7; Ac 16.18; 15.30-32; 1Co 1.10; Eph 4.17; 1Th 4.1; 5.27; 2Th 3.6; 2Th 3.12; 1Ti 5.21; 1Ti 6.13-14; 2Ti 4.1-8
  • Extras located by the query: Jn 14.16; 16.26; Ac 19.13.
  • Instances from Smith missed by the query: Ro 12.1-2. This is due to a discrepancy in the annotation of Ro 12.1, where the prepositional phrase that functions as the authority phrase is annotated as modifying the following infinitive verb instead of the preceding indicative verb (the charge verb).


Smith, Craig A. Timothy’s Task, Paul’s Prospect: A New Reading of 2 Timothy (Sheffield: The Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006).

[1] Smith, p. 27.
[2] Smith, p. 27, 29.
[3] Smith, p. 29.
[4] Smith, p. 30.
[5] Smith, p. 30
[6] Smith, p. 231-233

Syntax Searching and Epistolary Form Criticism: Joy Expression

Read the first four posts in this series: Intro | 1 | 2 | 3.
Php 4.10 offers an example of the Joy Expression.

Joy Expression in Php 4.10

Description of Form
As with the Request/Petition form, Mullins has questioned if such a thing as the “Joy Expression” exists as a form in the New Testament. White describes the form as follows:

Five formal items may appear in joy expressions: (i) either the verb χαίρω (“I rejoice”) in the aorist tense (cf. Phil 4:10 and P.Giss. 21 in type 3), or the noun χάρις (“joy”) in the accusative case as the object of the verb ἔχω (cf. Philemon 7 in type 3); (ii) an adverb denoting magnitude (πολλήν, μεγάλως, λίαν in the examples diagrammed on p. 94); (iii) either a statement regarding the arrival of a letter or a statement concerning something which was heard; (iv) the object which was heard, introduced by ὅτι; and (v) the vocative.[1]

Mullins rightly takes issue with this based on White’s own examples. Mullins writes:

For the joy expression, [White] indicates five elements without saying which are essential and which are optional; he says they “may appear” in the form. Now, if a form is to be a form, there must be something about it which is basic. Presumably in the joy expression two elements are basic: first “either the verb χαίρω (“I rejoice”) in the aorist tense (cf. Phil 4:10 and P.Giss. 21 in type 3), or the noun χάρις (“joy”) in the accusative case as the object of the verb ἔχω (cf. Philemon 7 in type 3)” and, second, “the object which was heard, introduced by ὅτι”.[2]

To isolate instances of this potential form,[3] the two items Mullins understands as basic are used as search criteria.

The Form in SAGNT
Because Mullins’ first basic item has two relatively different options, two queries are necessary.

First Query[4]

Joy Expression, First Query

  • A primary clause with a first person aorist instance of χαίρω as the predicator.
  • A secondary clause with the conjunction ὅτι.

Second Query

Joy Expression, Second Query

  • A primary clause with a first-person instance of ἔχω as predicator and χάρις (or χαρά) as complement. The order may be predicator-complement or complement-predicator.

No comprehensive list of instances of the joy expression are given by either White or Mullins. Their own examples list Php 4.10 (exemplary of first query) and Phm 7 (exemplary of second query) among the NT instances. The following are located with the queries:

  • Instances located by the First Query: 2Co 7.13; Php 4.10; 2Jn 4
  • Instances located by the Second Query: 1Ti 1.11-12; 2Ti 1.3; Phm 7; Heb 12.28; 3Jn 4.


Mullins, T.Y., “Formulas in the New Testament Epistles”, JBL 91 (1972), pp. 380-390.
White, J.L., “Introductory Formulae in the Body of the Pauline Letter”, JBL 90 (1971), pp. 91-97.

[1] White, pp. 95-96.
[2] Mullins, p. 384.
[3] For the very reasons Mullins states, existence of this structure as a literary form are doubtful. At the very least, the definition needs to be worked over and supplemented with non-canonical examples from the papyri.
[4] Instead of two queries, the form could be located with a single query that uses OR to join the two separate queries. They are presented separately to isolate the differences in each portion of the overall query.

Syntax Searching and Epistolary Form Criticism: Request/Petition Form

Read the first three posts in this series: 1 | 2 | 3.

1Co 1.10 offers an example of the Request/Petition form.

Request/Petition Form in 1Co 1.10

Description of Form
There is much debate between White and Mullins on this form. Smith, as the latest writer to review the debate, gets the last word. He sides with Mullins, thus Mullins’ formulation (as described by Smith) will be evaluated here. Smith writes:

According to Mullins, the petition form has three basic elements: the background, the petition verb, and the desired action and optionally the address (i.e. to whom the petition is directed) and the courtesy phrase (i.e. a form of ἔαν σοι δόξη, ‘if it seems good to you’). The background includes the recital of information which the petitioner deems necessary for the official to know so that the official will decide in the petitioner’s favour. The petition verb, which is always in the first person and the present tense, reflects the petitioner’s concern that the official act on his behalf. the typical verbs used are ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν and παρακαλεῖν. The desired action outlines the request of the petitioner, that is, what he wants the official to do on his behalf. [1]

No specific structural information is given regarding the “background” section, so this cannot be included in a structural search. The other “basic elements”, the petition verb and the desired action, can be structurally quantified.

The Form in SAGNT
The request/petition form involves consecutive clauses, each with different characteristics.

First Query

Structure of First Query

  • A primary clause that has either ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν or παρακαλεῖν as its predicator in the first person and present tense. The verb is a first-person present indicative. This clause has a complement (or perhaps an adjunct) with an embedded clause. The predicator of the embedded clause is an infinitive verb. An example is found in Lu 9.38.

Second Query

Structure of Second Query

  • A primary clause that has either ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν or παρακαλεῖν as its predicator in the first person and present tense. The verb is to be a first-person present active indicative.
  • A primary or secondary clause follows. This primary clause has an second person verb in the indicative, imperative or subjunctive mood as its predicator. An example is found in Ac 21.39.

Third Query

Structure of Third Query

  • A primary clause that has either ἀξιοῦν, δεῖσθαι, ἐρωτᾶν or παρακαλεῖν as its predicator in the first person and present tense. The verb is to be a first-person present active indicative.
  • A secondary clause follows. This clause contains a subordinate clause indicated by the conjunctions ἵνα, γὰρ or ὅπως.[2] An example is found in 2Th 3.12. Note that other secondary clauses may intervene between the primary clause and the subordinate clause (e.g. Phm 10).

Mullins reports the following instances of the Petition Form: Lu 8.28; 9.38; 14.18-19; 16.27; Ac 8.34; 21.39; 26.3; 28.22; Ro 12.1; 16.17; 1Co 1.10; 16.15; 2Co 2.8; 6.1; 10.1, 2; Ga 4.12; Eph 4.1; Php 4.2, 3; 1Th 4.1, 10; 5.12; 2Th 2.1; 3.12; 1Ti 2.1; Phm 9, 10; Heb 13.19; 22; 1Pe 2.11; 5.1.[3]

  • Instances from Mullins located by the First Query: Lu 9.38; Ac 26.3; 28.22; Ro 12.1; 16.17; 2Co 2.8; 6.1; 10.2; Eph 4.1-3; Php .4.2; 1Th 4.10-11; 5.12-13; 2Th 2.1; 1Ti 2.1-2; 1Pe 2.11-12.
  • Extras located in First Query: Ac 24.4; 27.34; Ro 15.30.
  • Instances from Mullins located by the Second Query:[4] Lu 8.28; Lu 14.18-19; Lu 16.27; Ac 21.39; Ro 12.1-2; 16.17; 1Co 1.10; 16.15; 2Co 5.20; Ga 4.12; Php 4.3; 1Th 4.1; 5.12-13, 14; Heb 13.22
  • Extras located in Second Query: Jn 17.15
  • Instances from Mullins located by the Third Query: Lu 16.27; 1Co 1.10; 1Th 4.1, 10-12; 2Th 3.12; 1Ti 2.1-2; Phm 10-13; Heb 13.19; 1Pe 2.11-12.
  • Extras located in Third Query: Jn 17.15; Ro 15.30-32; 2Jn 5
  • Instances missed by all three queries: Ac 8.34; 1Pe 5.1.

In the instances missed by the queries, the syntax is not as easily ascertained as in the others. In Ac 8.34, the substance of the desired action is not stated at all; it is implied by asking a question—a question that is formally three short clauses. The petition, then, is to answer the question; it is not explicitly stated at all. In 1Pe 5.1, a complex verbless clause consisting of a subject with embedded participles intervenes between the petition verb and the desired action (stated in a primary clause with an imperative verb).

Alternate Query

Structure of Alternate Query

An alternate method would be to simply find where a present tense, singular form of the petition verb occurs as the predicator of a primary clause. These would logically have a high probability of being examples of the petition form.

This method, completed in a single search, locates all of the instances supplied by Mullins. The query additionally locates the following false positives: Jn 17.9, 15, 20; Ac 24.4; Ro 15.30; 1Co 4.13, 16; 1Th 5.14.


Mullins, T.Y., “Formulas in the New Testament Epistles”, JBL 91 (1972), pp. 380-390.
———, “Petition as a Literary Form”, NovT 5 (1962), pp. 46-52.
Smith, C.A., Timothy’s Task, Paul’s Prospect: A New Reading of 2 Timothy (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006). pp. 10,
White, J.L., “Introductory Formulae in the Body of the Pauline Letter”, JBL 90 (1971), pp. 91-97.
———, The Form and Structure of the Official Petition (Missoula, MT: Society of Biblical Literature, 1972).

[1] Smith, 47.
[2] White 1971, p. 93.
[3] Mullins 1962, p. 54. Note that Mullins has two typos. “2 Corinthians XX 2” should be “2 Corinthians X 2” and “2 Corinthians V 20; V 1” should be “2 Corinthians V 20; VI 1”.
[4] These instances include overlapping matches between all three queries; this is not a unique list.

Quick Impressions of ETS and AAR/SBL 2006

The ETS and AAR/SBL conferences were awesome. We were able to meet all sorts of folks at both conferences and talk with them about Bible study software and especially about syntax.

But it was a long week. Time in the booth, catching sessions, giving papers, catching up with old friends and making new friends have a way of wearing a guy out. As a matter of fact, on the way to the airport for the flight home, Eli (in the back), Mike (on the right) and Rick (on the left) crashed in the minivan while John was playing the role of chauffeur. Vincent apparently obliged in snapping the picture.

We may have other pictures later, and I hope to post the papers I presented later as well.

Syntax Searching and Epistolary Form Criticism: Greeting Form

Read the first two posts in this series: 1 | 2.
Romans 16 has several examples of this form. Verse 3 offers a good sample:

Greeting Form in Ro 16.3

Description of Form
Mullins describes the components of the greeting form as follows:

The elements of the greeting are: 1. the greeting verb (some form of ἀσπάζεσθαι); 2. indication of the person who is to do the greeting; 3. indication of the person who is being greeted; 4. elaborating phrases. The first three are the basic elements of the greeting. The fourth is optional. These elements may be expressed differently in the three types of greeting. In the first-person and second-person type of greeting, elements one and two are accomplished at the same time by the verb.[1]

As noted in the above quotation, Mullins identifies three different types of the form, one for each grammatical person of the greeter. Thus there are first-person, second-person and third-person forms. Because component 2 can be done with either grammatical person of the verb (first and second person) or a pronoun (third person), the pronoun is essentially optional when considering a syntax-based query.

Therefore a syntactic search only need attend to two criteria:

  • The greeting verb (ἀσπάζομαι)
  • Indication of the person being greeted.

Mullins does not provide a definitive list of New Testament instances, but he does mention epistles that contain instances of the greeting form: “It appears in the letters of Paul, extensively, and in the Pastorals, Hebrews, I Peter, and II and III John.”[2]

The Form in SAGNT
Locating the greeting form involves searching for clause-initial instances of ἀσπάζομαι (as a predicator component) that also have a complement clause component. The complement denotes what completes the predication, thus direct objects are included in the sorts of things that complements encode.[3] Including the complement therefore includes an “indication of the person being greeted”.

Structure of Greeting Form

This query returns 69 instances, though the results are not perfect. Instances in Mark (15.18) and Acts (21.7, 19; 25.13) are returned in addition to hits in Paul, Pastorals, Hebrews, First Peter, Second John and Third John.[4] Romans, with an extensive greeting section in chapter 16, contains the bulk of the matches.


Mullins, T.Y., “Greeting as a New Testament Form”, JBL 87 (1968), pp. 418-426.

[1] Mullins, p. 419.
[2] Mullins, p. 424.
[3] An aside: One could limit greetings to those that list personal names in the complement by restricting the complement to containing a head term word that is also tagged as Louw-Nida domain 93, the “personal name” domain. But this would skip over other valid instances of greetings like Php 4.22, “All the saints greet you”.
[4] Based on Mullins’ article, my guess is that only the Mark and Acts references are extraneous; the rest are valid.

Syntax Searching and Epistolary Form Criticism: Disclosure Form

Read the first post in this series
An example of the disclosure form is found in 1Th 4.13:

1Th 4.13, Disclosure Form

Description of Form
Smith provides a concise summary of the structure of the disclosure form as identified by Mullins:

Mullins has isolated the disclosure form, as a distinct literary form which is used in the NT. He examined the form in terms of structure first. By doing so he observes that this form has four constituent elements: verb of wishing, infinitive of a noetic verb, person addressed and information disclosed. Next he examined the form in terms of content and observed that the verb of wishing is typically θέλω, the infinitive of a noetic verb used is typically γινώσκειν (the tense varies) or ἀγνοεῖν, the person addressed is either second person singular or plural and the content of the information disclosed is diverse and usually found within a ὅτι clause.[1]

White discusses the form briefly in his article:

This form may be delineated in terms of its three principal elements: (i) the verb of disclosure, often a two-membered unit consisting of a verb of desiring (θέλω or βούλομαι) in the first person indicative, and the verb of knowing (γινώσκω) in the infinitive form; (ii) the vocative of address (ἀδελφοί, “brothers,” in the five examples from Paul); and (iii) the subject to be disclosed introduced by ὅτι.[2]

The common points of these descriptions include:

  • verb of wishing/desiring
  • verb of knowing, in the infinitive mood
  • a ὅτι or ἵνα clause further explicating the subject to be disclosed.

Smith reports Mullins determines the following references as containing instances of the disclosure formula: Ro 1.13; 11.25; 1Co 10.1; 11.3; 12.1; 2Co 1.8; Col 2.1; 1Th 4.13.[3]
Because the third item (ὅτι or ἵνα clause) is variable as Mullins’ reported instances demonstrate, candidate instances of the disclosure formula can be located simply taking the first two items into account.

The Form in SAGNT
Locating the disclosure form in the SAGNT involves searching for clauses that contain a Predicator with θέλω and that also contain an embedded clause (infinives are typically encoded as embedded clauses) with lexical forms of either αγνοεω or οιδα.[4] Below is the query that will find Smith and Mullins’ reported instances.[5]

Structure of the Disclosure Form

Search results in Logos Bible Software are presented in both Greek and English, with respective structures highlighted in each language. In this particular search, the silver background represents the content of the clause; the orange represents each clause component.

Syntax Search Results — Disclosure Form Instances


Mullins, T. Y., “Disclosure: a Literary Form in the New Testament”, NovT 7 (1964), pp. 44-50.
White, J.L., “Introductory Formulae in the Body of the Pauline Letter”, JBL 90 (1971), pp. 91-97.
Smith, C.A., Timothy’s Task, Paul’s Prospect: A New Reading of 2 Timothy (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2006). pp. 10,

[1] Smith, 10.
[2] White, 93.
[3] Smith, 11.
[4] Andrew Pitts, in a forthcoming review of Logos Bible Software 3.0 to be published in the Journal of Greco-Roman Judaism and Christianity, uses a similar search with similar results as an example of the capability of the SAGNT.
[5] As of November, 2006, this is not strictly true. 1Co 12.1 is erroneously tagged in the current version of the SAGNT. This error has been flagged for correction and should be updated in a future release of the database.

Syntax Searching and Epistolary Form Criticism: Introduction

During the SBL national meeting in Washington DC, we’ll be doing a session on Syntactically Annotated editions of the Greek New Testament. Here’s the info:

Session: 20-101 — Syntactically-Tagged Databases of the Greek NT: Overview & Training Seminar Date: Monday — November 20 Time: 4:00 – 6:30 PM Room: Bulfinch – GH Description: Exegesis in the Greek New Testament concerns far more than semantics and parsing. Take the quantum leap with software that allows you to search for grammatical/syntactical structures and usage in the Greek New Testament.

During that session, I hope to run through a few examples of things I’ve been working on with syntax searching in the area of epistolary form criticism. That sounds a bit high-falutin’, I know, but it has direct import on exegesis of New Testament epistles.

Think about it. Even today, we have certain “forms” that we use in particular types of communication. When we write a letter, we have a “Dear ______” salutation, we have a signature (e.g., “Sincerely, Rick” or something like that). Those are what could be called “forms”. If you write a memo in your office, chances are you do it a particular way.

The same thing happens with ancient letters. There are particular “forms” for opening a letter. There are also forms closing a letter. And there are, some think, forms for other things in between.
If you’re working through an epistle, wouldn’t it be important to know if there are potential examples of these “forms”, and to also be able to find where other instances of them are in the epistles? Might that not have an effect on exegesis?

This post introduces the idea in a little more detail. Subsequent posts in the series (I believe there will be five, though some may be broken up depending on size of post) will work through the structure of some proposed forms (see bibliography below) and examples of syntax searches designed to locate those forms. I hope to post once a week, but I may get off that schedule since we’ll be in the holidays.

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