The Exegetical Significance of
Meta-Comments for Identifying
Key Propositions
Steven Runge
Discourse Grammar and Biblical Exegesis Consultation
Providence, RI, November 19-21, 2008
Introduction
Tendencies in communication:
• Communicate intended content
• Efficient and focused
E.g., “I appreciate your research.”
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Glossary Definition
Meta-comment—When a speaker stops saying
what they are saying in order to comment on
what is going to be said, speaking abstractly
about it.
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Glossary Definition
Meta-comment—When a speaker stops saying
what they are saying in order to comment on
what is going to be said, speaking abstractly
about it.
E.g., “I want you to know that I appreciate your
research.”
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Glossary Definition
Meta-comment—When a speaker stops saying
what they are saying in order to comment on
what is going to be said, speaking abstractly
about it.
E.g., “I want you to know that I appreciate your
research.”
• Interrupts the flow of the discourse
• Attracts extra attention to the proposition that
follows.
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English Meta-Comments
• “It is very important that you understand that …”
• “I want you to know that …”
• “Don’t you know that…”
• “Of all the things that you have learned so far,
the most important one is that…”
• “If you remember nothing else that I say,
remember that…”
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English Meta-Comments
“You look down, they know you're lying and up,
they know you don't know the truth. Don't use
seven words when four will do…He's got to like
you then forget you the moment you've left his
side. And for God's sake, whatever you do,
don't, under any circumstances...”
Brad Pitt as “Rusty” in Ocean’s Eleven
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Greek NT Meta-Comments
• λέγω ὑμῖν “I say to you…”
• λέγω ὑμῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν “I tell you the truth…”
• γινώσκετε ὅτι “We know that…”
• οἴδαμεν “I ask that…”
• οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν “I want you to know…”
• ἀγνοεῖτε “Don’t you know…”
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Greek NT Meta-Comments
• λέγω ὑμῖν “I say to you…”
• λέγω ὑμῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν “I tell you the truth…”
• γινώσκετε ὅτι “We know that…”
• οἴδαμεν “I ask that…”
• οὐ θέλω ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν “I want you to know…”
• ἀγνοεῖτε “Don’t you know…”
Often co-occur with vocatives/nominatives of
address:
E.g. “I want you to know, brothers, that…”
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Romans 12:1
PRINCIPLE
(V Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς V ) ἀδελφοί
1
I exhort
therefore you,
[SP
brothers
διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν
through the
mercies
τοῦ θεοῦ SP] παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν
of
BULLET
God
to present
—
bodies
your
θυσίαν ζῶσαν
sacrifice [as] a living
BULLET
ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ
holy
BULLET
pleasing
to
God
(P τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν P )
—
reasonable
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service
your
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Conventional explanation
Form critical classifications
• disclosure formulas
• request formulas
• hearing forms
• petition formulas
• introduction formulas
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Problems with conventional explanation
• Collocation of words, not the usage
– Sometimes significant, other times not
– Variations of form are questioned
– Expressions with comparable effects are excluded
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Problems with conventional explanation
• Collocation of words, not the usage
– Sometimes significant, other times not
– Variations of form are questioned
– Expressions with comparable effects are excluded
• Found outside of Greek epistolary literature
– The same forms with same effect found in narrative
– Same kind of device found in many languages
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Problems with conventional explanation
• Collocation of words, not the usage
– Sometimes significant, other times not
– Variations on form are questioned
– Expressions with comparable effects excluded
• Found outside of Greek epistolary literature
– The same forms with same effect found in narrative
– Same kind of device found in many languages
• Usage and distribution suggest broader function
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Discourse explanation
Meta-comment—When a speaker stops saying
what they are saying in order to comment on
what is going to be said, speaking abstractly
about it.
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Discourse explanation
Meta-comment—When a speaker stops saying
what they are saying in order to comment on
what is going to be said, speaking abstractly
about it.
Meta-comments have the effect of attracting extra
attention to the proposition that follows
– Not needed to process what follows
– Usage where it is not semantically required brings
about the pragmatic effect.
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Romans 12:3
SUPPORT
(V Λέγω γὰρ διὰ τῆς χάριτος τῆς δοθείσης μοι
3
I say
for
by
the
grace
—
given
τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν V ) (B μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν
—
ὃ
who is among you
not to think more highly of
παντὶ
to me to everyone
παρ ̓
than
δεῖ φρονεῖν B)
what one ought to think
SUB-POINT
ἀλλὰ (A φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν ἑκάστῳ ὡς
but
[TP
to think
so as —
to be sensible
to each one as
ὁ θεὸς TP] ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως A)
—
God
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has apportioned a measure
of faith
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Galatians 1:9
8
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to
the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. (ESV)
SENTENCE
9[CP
(V ὡς προειρήκαμεν CP] (T καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν T ) λέγω V )
as
[CE
we said before
also
now
εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρ ̓
if anyone you
again
ὃ
I say
παρελάβετε CE]
is proclaiming a gospel contrary to what you have received
ἀνάθεμα ἔστω
accursed
let him be
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James 1:16-17
SENTENCE
(V Μὴ πλανᾶσθε V ) (G ἀδελφοί μου ἀγαπητοί G)
16
[do] not be deceived
brothers
my
dear
[TP
πᾶσα
every
δόσις ἀγαθὴ καὶ πᾶν δώρημα τέλειον TP] ἄνωθέν ἐστιν
gift
good
and every
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gift
perfect
from above
is
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Mark 13:14
SENTENCE
14[LD
Ὅταν δὲ ἴδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως ἑστηκότα
when
but
ὅπου οὐ
where
[TP
you see the
abomination
of
desolation
δεῖ LD] (V ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω V )
not [be] should
the
one who reads
standing
[TM
understand,
τότε TM]
then
οἱ ἐν τῇ Ἰ ουδαίᾳ TP] φευγέτωσαν εἰς τὰ ὄρη
those in
—
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Judea
must flee
to
the mountains
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Luke 4:24-25
SENTENCE
(NἈμὴν N) (V λέγω ὑμῖν V ) ὅτι
truly
I say
to you
[TP
οὐδεὶς προφήτης TP]
that
no
prophet
δεκτός ἐστιν ἐν τῇ πατρίδι αὐτοῦ
acceptable
SENTENCE
is
—
in
hometown
his
(V ἐπ̓ ἀληθείας δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν V ) πολλαὶ χῆραι ἦσαν
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in
truth
but
I say
to you
many
widows there were
ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις Ἠλίου ἐν τῷ Ἰ σραήλ
in
the
days
of Elijah
when
was shut
the
sky
for
years
three
and
months six
ὡς ἐγένετο λιμὸς μέγας ἐπὶ πᾶσαν τὴν γῆν
SUB-POINT
while took place
famine
a great
over
all
the
land
καὶ (B πρὸς οὐδεμίαν αὐτῶν ἐπέμφθη Ἠλίας B)
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and
SUB-POINT
Israel
ὅτε ἐκλείσθη ὁ οὐρανὸς ἐπὶ ἔτη τρία καὶ μῆνας ἕξ
SUB-POINT
SENTENCE
—
in
to
none
of them
was sent
Elijah
εἰ μὴ (A εἰς Σάρεπτα τῆς Σιδωνίας πρὸς γυναῖκα
but only
to
Zarephath
of
Sidon
to
a woman
χήραν A)
a widow
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Matthew 15:10-11
SENTENCE
(V Ἀκούετε καὶ συνίετε V ) (B οὐ τὸ εἰσερχόμενον
hear
and
understand
not
—
what goes
εἰς τὸ στόμα κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον B)
into the
SENTENCE
mouth [that] defiles a
person
ἀλλὰ (A [LD τὸ ἐκπορευόμενον ἐκ τοῦ στόματος LD]
11
—
but
what comes out
of
the
mouth
τοῦτο κοινοῖ τὸν ἄνθρωπον A)
this
defiles
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a
person
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Matthew 11:15
SENTENCE
καὶ
14
[CE
and
εἰ θέλετε δέξασθαι CE]
[TP
αὐτός TP] ἐστιν Ἠλίας
if you are willing to accept [it]
he
is
Elijah
(P ὁ μέλλων ἔρχεσθαι P )
the
SENTENCE
15
(V
[TP
one going
to come
ὁ ἔχων ὦτα TP] ἀκουέτω V )
the one who has ears
SENTENCE
let him hear
Τίνι δὲ ὁμοιώσω τὴν γενεὰν ταύτην
16
to what but shall I compare
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—
generation
this
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The Exegetical Significance of Meta