The Function of δέ in Ephesians – Introduction

I had this post nearly completely right before my computer died. Now I have to rewrite it (and now it will probably end up being two posts at least).

Anyway, as I’ve continued studying Ephesians, a few things have happened: 1) My discussions are tending to grow longer. 2) Something I’ve done to make things a little shorter is to put discussion that are getting too long in separate posts. 3) Finally, I said little about conjunctions and how they fit into the text and how they hold the text together. In this post, I plan on continuing in the tradition of #2 while filling in the gap of #3).

Greek conjunctions are an adventure for English speakers because they definitely are not English conjunctions. And anyone who has been following Rick and his discussions of ἀλλά know exactly what I’m saying. Basically, there is no one-to-one correspondence between English conjunctions & deictic markers and Greek conjunctions. Functionally speaking we cannot simply say that means δέ “but” or that καί mean “and.”

In Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, edited by David Alan Black, Randall Buth writes an excellent article about conjunctions in the Gospel of John entitled, “Οὖν, Δέ, Καί, and Asyndeton in John’s Gospel” (144-161). According to Buth, John’s use of conjunctions is rather distinct in comparison to the synoptic gospel. In his study, he proposes the following chart for the meaning of conjunctions (157, simplified here):

 

  +close connection -close connection
+significant change οὖν δέ
-significant change καί Null

 

To summarize the chart, οὖν marks a significant change in the discourse that maintains a connection with the previous material and while δέ marks a significant change there is no close connection with what proceeds, though this also does not mean that there is no connection, its merely not a close one. And καί maintains a close connection with what proceeds, but doesn’t necessitate a significant change in the discourse. Finally, according to Buth, asyndeton marks neither a close connection nor significant change.

Now these conclusions for Greek conjunctions focused specifically in the Gospel of John. Whether they could apply also to other Koine texts is not stated by Buth – other than the fact that John’s gospel is markedly different than the Synoptic Gospels.

But the professor who teaches NT Exegesis at GIAL holds that Buth’s pattern is consistent with other Koine texts, particularly 1 Peter, the letter on which he wrote his dissertation (in the Longacrean discourse tradition).

The next post or two will examine specifically the conjunction δέ in Ephesians up to the point where I am presently studying (4.20-24) with the following questions in mind:

  • Does Buth’s analysis δέ of in John parallel Paul’s usage in Ephesians?
  • And if so, what is the significance for the various appearances of the conjunction both at a clausal and discourse levels.

So that’s what you can expect to see in the next day or two. And then hopefully I’ll get my actually exegesis and outline of Ephesians 4.20-24.

4 thoughts on “The Function of δέ in Ephesians – Introduction

  1. One of my favorite sentences Longacre writes in The Grammar of Discourse is this:

    “On the paragraph level in English, the use of specific conjunctions such as meanwhile likewise sets off overlap from chronological succession (Chapter 4)” (page 63).

    You gotta love his use of likewise. He’s conscious of meanwhile and gets us readers conscious of his “natural” (i.e., his own “un-conscious”) use of likewise. Yes, let us know how the writer of “Ephesians” uses similar paragraph and sequence markers of his discourse.

    And thanks, Rick, for what you’re doing with this too.

  2. Thanks, Jeff, hopefully, I can get it up today! Do let me know if I enter the world of obscure and esoteric.

    Kurk: I confess that my familiarity with Longacre is rather small. I’m perused parts of his book, but not for a while.

    Rick: Well, I couldn’t avoid it forever!

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