Discontinuous Syntax Part IV

This is a continuation of my series examining Devine and Stephen’s book Discontinuous Syntax: Hyperbaton in Greek. Today’s post fills a gap left open this past weekend in chapter two.

See also:

Part I

Part II

Part III

DS proposed as test in order to show that Y1 Hyperbaton encodes strong focus [the BLACK cat, not the white one] by examining how certain words interact with these discontinuous phrases:

If it is correct that Y1 hyperbaton encodes focus, then we expect association of particles and adverbials to be with Y1 when a narrowly focused adjective stands in hyperbaton (66).

Testing Y1 Hyperbaton

Probably the most objective text for determining whether it is truly the case that Y1 Hyperbaton marked strong focus on the YModifier is to examine those instances of the structure where there are other modifiers that tend to associate with strong focus. In English the words only, even, also, indeed, and various others fill this role. Thus, if DS’s claim is true for Koine Greek as well as Classical Greek, we would expect that when words such as μόνος or καί (the adverb) appear in the same clause as Y1 Hyperbaton, they will associate themselves with the focused initial modifier. DS provide a number of examples to show that this is the case with Classical Greek. This also seems to be the case for Koine as well as seen in the following examples taken from a variety of texts.[1]

1 Y1 Hyperbaton & μόνος

While occurrences of with Y1 Hyperbaton in the same clause are rare, those that do appear are clearly aligned with the initial modifier. There are no exact examples of this in the New Testament, though Philippians 4:15 in example (37) is close.

(1) οὐδεμία μοι ἐκκλησία ἐκοινώνησεν εἰς λόγον δόσεως καὶ λήμψεως εἰ μὴ ὑμεῖς μόνοι
Not one church partnered with me in giving and receiving except you alone.

In this instances, μόνος is not in the same clause as the hyperbaton, but it still provides evidence for Y1 Hyperbaton encoding strong focus. The negative quantifier, οὐδεμία, excludes all other churches with its strong focus. But then in the next clause Paul gives the one exception to this exclusive rule: the Philippian church. The effect of the strong focus hyperbaton is to make even more emphatic Paul’s commendation of the Philippians that they are the only ones who have partnered with Paul in this way. [2] Peter O’Brien recognizes the significance of the focus implicitly without any comment on the discontinuous phrase, οὐδεμίαἐκκλησία, when he writes, “Paul’s purpose is to highlight the Philippians’ generosity. He therefore makes the point emphatically with the concluding words εἰ μὴ ὑμεῖς μόνοι (‘except you only’).”[3] In actuality, those concluding words, while important, are only a part of what highlights the Philippians generosity. It is the complete combination of Y1 Hyperbaton, a point-counter point set[4] and the ellipsis of the verb in the final clause.[5]

Examples of other Koine texts appear below.

(2) τὸν μόνον πάμπλουτον αἰτεῖται θεόν·
He prays to the only all-wealthy God (Philo, On the Migration of Abraham §121)

(3) μέσον δʼ αὐτὸν οὐ μόνον ἐπεὶ μέσην ἐπέχει χώραν, ὡς ἠξίωσάν τινες, καλῶ, ἀλλʼ ὅτι θεραπεύεσθαι καὶ δορυφορεῖσθαι πρὸς ὑπασπιζόντων ἑκατέρωθεν ἀξιώματος ἕνεκα καὶ μεγέθους καὶ ὠφελειῶν, ἃς τοῖς ἐπιγείοις ἅπασι παρέχει, δίκαιος ἄλλως ἐστί.
I call [the sun] central not only because it stays in the middle position, as some have believed, but also because it is in other ways bound to be served and flanked by bodyguards [i.e. the other planets] on either side because of its honor magnitude, and the benefits which it gives out to everything on the earth (Philo, Heir of Divine Things §223).

(4) τῶν πάντων δὲ δικαίως μόνον καὶ πρῶτον ἥγημαι κύριον
Of all beings, I have justly determined that you are indeed the only foremost Lord (Josephus, Antiquities 20.90)

This final example is rather important since it involves a combination of both adverbial καὶ and also μόνον. The combination of these two words, in conjunction with the hyperbaton and the fronting of the explicitly stated set of alternatives, makes the strong focus of πρῶτον quite clear. But even in the other instances, the fact that μόνος is aligned with Y1 Hyperbaton is evident.

2 Y1 Hyperbaton &Adverbial καί

Places where Y1 Hyperbaton occur with an adverbial καί are a challenge to find since καί is more commonly a conjunction, but the following examples have been found and there are likely more. The first, from Hebrew 8:6, is one examined above, but it deserves more attention, specifically in relation to the καί.[6]

(5) νυν[ὶ] δὲ διαφορωτέρας τέτυχεν λειτουργίας, ὅσῳ καὶ κρείττονός ἐστιν διαθήκης μεσίτης, ἥτις ἐπὶ κρείττοσιν ἐπαγγελίαις νενομοθέτηται.
But now, Jesus has obtained a more excellent ministry as much as he is also a better mediator of the Covenant, based upon better promises (Hebrew 8:6).

As predicted, the καί aligns itself with the discontinuous phrase, marking its focused status. William Lane, while not providing any explanation or discussion of the discontinuous phrase, recognizes the emphatic status of κρείττονός (better). “The new covenant is superior because it is based on better promises. This significant point is made by repeating twice the qualitative term “better” (κρείττονος and κρείττοσιν), each time in an emphatic position in its phrase.”[7]

(6) εἷς γὰρ θεός, εἷς καὶ μεσίτης θεοῦ καὶ ἀνθρώπων, ἄνθρωπος Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς
For there is one God and also one mediator for God and mankind: the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2.5).

Significantly in this example, the καὶ is actually the constituent dividing the noun phrase, making the alignment between καὶ and the Hyperbaton quite clear. The strong focus on εἷς places greater emphasis on the parallel with there being “one God” in the first nominal clause. Commentators have intuitively recognizes this focus on εἷς. For example, both William Mounce and George W. Knight make nearly identical statements, adding “only” into their comments on these two clauses: “V[erse] 5 possibly adds another argument to 1 Tim 2:1–7. Since there is only one God and only one mediator between God and people…”[8] and “Just as there is only one God, so there is only one mediator…”[9] Gordon Fee goes as far to provide the literal translation, “One also is the mediator between God and mankind.”[10] The focus places on εἷς by the author has been clearly been recognized by scholars, though there is never any discussion of word order.[11]

There are also instances of adverbial καὶ appearing with Y1 Hyperbaton outside the New Testament.

(7) πολλῶν οὖν καὶ μεγάλων καὶ ἐνδόξων μετειληφότες πράξεων, ἐπαναδράμωμεν ἐπὶ τὸν ἐξ ἀρχῆς παραδεδομένον ἡμῖν τῆς εἰρήνης σκοπόν
Seeing, then, that we have also share in many great and glorious deeds, let us hasten on to the goal of peace (1 Clem 18.17).

(8) τὴν μὲν ἀνωτάτω καὶ πρώτην αἰτίαν ἴστε ἣν καὶ πάντες ἴσασιν ἄνθρωποι
You know the highest (?) and primary cause of all; which indeed all men know (Philo, Embassy §198).[12]

(9) ἡμᾶς ἀναδιδάσκει, πέντε δὲ τὰ κάλλιστα καὶ πάντων ἄριστα· πρῶτον μὲν ὅτι ἔστι τὸ θεῖον καὶ ὑπάρχει … δεύτερον δʼ ὅτι θεὸς εἷς ἐστι … τρίτον … ὅτι γενητὸς ὁ κόσμος … τέταρτον δʼ ὅτι καὶ εἷς ἐστιν κόσμος
[Moses] teaches us five [things] that are beautiful and the best of all. First that Deity is real and exits … secondly, that there is one God … third, that the world is created … fourth, that there is also one world (Philo, Creation §170.

While some might argue that this example is not truly hyperbaton, I would argue that it is. For one, like Paul’s example in 1 Timothy 2:5 above, Philo seems to intentionally draw a parallel between the oneness of God and the oneness of the world by means of the adverbial καὶ. If this is the case, then it is reasonable to assume that Philo intends this instance to be read as a single phrase just as, “θεὸς εἷς ἐστι.”

3 Conclusions from Testing Y1 Hyperbaton

The previous discussion sought to test whether Y1 Hyperbaton encodes strong focus by determining whether certain particles and adverbs associated with the initial adjective in the discontinuous phrase. Specifically, we found examples of both μόνος and καί associating with hyperbaton. In the case of μόνος, the set of alternatives evoked by strong focus was explicitly excluded. When καί appeared with Y1 Hyperbaton, the explicit implication was the meaning “not only x, but also y.”[13] This test has shown conclusively that Y1 Hyperbaton encodes strong focus.


[1] When necessary, I have provided larger quotes for examining the context of the statement.

[2] Not that the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament tags this as a point-counter point set, acknowledging the relationship between the two clauses (Steven Runge, The Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament (Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2008), Phil 4:15-17).

[3]Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1991), 533.

[4] Cf. chapter 4 of Steven Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction to Discourse Features for Teaching and Exegesis (Logos Research Systems, forthcoming),

[5] While some might object to this set of clauses as evidence of Y1 Hyperbaton encoding focus based on the existence of other marked features, the opposite is actually the case. Redundancy of meaning in language is an essential element for determining meaning.

[6] This time around, we are focused particularly on the second instance of hyperbaton in the sentence.

[7]William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8 (WBC 47A; Dallas, Tex.: Word, 2002), 208.

[8]William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC 46; Dallas, Tex.: Word, 2002), 87.

[9]George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1992), 121.

[10] Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (NIBC NT 13; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1988), 65.

[11] In fact, commentaries in general say very little about word order, as if the Greeks arbitrarily or randomly threw words together in any order. Such an activity would make for a rather difficult language to understand. And if that were the case, Greek never would have become the lingua franca that it was in the Greco-Roman period.

[12] Ανωτάτω seems to be the adverb ἄνω functioning as a superlative (Cf. LSJ, definition II, where a similar example from Arrianus [ii a.d.] is provided).

[13] Thus Philo, Embassy §198 means “Not only do you know the highest and primary cause of all, but so do ALL men.” Likewise, Creation §170 means, “Not only was the world created, but there is also ONE world.” And in 1 Timothy 2:5, Paul means, “Not only is there one God, but there is also ONE mediator.”

2 thoughts on “Discontinuous Syntax Part IV

  1. Just a note of encouragement–I studied Koine Greek almost 30 years ago with no reference to discourse to speak of, so “rusty” is too nice a word to describe my greek, but I still felt able to follow what you were saying. I suppose having some exposure to typology and discourse didn’t hurt, but it was your lucid style that made it work. Thanks for making this available to people like me.

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