Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On "Tilting at Windmills" and Firing into Foxtrots

A bit of attempted personal theological ethics, here. I have a marked propensity for arguing at the drop of a hat, if given a topic that sparks a response. I'm an INTP. That means I'm quiet and attentive by default, basically one big data-gathering system. Data goes in, patterns are intuited and judged, opinions formed and changed, ideas traced and followed out, lather-rinse-repeat with more data, and eventually there are words. So if it's a new topic to me, chances are there aren't many words to give, though I could gin some up on request. But if it's an old one, chances are there's a high-pressure reserve of arguments, just waiting to be tapped.

Time was I was impulsive enough to let that loose basically anywhere, anytime. That causes a fair bit of trouble. I've had to learn what's worth arguing about in public—people aren't, but ideas are ... and there's a touchy line in the middle where it's hard to argue about ideas because they're someone's opinions, and that gets awfully close to personal attack in feeling, if not intention. Slippery for all participants. Not good pedagogy, that. And the second thing I've had to learn is what's worth stepping into. Hence the post title.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Listening to Grammar, Too: Heb 2:11-15

Note: my younger self missed the part where in Greek neuter plural nouns occasionally take singular verbs, so this may all be wrestling to no good end. Signed, my older self.

It occurs to me that I really don't have the scholarly consensus I'd like on the points of syntax that I'm trying to make. Makes me feel a bit like Granville Sharp. But I'm going to keep going on the basis of what appears to work, without trusting it too much. I know that I'm a theologian, and I'm trying to leave as much theology out of my exegesis as possible, and focus on the bare text before its meaning.

That said, Hebrews is such a theologically abused text. It needs all the strict attention to the bare text that it can get! It needs audience before it needs interpretation. So I'm going to ask you to hear another point along with me.

The author of Hebrews seems content, in his complex sentences, to leave cases imperfectly aligned with expectations here and there. And when we read the text, we're inclined to jump from case to case and try to tie things together, wherever they fit. I've been noticing a marked interest in noun-system grammar, and a willingness to simply correct the verb when it's "wrong." And that seems to me like the absolute last thing a native-speaker would do on hearing the sentence.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Listening to Greek Syntax: Heb 2:9

I've gone back to working on Hebrews—I had left off because I got distracted by working on my dissertation proposal, of all things. Priorities, right? Anyways, I'm attempting to run these two projects in parallel now since I don't have any classes or teaching responsibilities at present. And dealing with the complex syntax of the higher-level Greek of Hebrews has me thinking about what is natural to the hearer.

It's all well and good, looking at a text and thinking of it strictly as a text, to handle reference loosely, on the assumption that your eye can follow the chain of reference. But in an oral-aural context in which the text is manuscript, decoding requires that the reader think as a listener. Which demands a model of the listener, of sorts. I'm not there yet, but I am certainly working on it. I have the practice, but not the theory. So you're welcome to follow me down this rabbit-hole and see where it goes!