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Open Access Journal: Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics (BAGL)

 [First posted in AWOL 25 July 2016, updated 25 January 2018]

Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics (BAGL)
Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics
Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics (BAGL), in conjunction with the Centre for Biblical Linguistics, Translation, and Exegesis at McMaster Divinity College and the OpenText.org project (www.opentext.org) is a fully refereed on-line and print journal specializing in widely disseminating the latest advances in linguistic study of ancient and biblical Greek. Under the senior editorship of Professor Dr. Stanley E. Porter and Dr. Matthew Brook O'Donnell, along with its assistant editors and editorial board, BAGL looks to publish significant work that advances knowledge of ancient Greek through the utilization of modern linguistic methods. Accepted pieces are in the first instance posted on-line in page-consistent pdf format, and then (except for reviews) are published in print form each volume year. This format ensures timely posting of the most recent work in Greek linguistics with consistently referencable articles then available in permanent print form.
Volume 6 (2017)
Jonathan M. Watt
Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA, USA
A common closed-class feature of languages, prepositions connote spatial and logical relationships, often (though not always) preceding the noun to which they specify that relationship. Their use is highly idiomatic to a given language, such that their meaning may be best connoted by something other than a general translation equivalent. It is widely theorized that case-marking historically preceded the rise of prepositions, though in Hellenistic Greek (as in earlier forms of English) these have been employed simultaneously. Cross-linguistic consideration of this basic feature of language can be a helpful step toward understanding the role of prepositions in the Greek of the New Testament. (Article)
Keywords: Greek, ad/pre-positions, cross-linguistic, diachronic, mono/poly-semy
Stanley E. Porter
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Greek prepositions belong to a class of words that are usually called particles. These function words are morphologically invariable and enable their function by indicating some kind of relationship between larger units. This means that prepositions are part of a larger category of words that include not only prepositions but conjunctions, adverbs, and possibly other lexemes. Systemic Functional Linguistics does not have an explicit theory of the preposition. However, prepositions are important within both syntagmatic and paradigmatic structure, and function at various ranks and as components of various structures at those ranks. In this paper, I discuss five topics regarding prepositions: word groups and phrases, types of prepositions, prepositions and other relators, the meaning of prepositions, and the function of prepositional groups within SFL architecture. (Article)
Keywords: Preposition, Greek, Systemic Functional Linguistics, conjunction, adverb
Laurențiu Florentin Moț
Adventist Theological Institute, Cernica, Romania
Semitic influence on New Testament Greek prepositional use has been proposed by various scholars.At times, it turns out that the examples these scholars emphasize are quite unconvincing, many times because their methodologies seem unclear. This article proposes the use of the Second Language Acquisition approach in assessing the degree of Semitic influence on the New Testament Greek prepositions uses and applies it in the case of the prepositional irregularities found in the book of Revelation. Error Analysis is a method whereby the source of a linguistic irregularity is identified and the irregularity is explained. The question of this research is, what is the source of Revelation’s prepositional irregularities? The paper discusses the usage of prepositions such as εἰς, ἐν, ἐκ, µετά, ἀπό, and ἐπί in the book of Revelation, the New Testament, and the Greek language at large. Unclear terminology and inaccurate methodology are two factors that led to the conclusion that the source of the irregular prepositional use in Revelation is mainly Semitic. This paper uses the terminology of Second LanguageAcquisition and its findings drawn from empirical studies about linguistic transfer and facilitation from the mother tongue into the second language. In light of Second Language Acquisition, there seem to be strong arguments thatconfirmtheGreekhypothesisandinformtheSemiticexplanation for virtually all of John’s peculiar prepositions. (Article)
Keywords: Prepositions, Greek, Semitic influence, second language acquisition, Revelation
Jacob Bullock
Pacific Institute of Languages, Arts, and Translation Ukarumpa, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea
Relevance Theory offers historical-grammatical interpretation a model of human communication that aids in clarifying the reason modern audiences inappropriately apply their own context to a biblical text. Hill’s matrix, drawing on the model proposed by Relevance Theory, is a tool allowing expositors to explore the inappropriate context readers apply to the biblical text. Hill’s matrix can aid interpreters in the discernment of assumptions as appropriate or inappropriate to apply to a text in a search for authorial meaning. Applying Hill’s matrix to Acts 12:15 an exegete can identify both inappropriate assumptions modern American readers bring to the text as well as those contextual assumptions needed to find authorial meaning which are missing from modern readers’ context.
Keywords: Acts 12, historical-grammatical, New Testament backgrounds, interpretation, Relevance Theory, angel, communication theory.
Ryder A. Wishart
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
This review article critically engages two recent monographs that utilize Charles Ruhl’s theory of monosemy to analyze the New Testament. After outlining Ruhl’s theory, I discuss how Gregory Fewster attempts to model monosemy within the linguistic framework of Systemic Functional Linguistics, and how Benjamin Lappenga does so within the framework of Relevance Theory. Each makes important contributions, but I argue that neither has significantly improved on Ruhl’s original model and that some of the modifications of Ruhl’s theory end up being unhelpful or unclear. Nevertheless, both authors have persuasively exhibited the usefulness of a monosemic approach to studying biblical words and texts.
Keywords: Monosemy, Gregory P. Fewster, Benjamin J. Lappenga, Charles Ruhl, Lexical Semantics
Stanley E. Porter and Andrew W. Pitts
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Arizona Christian University, Phoenix, AZ, USA
This article responds to the article by Madison Pierce and Benjamin Reynolds on the use of the perfect tense-form in John 3:13. While we commend their treatment of verbal aspect in their analysis, we offer several points of correction on several issues, including the semantics of the perfect tense-form, the use of the aorist participle, and the conditional clause.
Keywords: Greek tense-form, perfect tense-form, stative aspect, aorist articular participle, conditional clause
Volume 5 (2016)
Alexander Andrason and Christian Locatell
Stellenbosch University, South Africa
The challenge of reconciling a verbal form’s variety of senses on the one hand and its conceptual coherence on the other is solved, not by positing a highly abstract, semantically invariant core from which each use is derived, nor by simply constructing taxonomies of contextually conditioned senses with “exceptions.” Rather a form’s senses can be arranged diachronically along cross- linguistically consistent and cognitively motivated paths of change from which it becomes apparent that each sense has a direct conceptual relation only to adjacent senses on the path of change. These senses are synchronically organized in terms of prototypicality and fall along a semantic-pragmatic continuum according to conventionalization. Furthermore, senses previously thought of as “exceptional” are also conceptually related, but only indirectly via their common relationship to the overarching path of change.
Keywords: Koine Greek, verbal system, cognitive linguistics, perfect tense-form, semantics, pragmatics, grammaticalization
James A. Libby
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
The pruning of the Pauline Canon is considered one of the signal achievements of contemporary New Testament studies. Quite intriguingly, however, no consensus on the Pauline Canon exists among researchers who have actually executed quantitative studies of style in the Greek New Testament (GNT). From the perspective of functional linguistics, no study in the GNT has been executed that uses a linguistically comprehensive set of measures for either the syntagmatic structures, paradigmatic systems, multiple strata or multiple metafunctions of the GNT. In this study we will pursue an approach that, for the first time, visually compares and contrasts these three dimensions in some depth. The advantages of such an approach are its (1) comprehensive selection of linguistic measures across six representative syntagmatic ranks in the GNT, (2) use of two data- driven (rather than ad hoc) feature-selection methods, (3) use of multiple extractive multivariate techniques (correspondence analysis and multiple correspondence analysis) which provide highly interpretable visualizations of the data, and (4) use of a formal experimental design methodology that explores each level of linguistic rank. This study proposes that such an approach provides a meaningful next step to the work of Neumann and Mealand in particular, and that the tighter integration of linguistics and multivariate visualization combines to provide new insights into the textual boundaries of the Pauline Canon.
Keywords: Pauline Canon, Authorship, Genre, Pseudepigraphy, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Style, Computational Stylistics
Ronald Dean Peters
Great Lakes Christian College, Lansing, MI, USA
Daniel Wallace, in a review of Ronald D. Peters’ The Greek Article: A Functional Grammar of ὁ -items in the Greek New Testament with Special Emphasis on the Greek Article, published in the Review of Biblical Literature, not only challenges Peters’ proposed grammar of the Greek article, but also the scholarship behind the theoretical model. The following is a response to Wallace’s review in which the debate between Peters and Wallace is located in the context of the general characteristics of paradigm shifts in science and scholarship. The presentation relies primarily on Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The thesis of the following response is that, using Kuhn’s framework and terminology, the debate between Peters and Wallace is characteristic of the conflict that inevitably arises between the novel theory and normal science, respectively.
Keywords: Greek Article, Novel Theory, Normal Science, Scientific Revolution, Biblical Scholarship, Paradigm Shift, SFL
Volume 4 (2015)

Joseph D. Fantin
Dallas Theological Seminary
It is agreed that both context and Greek studies are essential components of the exegetical process. This article explores the function of language itself within society. The focus is not on the typical “meaning” of language as an information carrier but rather on the meaning that the use of particular linguistic elements brings to the communication situation. In other words, I will consider language itself as a social phenomenon. In order to achieve this goal, using Acts 21:27–40 as a test case, I will first consider selective elements of the social and historical context that when understood will contribute to recreating the context of the passage (cognitive environment). Then, with this contextual information activated in the exegetical process, I will consider the social impact of this information on two recorded speech incidents from Acts 21:27–40 resulting in a better understanding of the passage. This will demonstrate that in addition to the informational linguistic meaning, an understanding of the social use of language itself is a valuable tool for understanding the biblical text.
Keywords: Acts 21:27–40, exegesis, sociolinguistics, pragmatics, New Testament backgrounds, New Testament contexts, cognitive environment, Greek, relevance theory
Jonathan M. Watt
Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA, USA
A sociolinguistic approach to Paul’s language usage in the Jerusalem arrest narratives of Acts 21–22 offers inferences with regard to his specific language choices between Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic during his interactions. However, modern language studies show considerable inter-language penetration that, by implication, complicate conclusions one may reach with regard to the NT situation.
Keywords: sociolinguistics, multilingualism, linguistic repertoire, code-switching, cross-linguistic penetration
Hughson T. Ong
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
This article discusses three distinct types of discourse analysis models—Social Identity Theory and Communication Accommodation Theory (CAT), Conversation Analysis (CA), and SFL Register Analysis—and applies them individually to the text in Acts 21:27—22:5 to examine various aspects and elements that comprise the context of situation of the incident of Paul’s arrest in the temple. The main objective is to showcase the relevance and utility of sociolinguistic theories in New Testament exegesis.
Keywords: Acts 21:27—22:5, sociolinguistics, exegesis, discourse analysis, social identity theory, speech or communication accommodation theory, conversation analysis, register analysis
James D. Dvorak
Oklahoma Christian University, Edmond, OK, USA
This article approaches the topic of persuasion from a social perspective rather than rhetorical or socio-rhetorical. This is because, at heart, persuasion—of others or of self—is ultimately a social action in which values are negotiated. Dvorak argues that to analyze the persuasiveness of a discourse requires a sociolinguistic model, and the model that is best suited for the job is Appraisal Theory, which is built upon the theoretical foundation of Systemic Functional Linguistics.
Keywords: persuasion, appraisal, evaluation, 1 Corinthians, values, power, discourse analysis
Volume 3 (2014)

Paul L. Danove
Villanova University, Villanova, PA, USA
Τίθημι and its compounds present the broadest range of licensing properties of any set of verbal compounds in the Septuagint and New Testament. This article resolves the occurrences of τίθημι and its twenty compounds into twenty–six distinct usages. The discussion of each usage “derives” the event that the verbs grammaticalize, specifies the conceptualization of the event associated with each usage, describes the syntactic and semantic requirements for verbs with the usage, identifies the observed lexical realizations of required complements, and illustrates occurrences of the verbs with the usage. The discussion then summarizes the relationships among the usages, proposes a further basis for relating the events, and notes the possibility of polysemous interpretations of verbal occurrences.
Keywords: event, lexical, semantic, syntactic, usage, verb
James D. Dvorak and Ryder Dale Walton
Oklahoma Christian University
Too often, study of the biblical text degenerates into rudimentary word studies, leaving aside larger syntactic and logical connections. This paper proposes that careful study should include considerations of genre, register, prime, subsequent, theme, rheme, topic, and comment. To demonstrate this, it applies a Systemic Functional approach to Mark 2:1–12 and the book of Jude.
Keywords: Exegesis, Systemic Functional Linguistics, Prime, Subsequent, Theme, Rheme, Topic, Comment, Process Chains, Semantic Shift, Cohesion, Coherence, Linearity, Genre, Register
S. M. Kraeger
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC, USA
Ever since the advent of the printing press, the Latin West and its lexicographic inheritors have used the first person singular indicative verb form (e.g., λύω) as the lemma of the Greek verb. There are historical reasons for this. These historical reasons for using the indicative form, however, are not coextensive with those by which modern lexicographers operate. This issue significantly overlaps with pedagogical concerns. The present article seeks to sketch a basic history of Greek verbal treatments toward a reevaluation of lexicographic and pedagogic practice regarding the ancient Greek verb.
Keywords: Lexicography, Pedagogy, Verb, Lemmatization
Stanley E. Porter
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
This paper emphasizes the importance of both methodological and pedagogical dimensions of elementary Greek grammars, and then briefly surveys several different approaches found in current gram- mars. The paper takes what is called the usage-based approach, in which grammar is introduced roughly according to frequency of use so that students are reinforced in learning the grammar that appears most frequently in the Greek New Testament. Porter, Reed, and O’Donnell’s Fundamentals of New Testament Greek is used as the example of such an approach.
Keywords: Greek, grammar, elementary, usage-based approach, morphological approach, descriptivism, progressivism, immersion
Volume 2 (2013)

Paul L. Danove
Villanova University, Villanova, PA, USA
This article develops five features that describe the conceptualizations of the event of transference grammaticalized by New Testament verbs, and uses these features to formulate a model of the possible New Testament usages of transference. The discussion resolves all New Testament occurrences of verbs that designate transference into one of eighteen usages with distinct feature descriptions, and considers the usages of transference predicted by the feature model but not realized in the New Testament.
Keywords: feature, transference, semantic, syntactic, verbal usage

Volume 1 (2012)

Wally V. Cirafesi
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
This article argues that the construction ἔχειν πίστιν in Hellenistic Greek is a nominalized ideational metaphor that is semantically related to the finite verb πιστεύειν. Therefore, when the construction possesses a genitive modifier, the function of the genitive is disambiguated as denoting the object of πίστιν. This understanding of ἔχειν πίστιν + the genitive has significant implications for interpreting the construction in Mark 11:22, Jas 2:1, and Hippolytus‘s De Antichristo 61:26. (Article)
Keywords: πίστιϛ Χριστοῦ, Greek linguistics, nominalization, grammatical metaphor, Mark 11:22, Jas 2:1, Hippolytus
Gregory P. Fewster
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Adapting Michael Hoey‘s lexical priming theory, this article provides a new rubric for the evaluation of intertextuality in the New Testament. This article tests the veracity of the claim that the lexeme ματαιότηϛ functions to invoke the language of Ecclesiastes. Romans 8 mirrors some of the language of Ecclesiastes, while Eph 4:17 has strong ties to Rom 8, creating an intertextual chain via the lexeme ματαιότηϛ. (Article)
Keywords: ματαιότηϛ, intertextuality, priming, Romans 8, 2 Peter 2, Ephesians 3
Hughson Ong
McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, ON, Canada
This article relates to the criteria of language authenticity in historical Jesus research and inquires into the lingua franca of Je- sus’ social environment. It demonstrates via sociolinguistic principles that Palestine was a multilingual society, establishes that various so- cial groups necessitate the use of language varieties, and addresses the issue of language choice—the occasions and reasons multilingual people use their native tongue over and against their second language. The objective is to show in four “I have come” sayings in the Synop- tics that, with high probability, Jesus’ internal language was Aramaic, and his public language was Greek.
Keywords: Historical Jesus, Greek language, sociolinguistics, Mark 2:17, Mark 10:45, Luke 12:49–51, Matt 5:17
Steven E. Runge
Logos Bible Software | Stellenbosh University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
This study applies the cognitive model of Chafe and Givón, and the information-structure model of Lambrecht as applied by Levinsohn and Runge to the Markan explanation of the Parable of the Sower (4:14–20). The primary objective is to identify and analyze other linguistic devices, besides demonstratives, which might clarify the apparent prominence given to the unfruitful scatterings in Mark’s account. This study provides the necessary framework for comparing Mark’s pragmatic weighting of saliency to that found in Matthew and Luke’s accounts in order to determine whether Mark’s version is con-sistent with or divergent from the other traditions.
Keywords: saliency, information structure, Mark 4:14–20, Matt 13:19–23, Luke 8:11–15, οὗτος, ἐκεῖνος

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