The grammatical analysis represents considerations at a number of levels. The first and most basic is the morphological, which information is found within the word itself. This includes information which is distinctive for a given form when viewed from the whole of a paradigm. For example,gaqÁv is distinctively nominative in case, masculine in gender, and singular in number. This morphological information is usually straightforward and noncontroversial.
The analysis goes beyond the word itself to take into account sentence-level information. An unusually large number of Greek words are ambiguous with respect to certain information when taken by themselves, but perfectly distinct when their position and function within the sentence are considered. For example,autÚn is distinctively genitive and plural even in isolation, but its gender remains ambiguous until it is viewed as part of a sentence. Similarly lgete in isolation can be identified as present tense, active voice, second-person plural, but whether it is indicative or imperative depends on its use in the sentence.
But not even sentences are the upper limit of the necessary context. The entire discourse gives meaning to its constituent parts. For example, the following sentence is ambiguous apart from the larger context: "David was too far away to see." It may mean that David was too far away "for anyone to see him" or "for him to see anyone." The larger context settles the matter. "Martha scanned the area in vain. David was too far away to see." So context of the wider sort (discourse) affects meaning as crucially as does that of the narrower sort (sentence). The analysis in this work is sensitive to discourse.
The idea that we speak not only in words and sentences but also whole discourses has been demonstrated by recent studies. These discourses, whether an exchange over the back fence about the weather or a formal, lengthy New Testament letter, have discernible structure. As speakers and writers we are largely unconscious of this structure and of the principles of structuring meaning that operate in our language. As hearers and readers we are equally unconscious of these principles that we, like the speaker and writer, have internalized; we need not consciously analyze their discourse because this process is second nature to us.
A problem arises, however, when communication is across languages. A number of universal principles of discourse structure do exist, applicable here or there and now or then. But each language has its own particular set of communication principles, which work perfectly for that language but which may confuse or frustrate interlanguage communication.
As English-speaking students of New Testament Greek texts, we must be aware of the differences between the organizing principles of our own language and those of the language of the New Testament writers. They include the time-honored observations gathered together in our grammars and lexicons. They also include principles operating over wider spans of discourse, which have only more recently come under scrutiny. This volume reflects discourse principles, especially in its analysis of conjunctions and particles, as becomes apparent in the discussion below.
Those interested in pursuing discourse analysis further would do well to refer to two books: Translating the Word of God by John Beekman and John Callow and Man and Message by Kathleen Callow. The former approaches principles of communication through English translations of Scripture, though it draws illustrations from many of the worlds languages. The latter deals with meaning-based text analysis.
In the explanations that follow we maintain a distinction between grammatical structure (surface structure, or the Greek sentence) on the one hand, and semantic structure (underlying structure, or the Greek proposition) on the other. What we read on the page of our Greek texts is the visible (alternately, audible) code of some particular message. These sentences, grammatical or surface structures, merely encode a message. They are not, properly speaking, the message itself, though there is no message conveyed apart from them. Units of this surface code are used to carry the authors message or meaning. The contents carried by the code are the meaning and semantic structure. Because there is not always a one-to-one correspondence between what we have to say and how we say it, we need to speak about both the grammatical and semantic structures.
Consider this illustration: Four peoplea husband and wife, their son, and a guestare sitting in a very hot room. The guest says to his hostess, "Its a little warm in here." Grammatically, this is a statement or declaration. Semantically it is a request for some cool air. The hostess turns to her husband and asks, "Would you open the window?" Grammatically her utterance is a question, semantically a request. The husband in turn says to his son, "Open the window!" This is both grammatically and semantically a request. The same request, then, is expressed by three grammatical structures, each socially appropriate to the speaker-hearer pair.