A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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The Value of Multiple Perspective

No single perspective can shed all the light on a text that a multiple perspective approach such as tagmemics can provide. Every text contains hierarchical structuring, transitions from point to point, and various patterns, often interwoven. Only a multiple perspective approach can bring these different aspects to light. For the biblical exegete, not every structure, transition, or pattern is useful in uncovering meaning. But some of the insights provided by the multiple perspective approach are quite useful for purposes of interpretation.

The particle perspective as provided by constituent structure analysis is especially suited for uncovering the hierarchically embedded relationships within a linear text. For example, a viewpoint that would see a text as merely a concatenation of sentences, with each related primarily to its immediately preceding sentence, would well miss the relationship between I Corinthians 1:14 and 1:17. The danger is in taking verse 17 as the cause of the immediately preceding statement in verse 16 in the following way: "I do not know whether I baptized anyone else for Christ did not send me to baptize." In actuality, verse 17 is the cause of verse 14 in the following way: "I am thankful that I baptized none of you for Christ did not send me to baptize." The chart in Table 11 makes it clear that this text is not merely a linear collection of concepts.

The wave perspective can also be used to shed more light on meaning. I Corinthians 2:13 contains a sub-topic transition which is completely missed by a particle analysis such as that shown in Table 12. The last clause pneumatikoiV pneumatika sugkrinonteV can be translated in two different ways: either "interpreting spiritual things in spiritual words" or "interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people." The former translation fits well with the preceding logoiV . . . en didaktoiV pneumatoV "in words taught by the Spirit"; the latter with the following o . . . pneumatikoV "the spiritual person" in verse 15. It is difficult to decide which translation is better because both fit the context, one the preceding material and the other the following. A wave view allows the interpreter to see that it is not necessary to make a choice. The writer has apparently left the expression ambiguous so that either meaning can be applied at this pivotal point in the text. As one topic subsides, another begins, and thus there is overlap in this clause.

The third perspective also helps to clarify meaning. For example, I Corinthians 14:33b-36 contains a chiastic pattern, as shown in (63) above. Fee (1987, 697-698) has argued that 33b ('WV en pasaiV taiV ekklhsiaiaV twn agiwn "as in all the churches of the saints") should be taken with the preceding clause in 33a (ou gar estin akatastasiaV o qeoV alla eirhnhV "for God is not [a God] of disorder but of peace") rather than the following clause in 34a (ai gunaikeV en taiV ekklhsiaiV sigatwsan "let the women keep silent in the churches"). But to do so would destroy the chiastic pattern, a pattern which has often been overlooked from ignoring a field perspective. If 33b is taken with 33a, the A' leg (verse 36) of the chiasm has no conceptual counterpart in an A leg, unless of course one says that the chiasm is built across topics. The fact that such a conceptual chiasm exists argues against Fee's position. But there are other reasons for rejecting his claim. For one thing, his argument is built on the fact that the Western manuscript tradition moves verses 34-35 to a place following verse 40. But the editors of the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament have given this passage a solid B rating for inclusion at this point (Metzger 1971, 565). It is most likely that scribes who failed to understand the Greek tradition of women prophets pointed out in chapter II of this study moved the heart of this admonition about women to the end of the discourse to separate it from the teaching about prophets. It is also worth noting that when verse 33b is taken with 34a, it forms a clause in the preceding dependent slot which begins with wV 'as' and also begins a paragraph. In two other places in I Corinthians where clauses in preceding dependent slots begin with wV, they also begin paragraphs. The transitional paragraph in 4:18-21 begins with wV; likewise, the amplification sub-paragraph in 10:15-22 begins with wV.

Other arguments could be advanced beyond these against Fee's position, but it is not the purpose of this study to disprove his point. These are presented here to illustrate the influence that discourse analysis, especially the study of constituent structures from a multiple perspective, can have on the interpretation and understanding of an ancient text. Each of these three viewpoints (particle, wave, and field) provides a perspective that compliments the others and gives the reader a more complete picture.

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