Sunday, August 20, 2023

Greek and Yoda Speak (Heb. 4:11)

I was up early this morning doing a deep dive into Heb. 4:12-14 when I ran across a very unusual Greek construction in the second half of verse 11. 

Literally, the second clause reads like this in the Greek: "Lest by the same anyone example fall of disobedience." Try saying that 10 times. 

What is meant, of course, is "Lest anyone fall by the same example of disobedience." The word order in Greek is meant to grab our attention, as if to say, "Listen up. This is something really important." Sometimes in English we find such unusual word order. Poets especially love to shuffle their words around in the craziest ways according to what sounds best to the ear or has greater elegance. Chaucer, in Book I of his Troilus, writes, "In him ne deyned sparen blood royal the fyr of love." In normal English, this means "The fire of love did not deign to spare royal blood in him." I could also point you to Yoda Speak, where modifiers like adjectives and adverbs as well as objects and complements come before rather than after the subject and verb in a sentence.

In one of my books I noted how Paul loves to use unusual word order (hyperbaton) in his writings, as Gal. 2:6 and 1 Thess. 2:13 prove. 

I love such attention-getters in the Greek. I marvel at the words, yes, but also at the word order. I am so grateful for the way it causes me to pause and think about what I'm reading. "Whoa, David, stop right here. Let's count to ten and rethink this, shall we?" 

Reading the book of Hebrews in Greek is perfect for a wandering mind like mine. Everything has a focus, a rhythm, a point. That's what's so amazing to me about God's word.