Friday, August 6, 2010

Introducing the Friday Figure

This is the first in a recurring post called the Friday Figure.

Every Friday I will post a figure of speech from the New Testament with relatively little comment.  These are just for your reading pleasure.

The first figure comes from Luke 6:43.  This one needs to be read in the Greek in order to recognize it.

Οὐ γάρ ἐστιν δένδρον καλὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν σαπρόν, οὐδὲ πάλιν δένδρον σαπρὸν ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλόν.

ou gar estin dendron kalon poioun karpon sapron, oude palin dendron sapron poioun karpon kalon.

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit." (NRSV)

There are actually two figures here.  The first is homoeoptoton, which means "similar cases."  The figure is formed by stringing together several words that have the same endings due to their cases.  In this case there are 8 of 15 words end with the neuter/masculine accusative singular ον ending.  In addition, four more words end with the Greek ν.  Bringing in these other four words also creates the figure homoteleuton, meaning "same endings."  In English, the closest we have to this practice is that of rhyme.

Try saying this phrase five times fast.  The rhythm is striking.  This rhythm comes from the rhyming endings and from the meter.  If one scans this line, it looks like this.

– ˘ / – – / – – / – – / – – / – – / – – // – ˇ / – – / – – / – – / – – / – – / – –

Listen to the drumming or chanting rhythm.  Did this happen on accident?  I think not. 

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