The meaning of silence in Koine Greek.

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Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

The meaning of silence in Koine Greek.

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 16th, 2016, 1:31 am

Within the context of a culture, persons are left to intuit the meaning of silence. In a dead language, without any more than a general understanding of the culture it is something that we need to work at. This forum is ongoing and broad-ranging discussion on the Greek language of the Biblical texts and to a lesser degree texts of other periods, but what about the absense of language. Silence - whether pausation, anacoluthon, or the inability or refusal to speak - is a form verbal communication, and it is beneficial to know what interspersing silence within speech meant to an audience. I don't have a specific question to kick-start a conversation, but I have a few thoughts.

In the dialogues between Jesus and other religious figures, it is the others who are unable or unwilling to reply.
Καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν ἀγαθοποιῆσαι, ἢ κακοποιῆσαι; Ψυχὴν σῶσαι, ἢ ἀποκτεῖναι; Οἱ δὲ ἐσιώπων.
What is appropriate to intuit?

There is both motivation and differentiation in the following sentence:
Acts 18:9 wrote:Μὴ φοβοῦ, ἀλλὰ λάλει καὶ μὴ σιωπήσῃς
Fear is said to be the reason for not speaking, and silence is conrasted with speaking (not saying).

In Acts 21:14 silence comes as a result of a conscious decision not to continue persuation:
Acts 21:14 wrote:Μὴ πειθομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ, ἡσυχάσαμεν εἰπόντες, Τὸ θέλημα τοῦ κυρίου γενέσθω.
In a context, where someone has something more to say, but refrains from saying it, one one the motivations is astonishment:
Luke 18:39 wrote:καὶ θαυμάσαντες ἐπὶ τῇ ἀποκρίσει αὐτοῦ, ἐσίγησαν.
From the reactions of Pilate and the Jewish high priest, keeping silent when examined on trial annoyed the people who were doing the questioning. It is not clearly stated that that was the intention of keeping silent though.

Any thoughts?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: The meaning of silence in Koine Greek.

Post by Stephen Hughes » August 18th, 2016, 10:07 pm

There is also the issue of rhetorical questions. They are asked to draw attention to something, rather than to ellicit an actual answer.
Matthew 24:2 wrote:Οὐ βλέπετε πάντα ταῦτα;
In the parallels, Mark (13:2 - Βλέπεις ταύτας τὰς μεγάλας οἰκοδομάς;)has a more specific question, and Luke has fronted topicalising statement Ταῦτα ἃ θεωρεῖτε (Luke 21:6), drawing attention to the topic under discussion.

They don't expect a verbal response, but rather a direction of attention.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Scott Lawson
Posts: 347
Joined: June 9th, 2011, 6:36 pm

Re: The meaning of silence in Koine Greek.

Post by Scott Lawson » September 2nd, 2016, 6:54 pm

Stephen, I'll disturb the sound of silence so far given to your post. Regarding your example of Jesus keeping silent before Caiaphus likely you already know that all Jesus had to do was keep quiet and he wouldn't be found guilty since they couldn't get their witnesses against him to agree. No doubt this would have caused consternation. The high priest then asked Jesus a question that he couldn't keep silent about and then upon Jesus' answer in the affirmative he rips his outer garment thus indicating his opinion of guilt not waiting for the rest of thr Sanhedrin members discuss the matter before giving his opinion. This is what I have been told anyhow. I'm sure others here will weigh in the topic or correct any mistakes I may have made.

Thanks for the great question!

Scotty
Scott Lawson

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