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use of ἀλλά in James 2:8

Posted: October 9th, 2019, 12:24 pm
by MAymer
Trying to work through the Runge grammar on discourse in light of the Letter of James, and I'm confused about something.

In Runge, Discourse Grammar (93), he writes "...ἀλλά adds the unique constraint of correcting some aspect of what precedes" (emphasis added)

Should we then read
Ἀλλ᾿ ἐρεῖ τις· σὺ πίστιν ἔχεις, κἀγὼ ἔργα ἔχω
(Jas 2:18a) as "correcting" the argument from 2:17? (thus marking 2:17 with an x and 2:18a with a check)?

And if that's the case, then how would you signal the discursive rejoinder in 2:18b, which does not include the ἀλλά corrective?


Re: use of ἀλλά in James 2:8

Posted: October 11th, 2019, 11:08 am
by Barry Hofstetter
Here is the actual section from Runge:
Runge wrote:Heckert describes ἀλλά as a “global marker of contrast,” one that “introduces a correction of the expectation created by the first conjunct; an incorrect expectation is cancelled and a proper expectation is put in its place.” If we take the traditional idea of “adversative,” this particle does more than just indicate contrast. This holds true even if the preceding element is positive rather than negative. It provides a corrective to whatever it stands in contrast with. Levinsohn adds, “When ἀλλά links a negative characteristic or proposition with a following positive one, the negative proposition usually retains its relevance.”

Although there are several contrastive or adversative particles, ἀλλά adds the unique constraint of correcting some aspect of what precedes. In terms of distinguishing ἀλλά from εἰ μή, the key is the relation of what follows the particle to what precedes. In the case of εἰ μή, the excepted element that replaces what precedes was a potential member of the negated set. In the case of ἀλλά, the correcting member was not a member of the original set; it is a new element.
Runge, S. E. (2010). Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (p. 93). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

It's somewhat complicated in James 2:18 because the writer is introducing a hypothetical interlocutor posing an objection. But to what is he objecting? To the literal previous argument or something else that James has in mind? I"m a bit pressed for time, so I found a commentary which neatly summarizes what I might have written:

CBC wrote:2:18 Dibelius (1975:154) says “the problematic v. 18” is “one of the most difficult New Testament passages in general.” Everyone agrees that the verse introduces a hypothetical interlocutor, but there is wide disagreement as to how he functions in the argument and how to separate what he says from what James says. The major options are: (1) He is an ally of James, and his statement encompasses all of 2:18. He argues against the “faith” person that without works that person cannot prove there is any faith (NASB, Adamson, Mayor, Mussner). (2) He is an opponent or critic of James, and James responds to him in 2:18b (NLT, TNIV, ESV, Blomberg and Kamell, Davids, Dibelius, Johnson, Laws, Moo, Ropes, McCartney). See following notes.

Now someone may argue. In the ancient world this formula (lit., “But someone will say”) always introduces an opponent to the thesis (see especially McKnight 1990). This supports the second view, that the interlocutor is a critic of James. Nearly all recent interpreters have been convinced by this evidence.

Osborne, G. R. (2011). James. In P. W. Comfort (Ed.), Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: James, 1–2 Peter, Jude, Revelation (p. 60). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Re: use of ἀλλά in James 2:8

Posted: October 11th, 2019, 4:50 pm
by MAymer
Thanks, but that doesn't actually answer the question I asked.

I'm aware that James 2:18 is one of the more difficult passages in the GNT. I'm also well aware of the presence of the interlocutor.

I'm asking a discursive question about what ἀλλά might be negating here, in other words what the interlocutor is trying to correct, or to be more specific, what portion of the preceding would be negated?

Re: use of ἀλλά in James 2:8

Posted: October 11th, 2019, 5:06 pm
by Barry Hofstetter
I'm sorry, you're right, I didn't make the answer explicit. ἀλλά here is not negating a previous argument, but introducing the objection of the interlocutor.

Re: use of ἀλλά in James 2:8

Posted: October 12th, 2019, 12:10 pm
by serunge
Hi MAymer,

Sorry for the confusion caused by my statement in the grammar. As Barry rightly said, this is a tough passage. In discussing this with Stephen Levinsohn in preparation for an ETS presentation in 2013(?), he helped me recognize the different layers in play here. The first unit is 14–17 that addresses the thesis question about the value of faith without works. Verse 17 provides the answer that faith, without works, is dead in and of itself. However, there is another possibility the writer wants to consider, expressed as the objection of an unidentified interlocutor.

I would understand the αλλα in v. 18 to be 'correcting' this preceding unit as a whole, which Barry notes is introducing an objection. In other words, the writer is cycling back to the original thesis of "faith without works" and positing that maybe it is actually a matter of spiritual gifting; some have it and others don't, therefore I am exempted from works. It is a parallel line of argument, but since texts are linear it ends up below rather than beside the parallel unit. Thus, verses 14–17 serve as a counterpoint to verse 18, the rhetorical backdrop.

Within v. 18, I take the interlocutor's statement as a counterpoint to draw attention to the writer's response in 18b. This rhetorical relationship is not accomplished by a μεν/δε or ΧΧΧ/αλλα, but a simple statement and rebuttal. Nevertheless, a comparable counterpoint/point relationship results.

To summarize, within v. 18 there is another counterpoint/point set that collectively serves as the point for 14–17. This relationship would result regardless of the interlocutor's allegiance, so I think the answer to that question can remain unanswered without obscuring the basic logic of the argument.