Rhyming in Greek? - Romans 9:16

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Rhyming in Greek? - Romans 9:16

Postby Martha Sandino » February 21st, 2013, 8:00 pm

Greetings to everyone!

In my passion to understand the deepest possible meaning of the Bible, I've turned to a study of Biblical Greek. And after valiantly struggling through several chapters of the most excellent introductory study to Biblical Greek ever written (The Little Greek Home Page), I decided to spend most of my time on vocabulary. So while I've committed over 400 words to memory, and practice reading and writing Greek every day, I really do NOT have a good knowledge of grammar.

But, after reading and pondering the diction in the following verse in Greek, I've become persuaded that St Paul was waxing poetic - making an emphatic point through rhyming (do Greeks rhyme?). Bear with me (emphasis is mine),


ἄρα οὖν οὐ τοῦ θέλοντος
οὐδὲ τοῦ τρέχοντος,
ἀλλὰ τοῦ ἐλεοῦντος Θεοῦ

and then let me know if I'm imagining things?

Thanks,

Martha
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Re: Rhyming in Greek? - Romans 9:16

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 22nd, 2013, 3:48 am

θέλοντος and τρέχοντος rhyme, yes, but not ἐλεοῦντος. There is a fair amount of word play by Paul. He's fun to read.
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Re: Rhyming in Greek? - Romans 9:16

Postby Martha Sandino » February 22nd, 2013, 6:29 pm

Thanks, Stephen, for your reply!

I agree that θέλοντος and τρέχοντος rhyme, and that ἐλεοῦντος really doesn't . . .

This started for me by looking at different Biblical translations of this verse: I seemed to notice that different translators had to make a choice as to whether they would translate the word literally as "runs" (KJV, NASB), or would translate aiming at the significance / context, and pick a word like "effort" or "exertion" (NIV, ESV).

I wondered why Paul would choose τρέχοντος and leave future interpreters with dilemma -- why not use a word more clearly related to the meaning, why the dancing around with the meaning? What does running have to do with mercy, anyway?

After several ponders and reading alouds, it occurred to me that τρέχοντος really did seem to rhyme with θέλοντος, causing me to wonder if Paul uses rhyming for emphasis? It does seem to me that he's much more poetic than John (who's John 1 and 1 John make for marvelous, straightforward, elementary study texts).

Do you have any other specific examples where Paul, as you said, uses word play?

Rookie that I am, I keep thinking that those who don't study Greek are missing out on so very much!

Thanks,
Martha
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Re: Rhyming in Greek? - Romans 9:16

Postby Barry Hofstetter » February 23rd, 2013, 7:13 am

Martha Sandino wrote:Thanks, Stephen, for your reply!

I agree that θέλοντος and τρέχοντος rhyme, and that ἐλεοῦντος really doesn't . . .

This started for me by looking at different Biblical translations of this verse: I seemed to notice that different translators had to make a choice as to whether they would translate the word literally as "runs" (KJV, NASB), or would translate aiming at the significance / context, and pick a word like "effort" or "exertion" (NIV, ESV).

I wondered why Paul would choose τρέχοντος and leave future interpreters with dilemma -- why not use a word more clearly related to the meaning, why the dancing around with the meaning? What does running have to do with mercy, anyway?

After several ponders and reading alouds, it occurred to me that τρέχοντος really did seem to rhyme with θέλοντος, causing me to wonder if Paul uses rhyming for emphasis? It does seem to me that he's much more poetic than John (who's John 1 and 1 John make for marvelous, straightforward, elementary study texts).

Do you have any other specific examples where Paul, as you said, uses word play?

Rookie that I am, I keep thinking that those who don't study Greek are missing out on so very much!

Thanks,
Martha


Greetings, Martha, and good luck as you continue your study of Greek. Two points:

1) Rhyme is not a feature of Greek, simply because heavily inflected languages tend to have a lot of the same endings relatively close to each other even in normal speech (let alone rhetoric and poetry). Rhyme in English is special because we can go whole paragraphs without accidental rhyme (and most English teachers will tell you to avoid it if it happens in prose writing). This is practically impossible in Greek or Latin. One therefore tends to find other ways to do in Greek what English does with rhyme...

2) τρέχω is not ambiguous at all. "Runs" actually works because we tend to use the word metaphorically in a similar fashion, possibly because it's an idiom that's worked its way into English due to biblical influence ("I have run the race, I have stayed the course..."). Or we can translate the metaphor itself, such as some of the translations you have read tend to do. That's more a matter of translation philosophy than any inherent ambiguity in the word and its usage.
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Re: Rhyming in Greek? - Romans 9:16

Postby NathanSmith » March 1st, 2013, 8:34 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:θέλοντος and τρέχοντος rhyme, yes, but not ἐλεοῦντος.

It all depends on how you define rhyme, after all. ;-) How much of the end of the word must match in order to rhyme? The last phoneme? Syllable? 2 syllables?
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