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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Grammatical and Stylistic Features

Because of its more technical character, we have hardly touched upon the topic of syntax, or the way in which clauses and sentences are combined into particular arrangements (see Waltke and O'Connor 1990). One word-order feature that can be seen quite easily and that has an obvious impact on translation is ellipsis, where certain elements are omitted but need to be supplied, implicitly in order to yield (what we assume to be) the intended meaning. The basic problem here is one of recognizing an ellipsis when it occurs. The following two texts are among the otherwise rather obscure passages that might be illuminated by such recognition. At Mic. 7: 3, the Hebrew text seems to read literally: ‘the officer asks and the judge for recompense’. Here, the interpretation is eased by assuming an ellipsis, ‘the official and the judge each asks for recompense’ (as NRSV) or ‘the official asks, and the judge decrees, for recompense’, a double ellipsis. A double ellipsis has also been identified at 1 Sam. 16: 7, which reads literally ‘for not that which humankind sees’, where for sense to be obtained (without emending the text) the words ‘God sees’ need to be provided.

In the following example, it is not so much ellipsis as a curious arrangement of the text that might be at issue. At Exod. 19: 13, the Hebrew reads ‘for it is indeed to be stoned or shot with arrows, whether beast or man, it shall not live’. Here, it is possible that a chiastic arrangement was intended, with the stoning reserved for the man and the shooting for the beast. Compare Matt. 7: 6, where it is probably the dogs and not the pigs that attack (cf. TEV, CEV).

In fact, parallelistic arrangements, especially ‘envelope’ (inclusio) and chiastic structures are extremely common in the Bible, not just as a more or less conscious device in poetry (see Watson 1984; Zogbo and Wendland 2000), but also in prose. Note, for example, ‘all’ at the beginning and end of Gen. 9: 3, ‘in booths’ at the beginning and end of Lev. 23: 42, ‘like him’ at the beginning and end of 2 Kgs. 23: 25, and the (almost perfect) chiastic structure at Isa. 6: 10: ‘fatten heart…ears harden…eyes seal…see with eyes…with ears hear…heart understands’.

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