Punctuation In The Greek New Testament

In the edition of the New Testament down to that of Griesbach inclusive, the punctuation was not only deficient in uniformity, but was also excessive. To make the meaning clearer, editors introduced a profusion of stops, especially commas; and in doing this often intruded on the text their own interpretation of it. Knapp was the first who bestowed closer attention on the subject, and attempted to reduce it to fixed principles. Schulz, Lachmann, and Tischendorf (who usually agrees with Lachmann), have followed in the same track, but with still greater reserve: no one of these however, has given a general exposition of his principles.

There is a specific necessity for punctuation, since any representaton of oral discourse would manifestly be incomplete without it. It was however originally devised for a practical purpose – to aid the reader, especially in reading aloud, by marking the various pauses for the voice. And such it mains object must still be, – to enable the reader to perceive at once what words are to be connected together, and, so far, to guide him to the correct perception of the meaning. Punctuation must therefore be founded on an examination of the logical, or rather (since the thought is already clothed in the language) of the grammatical and rhetorical relations of the words to one another. Hence it would be asking to much to require that an editor should be in no degree whatever to indicate his own interpretation of the passage by punctuation, since he has to insert not merely commas but also colon and the note of interrogation.

With respect to the proper use of the colon or the full stop in the New Testament text, there can scarely be any doubt. Lachmann and Tischendorf indeed have dropped the colon before a direct quotation, preferring to indicate the commencment of the quotation by a capital letter; but we can see no sufficient reason for this innovation.

There is much less uniformity in the use of the comma. So much as this is clear – that only a sentence which is itself grammatically complete, and which also stands in close connexion with another sentence, should be marked off by a comma; and that the comma was strictly speaking, invented for this purpose. But a grammatically complete sentence comprehends not merely subject, predicate, and copula (each of which three elements may be either expressed or understood), but also all qualifying words which are introduced into the sentence to define these main elements more precisely, and without which the sense would be imperfect. Hence Griesbasch, for instance, was wrong in separating the verb from its subject by a comma whenever the subject was accompanied by a participle, or consisted of a participle with its adjuncts as Mark 7:8, Mark 10:49, Rom 8:5, 1 Jo 2:4, 1 Jo 3:15.

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