Grammatical Diagramming–Really?

My grammatical diagrams are presented (1) to augment exegetical study of both the Old and New Testaments, (2) to coordinate with the syntax interpretations of every term in the original texts (included on separate blogs), and (3) to aid in the outlining and presentations of the Scriptures. Occasionally I will include English equivalents of the original language diagrams.

My personal notations in the diagrams clearly deviate from standard English diagrams and utilize those available on the standard QWERTY keyboard. The design of the diagrams include (1) focusing on practical functionality rather than on diagrammatical exactness, and (2) visualizing the interpretations of the passages by including every word as well as those implied by the biblical author, and identifying the independent and dependent clauses. The major notations are:

  • A vertical line (|) separates the subject and predicate on the base line.
  • The “more than” symbol (>) identifies the direct object (reversed for Hebrew).
  • The “less than” symbol (<) identifies the indirect object (reversed for Hebrew).
  • The brackets ([x]) encloses words added for clarity but omitted by the biblical author.
  • The parentheses (), small and large, enclose appositional words or clauses.
  • The dotted lines, with and without arrows, reveal (1) the absence of conjunctions, (2) antecedents to pronouns, and (3) movements of the margins for lengthy passages.
  • The rest of the diagrams should be easily grasped but I am always available to clarify what is not apparently “easily grasped.”  It might be helpful to print this note for later reference.

A Greek grammatical diagram of Philippians 1:29 underscores both its importance and an unsettling theological truth—suffering for Christ is a gift of grace! ὅτι ὑμῖν ἐχαρίσθη τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, οὐ μόνον τὸ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πάσχειν.

Recognizing this fact centers on a seemingly extraneous definite article, translated in some English versions as it or by ignoring the presence of the article. The NET Bible, (loc. cit.) note is instructive,

“For that which is on behalf of Christ has been granted to you—namely, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.” The infinitive phrases are epexegetical to the subject, τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ (to huper Christou), which has the force of “the on-behalf-of-Christ thing,” or “the thing on behalf of Christ.” To translate this in English requires a different idiom.

 The subject of the main verb is a neuter nominative singular article the contents of which are defined by the two infinitive phrases that follow, believing and suffering. The subject of the verb cannot be limited to either believing or suffering. The gracious gift (ἐχαρίσθη) includes both. The correlative conjunctions οὐ μόνον and ἀλλὰ καὶ further validate this conclusion.

Diagramming has great scholarly and practical value for the preacher, teacher, and theologian. Here are a few key quotes from Lee L. Kantenwein, Diagrammatical Analysis:

(Page 7), “Diagrammatical analysis of the Biblical languages is an indispensable and methodological exegetical tool for the purpose of observing sentence structure and syntactical relationships.”

Again (Page 9), “Therefore, diagramming is a diagnosis of syntax serving to pinpoint the relation that words have one to another, and thereby facilitating grammatical exegesis, the cornerstone of theological exegesis.”

Continuing (Page 9), “The individual who is unable to express in some graphic way the structure of sentences is frequently not able to grasp the complete thought housed in a group of words.”

Finally (Page 13), “There is no such thing as an unimportant detail or word of the Scripture text.”

Diagramming a passage may be difficult and tedious work and at times reveal nothing more that what a simple reading of the text shows. At other times, however, frequently unexpected, diagramming becomes a critical pointer to discovery. Grammatical diagramming is inseparable to a comprehensive exegetical methodology.

The diagrams of Romans 12:1-2 have benefitted many so I include them here as visual examples.

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