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Friday, June 23, 2006  

Analysis Graph: Digging Deeper

On Tuesday, we used the new Analysis Graph to analyze the verbal moods used in the book of Ephesians. We tested the idea that verbs in Ephesians 1-3 are primarily indicative, while in Ephesians 4-6 they are mostly imperative. The resulting Graph (pictured again below), made it clear that while that is generally the case, things are not quite that simple.

Today, I want to dig a little deeper, by exploring what kinds of commands Paul is issuing in this book. We can do this because the Analysis Graph breaks down the results of any search we happen to do. Thus, the more specific our search, the more detailed the Analysis Graph becomes.

You'll recall that in the previous two posts on the Analysis Graph, we did a very broad search for every [VERB] in Ephesians. If we want to zero in on imperative verbs, all we need to do is modify that search to look for [VERB imperative]. As with any grammatical tag, you can type it yourself, or you can use the Enter Grammatical Tag submenu of the Search menu.

Note: I'm picking up where I left off on Tuesday, but for those who want to follow along, you'll need to open a search window with the GNT-T as your search text, click the Search for Words radio button, and set the range to Ephesians.

The Analysis Graphs I show have been customized as follows: Using command-T, I changed the Words per Hit field from 1000 to 100, set the Display to Areas, chose to Superimpose as Overlay, and checked Show sum of hits, Show grid, and Use black background. Like this:

Once we've entered our search and clicked OK, Accordance finds every imperative verb in Ephesians. When we click the Details button and select Analysis Graph from the Graph drop-down menu, we can choose different grammatical categories to explore the various ways that imperatives are used.

Let's start by seeing whether the imperatives in Ephesians are primarily in the present or aorist tense. Though this is something of an oversimplication, present imperatives tend to imply ongoing or continuous action, while aorist imperatives tend to describe punctiliar, or one time action. So, for example, if I wanted to tell someone to "Go to the store," I would probably use an aorist imperative, because I simply have one trip to the store in mind. But if I tell someone, "Be nice to people," I would use a present imperative, because I want that individual to be nice to people all the time.

When I choose to analyze my search for imperative verbs by tense, I get the following graph (using the custom settings described above):

Note how the vast majority of imperatives in Ephesians are present, which is what we would expect for commands regarding how we should live in general.

By double-clicking the places on the graph where aorist imperatives appear, our search window automatically scrolls to the corresponding place in the text, making it easy to see for example, that an aorist imperative is used in Ephesians 4:31: "All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you." Can we take this to imply that these vices should be removed once and for all, rather than over and over again?

The Analysis Graph also shows a high concentration of aorist imperatives in the section of Ephesians 6 which speaks of putting on the armor of God. A common application of this passage is that Christians should put on the armor of God every day, but Paul's use of aorist imperatives here may weigh against that interpretation. Perhaps Paul is saying that the armor should be put on and never taken off. Or perhaps he is simply emphasizing the act of donning the armor, without reference to how long it should be worn or how often to repeat the process.

To understand why the author chooses aorists over presents in these instances, we would need to consider the passage in context, maybe consult some commentaries or grammars, etc. The Analysis Graph doesn't tell us why a given form is used, but it does alert us to certain patterns which invite us to ask further questions of the text—questions we might otherwise never have thought to ask.

Okay, let's consider another characteristic of imperative verbs in Ephesians. Rather than looking at tense, let's switch to voice, to see whether Paul's commands are active, middle, or passive:

Here we see a little more variation. Active commands are most common, but there appear to be a fair number of imperatives in the middle voice. Are these "deponent" verbs which are middle in form but active in force? Or are these true middles which focus on controlling oneself in some way? Then there's that one passive imperative. Double-click it, and we find that it is that same command in Ephesians 4:31 we looked at above: "should be removed." If this command is passive, does that imply that we are not the ones who remove bitterness, anger, etc. from ourselves? If so, who does the removing?

Next, let's take a look at Person. Are these second person imperatives: direct commands such as "Go!"? Or are these third person imperatives: more subtle, indirect commands such as "Let him go"?

From this graph we see that second person imperatives tend to dominate, but there are a couple of sections where Paul uses third person imperatives. Once again, we can double-click those sections of the Graph to explore the corresponding passages in Ephesians.

At this point, we've still only seen the tip of the iceberg. What if I decided I wanted to see whether third person imperatives typically appear in the aorist or the present tense? I would simply search for [VERB third imperative] and then do an Analysis Graph of Tense. What about seeing whether aorist third person imperatives are typically singular or plural in number? Just search for [VERB aorist third imperative] and do an Analysis Graph of Number.

Because the Analysis Graph interacts with whatever search you do, you can be as general or specific as you like. And because it's so flexible, it's easy to move from exploring one category of information to another. The end result is an incredibly powerful tool which is disarmingly easy to use.

Just out of curiosity, is there a reason for using hits per x number of words rather than simply the actual number of hits? The new graphs are very helpful and powerful in version 7. I am enjoying this blog series.

This is the same as the Graph/Plot which has been in Accordance for ever. In a graph you must have hits per something. Chapters vary in size, hits per verse would give just a lot of ones or twos. Computationally I think it was more accurate to use hits per x words, with the option to set the "granularity" depending on the size of the range and the detail required: fewer words give more detail especially for small ranges, more words gives a broader picture, especially for the entire text.

Note that the "sampling" overlaps to produce the curve, so that you cannot derive the exact number of hits in a book or chapter from these graphs, you must use the Table or Table Bar Chart for that purpose.

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