On Friday, I opened a pretty sizable can of worms by beginning to discuss the new graphing capabilities of Accordance 7. There are so many different directions I could run with this that I feel a bit like Robert Frost in a yellow wood!
Yet since every journey must begin with one step following after another, let's begin by looking at one of the Analysis Graphs we did on Friday:
Remember, we got this graph by searching for [VERB] in Ephesians, clicking the Details button, selecting Analysis Graph from the Graph drop-down menu, and then selecting Mood from the pop-up menu at the bottom right corner of the window. Last Friday, we just looked at this graph in passing. Today, let's give it a little more attention.
Now, some of you may be wondering why you would even want to analyze every verb in Ephesians by its "mood." Well, let me tell ya. When I was in college, a Bible study leader explained that in the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul primarily uses verbs in the indicative mood: that is, verbs which describe actual events. But in the last three chapters of Ephesians, Paul makes a dramatic shift to verbs in the imperative mood: that is, verbs which give a command. The Bible study leader's point was that before Paul tells the Ephesian Christians how they should live, he spends a great deal of time explaining to them who they are in Christ and what Christ has accomplished for them. In other words, he begins with doctrine before moving on to practice.
That's an interesting observation, but at the time, I had no way to verify whether or not this was actually true (yes, I have trust issues!). Looking at the Analysis Graph of Mood in Ephesians, we can see that imperatives do, in fact, increase sharply in chapters 4-6. Yet surprisingly, there is no chapter in Ephesians in which imperatives actually outnumber indicatives or participles. Does that mean that imperatives don't outnumber indicatives at any point in Ephesians? To find that out, we'll need to modify the display of this Analysis Graph a bit. And how do we modify the display of just about everything in Accordance? By using the one keyboard shortcut you absolutely must learn: Command-T.
In the dialog box which opens, you'll see a field labeled "Words per hit." The number in this field specifies the size of the sample used for each point on the graph. The default for all graphs is hits per 1000 words, which is a good ratio if you're looking at the entire Bible or a range of several large books. However, it's a bit of a broad brush when looking at a single small book like Ephesians. Reducing this number to 100 will result in a Graph which gives much finer detail:
Unfortunately, the Analysis Graph I have now is a little noisy, since there are five moods all overlaid on top of each other. At this point, I can do a couple of things. I could use command-T again and choose to Stack the moods rather than having them overlaid on top of each other. But I like the overlay view, so I'll stick with it and simply remove the moods I'm not currently interested in. I can do this simply by clicking on the labels of the moods I want to remove. By clicking the labels for participle, subjunctive, and infinitive, I get a graph which lets me focus on just the indicative and imperative:
Here I can see that there are a few places in Ephesians where imperatives outnumber indicatives, such as the ethical instructions at the end of Chapter 4, but in most cases, indicatives roughly keep pace with imperatives. Then there is the surprising case of Paul's instruction to husbands at the end of chapter 5. Note how the frequency of imperatives plunges while indicatives appear more frequently than anywhere else in Ephesians!
Why might Paul have decided to buck the trend here? This is purely speculation of course, but if the men at Ephesus were anywhere near as stubborn and hard-headed as I am, they might have resisted simply being told what to do. So Paul tells them once, "Love your wives as Christ loved the church," and then launches into a sophisticated theological argument in which he explores the comparison. My wife learned a long time ago that I'm much more likely to go along with something if I think it was my idea in the first place. :-) Could Paul have understood the same psychology?
Whatever the reasons for any particular spike in the graph, graphs such as these enable you to recognize patterns in the text which may lead to further study and discovery. By doing an Analysis Graph of Mood in Ephesians, I've been able to verify the general trend first described to me in a college Bible study. But I've also found that the line between doctrine and practice in Ephesians is not as clear-cut as I was originally led to believe. Yes, Paul waits until well into chapter 4 to start issuing commands, but he doesn't abandon indicatives once he starts using imperatives. On the contrary, he continues to teach, to explain, and to reason with his readers even as he instructs them how they should live.
Now, it's important to remember that the conclusions I'm drawing from what I see in the Analysis Graph are necessarily tentative. When I explore each section of text in context, I may find that many of the indicatives in chapters 4-6 are merely incidental; that they do not in fact have anything to do with "teaching, explaining, and reasoning." All of these cool computerized tools can help us to spot patterns we may not have seen before, but they are no replacement for sound exegesis of the text itself. The bird's eye view is incredibly helpful, and more exegetes should take advantage of these tools; but it's very important that we don't stop with the bird's eye view.
In the next post, we'll see how we can use the Analysis Graph to ask more detailed questions of the text. Stay tuned!