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Thursday, November 02, 2006  

Using Constructs with Commands

One of the little known features of the Construct window is that it can be joined with other search criteria in the Search window to which it is linked. I tried a particular combination today which some of you may find useful.

Over on the Better Bibles Blog, Suzanne McCarthy is writing a series of posts on Romans 16:7: "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow countrymen and fellow prisoners. They are outstanding among the apostles" (HCSB). This seemingly innocuous greeting is often used in debates about the role of women in the Christian church, since a woman, Junia, is mentioned as being "outstanding among the apostles." The question, of course, is whether this means that Junia is an "outstanding apostle" or merely "of outstanding reputation to the apostles."

To examine this question myself, I decided to create a simple Greek construct to find all examples of the preposition en (in, among) followed by an article and a dative plural noun. Here's what I came up with:

This search found 225 occurrences in the Greek New Testament, and when I examined the results, it was clear that the vast majority of them are prepositional phrases which emphasize place or time: "In the synagogues," "in those days," etc. Not wanting to wade through all 225 occurrences to find the handful of instances which speak of being "among" a certain group of people, I clicked the Details button and looked at the Analysis tab to see a list of the nouns which appear in this construction.

Scanning the list, I was quickly able to zero in on nouns like apostolos "apostle," ethnos, "Gentile," oikonomos, "manager, steward," etc. which referred to people rather than places or times.

Now, of course, I wanted a quick way to zero in on where these words occurred in my en tois construction. At first, I modified my Construct to specify that the noun had to be a certain lexical form (using the LEX item), but that was a little clumsy to constantly keep changing. So instead, I went to the Search window to which my Construct was linked, and added a WITHIN command with the number of words set to zero. I then simply dragged the word I wanted to focus on from the Analysis window into the Search window and dropped it after the WITHIN command. The end result looked like this:

This search found only those occurrences of my Greek construct which contained the word ethnos, and all I had to do to examine other words was to change the word after the WITHIN command to something else.

If you're doing a construct search and want to modify it further, try joining it with other search commands and search criteria. You'll be amazed at some of the things you can do.

Now wouldn't it have been nice to have a syntactical tag that distinguished words that refer to people as opposed to places or times?

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