A Discourse Analysis of First CorinthiansRalph Bruce Terry
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Transitions between Paragraphs

To this point in the analysis, the focus has been on units or particles. But Pike has noted that this treatment of language is not sufficient. He writes, "the analysis of speech into separate chunks is in some manner false—a model useful for some purposes, awkward for others" (Pike 1982, 24; emphasis his). Thus he suggests that it is necessary to also analyze language as if it were a wave. Applying this to the sounds indicated by letters, he states, "Instruments show that the sounds do in fact slur into one another. One sound is not finished before the next one is begun" (Pike 1982, 24).

What is true on a small scale is also true on a larger scale. Sometimes writers block off their material in a very definite way and it is easy to tell where one section ends and another begins. But often writers will move from one section to another with a paragraph or a sentence designed to make a smooth transition. The analyst who is trying to decide to which section this bit of text belongs is faced with a difficult choice, for in some real sense it belongs to both sections. In such a case, the same sentence can terminate one paragraph while initializing another (cf. Longacre 1985b, 167-173).

Paul shows several examples of this in I Corinthians. A notable illustration is in 3:9. In 3:5-15, Paul gives two analogies to explain the nature of Christian servants. First he likens them to farm hands working in a field; then he likens them to construction workers erecting a building. The transition between the thoughts happens in the middle of the clause in 3:9 which reads: "you are God's field, God's building." Because the appositive phrase introduces a new topic, such a clause cannot be said to belong to either one idea or the other; it rightfully belongs to both.

The very next paragraph shows a transition across a more significant boundary. Beginning with 3:16, Paul is no longer discussing Christian servants, but has returned to his main topic of congregational unity. In 3:16-17 he likens the Corinthians to a temple of God and says that anyone who destroys that temple will be destroyed by God. Here the way to destroy the temple is to destroy the unity of the congregation. But the figure used is that of a temple, a type of building. This ties in well with the previous paragraph on Christian servants as builders. The figure of building remains, but the topic has changed.

The paragraph in 4:18-21 where Paul discusses his plans to come to Corinth has already been discussed in chapter III. There it was suggested that in a division of the text into discourses, the paragraph in question functions better as an introduction to the second discourse than as a conclusion to the first. But the fact is that it contains some of both elements, making the choice difficult. The first section ends discussing Timothy's coming to Corinth in 4:17. This transitional paragraph discusses the related topic of Paul's coming to Corinth. Then in 5:3 Paul specifically mentions that he was currently absent in body. In the same way the word φυσιόω 'arrogant, puffed up' is found in the first discourse in 4:6, in the transitional paragraph in 4:18 and 4:19, and in the second discourse in 5:2. The word βασιλεύω 'reign, be a king' is found twice in 4:8 in the first discourse, and the related word βασιλεία is found in the transitional paragraph in 4:20. Similarly, the word δύναμις 'power' is found both in the transitional paragraph in 4:19 and 4:20 and in the second discourse in 5:4. Admittedly, the lexical ties between 4:18-20 are closer to 5:2-4 than 4:6-8; this is part of the reason that the transitional passage 4:18-21 was placed with the second discourse in chapter III of this study. But lexical chains serve to tie the first and second discourses together; this is in sharp contrast to the book of James where breaks in lexical chains serve to define the boundaries of different discourses (Terry 1992, 111-112).

The transition in 6:9 is of a different kind. Here the grammatical markers signal the paragraph in 6:9-11 as belonging with the material in 6:1-8, but the conceptual markers indicate that it belongs with the material in 6:12-20. The passage in 6:9 is introduced by the word ἤ 'or', which is used most often to show alternative continuity with what has just preceded. In the same way, there is a lexical tie between the word ἀδικει̑τε 'you wrong' in 6:8 and the word ἄδικοι 'unrighteous ones' in 6:9. Further, the phrase "inherit the kingdom of God" is found in both verses 9 and 10. But even though these markers are here to show continuity with 6:1-8, the subject matter has returned to a discussion, not of lawsuits and defrauding one another, as in those verses, but of fornication and other sins, as in chapter 5 and 6:12-20. Verses 9 and 10 present a list of sinners who will not inherit the kingdom of God. The list is strongly reminiscent of the list in 5:10-11. Both 5:10-11 and 6:9-10 share the following words: πόρνος 'fornicator', εἰδωλολάτρης 'idolater', πλεονέκτης 'greedy', μέθυσος 'drunkard', λοίδορος 'reviler', and ἅρπαξ 'robber'. Also, the phrase "kingdom of God" in 6:9-10 is also found in the transition paragraph which leads into the second discourse in 4:20. In addition, the phrase "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" in 6:11 is very similar to "in the name of our Lord Jesus" in 5:4. Chapter 5 and the last of chapter 6 discuss fornication; 6:9 lists four classes of sexual offenders: πόρνοι 'fornicators', μοιχοί 'adulterers', μαλμκοί 'catamites', and αρσενοκοι̑ται 'homosexuals'. Conceptually the transition back to the subject of fornication has already been made by 6:9. To be sure, Fee (1987, 250) has argued that 6:12-20 is not concerned with the subject of fornication in general, tying this passage back to the problem of incest in chapter 5; rather, he sees it as dealing with a new problem of Christian men visiting πόρνη 'prostitutes'. But in context, if πορνεία can mean 'fornication' and not just 'prostitution' and πόρνος can mean 'fornicator' and not just 'whoremonger', then πόρνη can also mean 'fornicator' (as it does in Ezekiel 16:33-35 LXX) and not just 'prostitute.'

Another transitional passage is found in 10:14. This is usually taken to be the beginning of a paragraph 10:14-22. But it could just as well serve as a summary statement for 10:1-14. Both 10:1-13 and 10:15-22 are discussing the eating of meat offered to idols. The admonition in 10:14 to flee from idolatry fits well with both sections. This sentence contains a vocative, a frequent marker of paragraph beginnings in Greek (cf. Miehle 1981, 98 and Longacre 1983a, 3, 13, 22, 25, 30 for I John as well as Hymes 1986, 80 and Terry 1992, 113, 118 for James). However, the vocative is the adjective αγαθπητός 'beloved', not a noun, and the only other place where this adjective occurs as a vocative in I Corinthians is in 15:58, a summary verse at the end of a discourse. In the same way, the introductory conjunction for 10:14 is διόπερ 'therefore, wherefore', a word which is used elsewhere in the New Testament only in 8:13, in the conclusion to the first point of the discourse. It also occurs as an unlikely variant to διό 'therefore, wherefore' in 14:13, a passage often marked as the beginning of a paragraph. All of this indicates that 10:14 is truly transitional in nature. From a unit or particle perspective, it is difficult to tell to which paragraph this sentence belongs; however, from a wave perspective, it belongs to both.

Similarly, it is difficult to tell how to analyze the verses 12:31 and 14:1. They serve as transitional elements into and out of the section on love in I Corinthians 13. This section is best analyzed as a discourse rather than a major paragraph. I Corinthians 13:1-13 can stand alone and, in modern use of these verses, often does. But 12:31 and 14:1 clearly have ties to this section. The passage 12:31 speaks both of charismatic gifts (tieing it to chapter 12) and a more excellent way (tieing it to chapter 13). The passage 14:1 speaks both of love (tieing it to chapter 13) and of spiritual gifts (tieing it to chapter 14). The transitional character of these two verses is quite evident.

Finally, it is difficult to tell just how to analyze 16:5-11 in a particle or unit fashion. These verses once again discuss Paul and Timothy's travel plans. They are tied both to 16:2, where Paul relates his intention to go to Corinth, and to 16:12, where he describes Apollos's lack of travel plans. The decision in chapter III to keep 16:5-11 with 16:1-4 is based on the fact that 16:2-4 also discusses in a limited way Paul's travel plans and 16:12 starts with the discourse beginning marker Περὶ δέ 'Now concerning'. But when analyzed in wave fashion, these verses are clearly transitional between 16:1-4 and 16:12.

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