Polysyndeton: The Appetizer.

Previously we saw the figure of speech Polysyndeton in the use of TOO many conjunctions, or beyond the normal use. I have heard it said that the Bible was written on an elementary school level, and that its writers were not as well educated as we are today. After we cover 1 Corinthians 13 in the next few weeks, I think we can dismiss such notions as unfounded. But if you find those elementary school students who understand these things, ask them to help me.

The chapter is so chock full of conjunctions, it will take us several weeks to fully appreciate the wisdom of God in having it written by the Apostle Paul. In the first 3 verses alone 4 conjunctions are used together 15 times. It is truly remarkable to see language used so precisely, and with such intricacy. The chapter is woven together like a garment of and by God’s love, which provides a warmth not even a moth can corrupt.

I have presented the conjunctions in bold type and underlined, so as to stand out upon initial observation. The Greek words used, their Strong’s numbers, and their meanings, can all be found after each verse.

Standing on its own, verse 1 is not the figure Polysyndeton, but a simple use of conjunctions. “Though” is a word that can be used as a conjunctive adverb, or as a subordinating conjunction. Here it is used as a subordinating conjunction, because, “but have not charity” cannot stand on its own without the pronoun “I”. Though I speak with the tongues [Metonymy for languages] of men and of angels, but have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. The Greek word
ἐάν [G1437]thoughcarries with it an implied “if “.

When we speak the word of God, and speaking in tongues is speaking the word of God, we need to do so with charity, with the love of God. Without the love of God, what we say may merely seem a bunch of noise to others.

[1Co 13:1-3 KJV]
1 Though
* I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and** have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
*[ἐάν G1437 if ] **[δέ G1161 but]

Now we begin the coordinating Polysyndeton with the repetition of the same two conjunctions used in verse 1, and though
, used twice. Within this Polysyndeton, which continues on into verse three, is another Polysyndeton, this time by the use of the coordinating conjunction and“, holding together as one the manifestations of prophesy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, and faith.

2 And* though** I have [the gift of ] prophecy, and* understand all mysteries, and* all knowledge; and* though** I have all faith, so that*** I could remove mountains, and **** have not charity, I am nothing.
καί G2532 and] **[ἐάν G1437 even if ] ***[ὥστε G5620 insomuch that]
δέ G1161 but]

Here we can see the continuation of the subordinating conjunctions “
and though“, or “and even if in verses 2 and 3, but their repetition in these 3 verses gives equal weight to each of the verses, such as is the pattern of a coordinating conjunction. So a series of subordinating conjunctions is used to coordinate the 3 verses as a whole, with each of the verses having the same weight. In each of these verses it’s not enough to just do good or good works, but if we are to benefit from our doing good it must be done with the love of God as our motivation.

3 And* though** I bestow all my goods to feed [the poor], and* though** I give my body to be burned, and*** have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
καί G2532 and] **[ἐάν G1437 even if ] ***[δέ G1161 but]

When we read the Bible we can bless and be blessed, even if we do not know its figures of speech. If this is a bit too much to digest at one time, just enjoy whatever you may have learned. When we can say, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts”, as Jeremiah did, we can either snack or feast. 1 Corinthians 13 contains a feast of figures, but I think we have had our fill until next time.
So until we eat again,
hors d’oeuvres.
God bless you, and remember, Enjoy!
Ken Rossoll Feb. 13, 2021


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