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Paragraph headings
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Hellenist Disciple
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September 26, 2021 - 12:07 pm

In Rom. 1, verses 1-12 are given the heading "Greeting", while the remaining verses are given the double heading "The gospel and foolish wickedness". However, the actual greeting is limited to verses 1-7, verses 8-17 comprise the paragraph of the gospel, while the paragraph of wickedness begins from verse 18.

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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September 26, 2021 - 5:34 pm

IIRC, the reason I went with two headings instead of three is I didn't want to break up the flow of Paul's letter.  Verse 18 begins with a conjunction that links it to the previous verse .  If you consider verse 18 as a continuation of verse 17 because of the conjunction, then verse 13 is the logical paragraph break.  I tried to be very cognizant of not breaking the flow of the text when inserting paragraph headings.

While there certainly could be a paragraph break between verses 7 and 8, 8-14 is a very short heading.  The contents do seem greeting-ish, so I left it under greetings so as not to have too many headings.

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Hellenist Disciple
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September 27, 2021 - 6:16 pm

By that reasoning, verse 13 also contains a conjunction and a direct logical connection (and no logical break) to the previous verses (the potential meeting of Paul with the recipients), and such conjunction-based direct connections continue back to verse 8, the first phrase of which is the only one that isn't directly connected to its preceding text. Therefore, if such conjunctions are the criterion of keeping verses in the same paragraph, then the first paragraph ends at verse 7 and the rest of the chapter (and actually even further) should be a single huge paragraph. But this is not how paragraphs and conjunctions work.

Conjunctions are indeed used to facilitate the flow of the text, but there is nothing wrong with a conjunction placed in the first statement of a paragraph, as long as it still facilitates (instead of confusing) the flow of the text. In contrast to statements and words, the beginning and ending of which can be typically indicated in ancient texts by word-forms (like in later texts by punctuation and spaces respectively), the beginning and ending of paragraphs and chapters are not indicated in ancient texts by any linguistic information. These are later concepts that exist at a higher level and have to do with the cohesion of their contents. Paragraphs are about cohesive statements, while chapters are about cohesive information (reasonings, events etc.) Let me demonstrate that:

Verses 1-7 are about the greeting in verse 7, with the previous verses describing the senders (God and Jesus), the carrier (Paul) and the recipients (Romans) of that greeting (and of the following epistle). These verses are so self-inclusive and cohesive (their single point of reference being the literal greeting), that they could fit in any number of epistles from these senders, by this carrier, and to these recipients (or to any christian recipient for that matter, if the phrase "in Rome" was omitted). The actual epistle begins at verse 8, which is a hard break in the flow of the text, as there is no conjunction to make the connection.

Verses 8-17 contain statements about faith (I would not call verses 8-12 as greeting-ish). Verse 8 begins with the faith of Romans, while verses 12, 16 and 17 identify this faith as the faith of Paul, the faith of all gospel believers and the faith of all righteous people respectively. The intermediate verses describe how all these faiths are connected to one (the faith in God). Nevertheless, the key concept of this passage is not the faith, but the gospel, as the central verse is the famous verse 16. The gospel is the key, Paul is the point of reference, Romans remain the recipients and so on, but faith is the word that provides the cohesion to Paul's thoughts.

In contrast to all that, the statements of verses 18-32 are about other people, without that faith, they have no cohesion with the statements of the previous verses (the "gospel" has nothing to do with "foolish wickedness"), they are not even compared to them. Instead, they are about wicked people, described against God's righteousness. It is this righteousness that connects the first 11 chapters of the epistle, being their topic. This is the reason that verse 18 contains a conjunction. It connects the righteousness of God introduced in verse 17 with the righteousness of God in the rest of the epistle. It facilitates the overall flow of the text, not the identification of paragraphs. Verses 18-32 are very cohesive with each-other (they all have a negative tone, not found in the previous verses) and could even make perfect sense without the rest of the chapter. The conjunction of verse 18 is used to indicate that there is a bigger picture, that God's wrath is not in isolation (it is a part of His righteousness). This style continues in the coming chapters (as long as the topic remains God's righteousness).

Therefore, if you don't want to make a break at verse 8 (the most natural point), at least make it at verse 18. After all (to also address your argument on practical size), the chapter is better balanced (and easier to study) in two paragraphs of 17 and 15 verses (an almost 1/1 ratio), instead of two paragraphs of 12 and 20 verses (an almost 1/2 ratio).

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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September 29, 2021 - 9:31 am

You make a good point about verses 8-12 forming a reasonably self-contained chunk.

Concerning conjunctions, I clearly should've been more careful about my terminology.  The conjunction "gar" used at the start of verse 18 specifically links a preceding phrase with the following phrase. Ideally, no paragraph break should ever start with gar for that reason. Simply put, I'm not willing to add a paragraph break before any verse that starts with gar. (I'm pretty sure I haven't, though if you ever see one post about it and I'll fix it ASAP)

By contrast, "kai" and especially "de" were often used in the ancient world both as a way to connect statements, and -- somewhat confusingly -- also to introduce new 'paragraphs' (ideas/sections/chunks). 

"oun" (therefore, which begins verse 24) signifies a transition in topic from deeds/thoughts to their results, as in here.  that could also be a paragraph break, though I like it less.

Potential paragraph starting verses are then:

  • verse 8
  • verse 13
  • verse 24

That could break the chapter up into four parts.  I do see you point about the transition in verse 18, but I don't want to break the flow of the thought, especially because it's connected by gar.

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Hellenist Disciple
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October 2, 2021 - 12:08 pm

Berean Patriot (admin) said
You make a good point about verses 8-12 forming a reasonably self-contained chunk.

My point has been about verses 8-17, connected by faith. I don't see a break at verse 12.

 

Berean Patriot (admin) said
Concerning conjunctions, I clearly should've been more careful about my terminology.  The conjunction "gar" used at the start of verse 18 specifically links a preceding phrase with the following phrase. Ideally, no paragraph break should ever start with gar for that reason. Simply put, I'm not willing to add a paragraph break before any verse that starts with gar. (I'm pretty sure I haven't, though if you ever see one post about it and I'll fix it ASAP)

By contrast, "kai" and especially "de" were often used in the ancient world both as a way to connect statements, and -- somewhat confusingly -- also to introduce new 'paragraphs' (ideas/sections/chunks).

The real reason that today's readers may find conjunctions in the beginning of paragraphs to be confusing, is the modern addition of punctuation. Try reading the text without punctuation and you will quickly see how much conjunctions help. Ancient texts were expensive to produce, so if these words were redundant they would have been dropped. But here is the essential difference: While punctuation is used to separate, conjunctions are used primarily to connect. A new paragraph is not a separate text, it is just one more part of a whole. Punctuation may be used to indicate where one part ends and another begins, but more important is how the parts connect.

Searching within ancient Greek texts for ideals of the modern English language is not fruitful. As far as I know, "gar" is not a special conjunction and there is nothing wrong in introducing a paragraph with "gar". How to translate that is a separate matter. Using a plain "for" could be a poor rendering, exactly because a modern reader may limit its function between a couple of statements. Alternative translations could be whole phrases (e.g. "The reason for the above is that" or "Here is the reason for the above:" or "The above is because"), better rendering for modern readers the intention of the author to join many more than two statements. Of course guessing intentions is far from easy, but assuming that the author was following English ideals is certainly wrong (as Paul's long sentences prove).

 

Berean Patriot (admin) said
"oun" (therefore, which begins verse 24) signifies a transition in topic from deeds/thoughts to their results, as in here.  that could also be a paragraph break, though I like it less.

Verse 24 begins with "dio" (variation of "dia", which is a common word), but there is nothing special about either this or "oun", none signifies nor prohibits a paragraph change by itself.

 

Berean Patriot (admin) said
Potential paragraph starting verses are then:

  • verse 8
  • verse 13
  • verse 24

That could break the chapter up into four parts.  I do see you point about the transition in verse 18, but I don't want to break the flow of the thought, especially because it's connected by gar.

I don't see a break at verse 13, nor 24. If by "paragraph" you mean thought-break, there should be no paragraphs at all, as there are no breaks in the ancient text, neither physical, nor implied ones. Paragraphs should be used only to group thoughts together, so I consider thought-breaking paragraphs to be harmful. If the title of a paragraph separates it from the previous one, then put the titles on the side. But if you decide to use paragraphs for grouping verses, then the cohesive groups are 1-7, 8-17 and 18-32.

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Berean Patriot (admin)
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October 3, 2021 - 7:58 pm

I was talking about verse 24 from memory, obviously that was a mistake.  My bad.

You make a good point about thought breaks and use of conjunctions.  I opened the chapter and divided it up your way and then read it both ways.  I must admit the division you suggest does read better and divide the chapter into more natural breaks.  I've changed it. Thanks for point it out. 🙂

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