The Institute of Midrashic Studies of the New Testament

Syntagmatic Analysis

Each week the fellows of The Institute of Midrashic Studies of the New Testament and I meet via Zoom across three time zones delving deeper into the Judaic and Hellenistic characteristics of Paul’s Midrash, The Oldest Midrash in seven of his epistles from the Source Texts of the Hexateuch and Isaiah.

This week we covered the syntagmatic analysis (within the field of semiotics) of Hebrews 7, a Midrash of Genesis 24. The word syntagmatic comes from the Greek word syntagma, “that which is put together in order”. This type of analysis studies the structure of a text and the relationship between its parts.

This is compared to paradigmatic analysis of paradigms embedded in the text rather than of the surface structure (syntax) of the text.

From Hebrews 7:3-20 there are 13 words that are associated with each other and another word from the Hebrew text of Genesis 24:43 associated through Midrash. Each of the 13 words gives a word picture from an account from the Hebrew Scriptures.

This literary device of word association is perhaps the strongest example within Paul’s epistles and all deal with the dilemma Paul faced: How could someone from the tribe of Judah officiate at the altar. Paul used the 13 associated words, all within the field of genetics before Watson and Crick! There are obvious and not so obvious genetic terms.

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