The Structure of Persuasive Power of Mark: A Linguistic Approach

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The Structure and Persuasive Power of Mark: A Linguistic Approach, by John G. Cook. SBLSS. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995. Pp. xviii + 384. $29.95 (paper).

This book is a revision of a doctoral dissertation completed at Emory University in 1985 under the direction of William Beardslee and David Hellholm (of the University of Oslo). The book has two agendas: (1) to explicate a text-linguistic method that can provide "a modest addition to historical critical exegesis" (p. 1) and (2) to apply text-linguistic insights to the Gospel of Mark, particularly to an understanding of the structure and persuasive power of that Gospel.

Text linguistics is linguistics with all of its theories, abstractions, and abstruse vocabulary. It is not philology. It is a linguistics that moves beyond the sentence and sentence grammar to the text and text grammar. An important concept is that the language system (langue) behind language in use (parole) must be envisioned as a system of interrelated elements and not as a collection of self-sufficient entities. Chapters 2 and 3 of the book explicate a text-linguistic method and apply that method in a linguistic outline of the Gospel of Mark. For his text-linguistic method, Cook draws upon the work of David Hellholm, who has synthesized the work of several linguists in order to understand the use of signs in a language-syntax, semantics, and pragmatics.

In his explication of semantics, Cook distinguishes between sense and reference. He sees this as an important distinction that has not yet been fully adopted by NT scholars. A given word has a conceptual meaning (sense) and can refer to an element in reality (reference). Cook reproduces the triangle developed by Stephen Ullmann as a way of modeling the distinction between the word (signifier), the concept in our understanding (signified), and the reality referred to by the word. Cook sees this triangle model as too simple and he considers the trapezium model developed by Kurt Baldinger and his student Klaus Heger as one that is more useful. The trapezium model uses a number of technical terms and allows conceptualization of additional categories and levels of abstraction. The left side of the trapezium is comparable to the left side of the triangle in that there is a sign or signeme composed of the signifiant (name or signifier, the material substance of the sign such as the sound) and a signifie (sense or signified, the content level of the sign). The right side of the trapezium is comparable to the right side of the triangle as it shows the relationship between class and seines and noems. Class corresponds to the triangle's "reference." It connotes a group of elements that exist in a logicaI class or set. Senes and noemes are not the same as the signifie but are connected with the signifie (forming the trapezium). A sene is a minimal unit of meaning in one language; a noeme is a sente that exists in two or more languages or in different stages of one language. A semenw comprises senes and together the sememes constitute a word's signifig. Signs may be examined on the level of parole, that is, as they are used in actual context. They may also be examined on the level of langue or the level of language including all systems of langue. Another technical term is "monosemization." This takes place when an interpreter chooses one meaning from among the many possible senses of the word or sign.

In a less-technical section on pragmatics, Cook concentrates upon presuppositions shared by senders and receivers and on the use of language to do things. The ability of language to do things, or speech-act theory, is a major focus of the theoretical and exegetical work of Cook,

Two basic techniques are introduced by Cook in the outlining of Mark. …