In studying Biblical languages it is important that we understand that words occur in groups and not just in isolation. In the book, How Biblical Languages Work, authors Peter Silzer and Thomas Finley show how words are put into groups. Two terms are indentified here: grammar and syntax. Grammar is the overall patterns of a language. Syntax, on the other hand, is a subset of grammar and it deals with the principles that cause people to organize into lines; it is the study of how phrases, clauses, and sentences are formed from words. Previously in the book it was noted the different kinds of words such as nouns and verbs. In this chapter, however, we find the larger unit of syntax known as the ‘phrase’.
Phrases are basically defined as groups of words that function as a unit. These phrases include verb phrases, prepositional phrases, and adjective phrases. Clauses are defined as group phrases that include at least one verb phrase or at least one predicate phrase. It is important in Biblical studies that we learn how to analyze phrases and clauses. Syntax allows us to study how units are arranged words moving to various types of phrases and then to a clause. There are tests that can be made when studying these phrases and clauses. One such test is to look for boundaries. Such a test allows one to interpret how phrases and clause are used in certain environments or locations. To do this, the ‘head’ or controlling word of a phrase must be located. In Biblical studies the same concept applies. When studying the original languages, the phrases must be clearly indentified in order to get a full and complete interpretation of the text.
In understanding how Biblical languages work there must be an identification of the patterns that are used in the language. Both Hebrew and Greek are languages that have predictable patterns. Therefore, as you study the scriptures, there should be an understanding of the patterns seen in the language in order to come to the most accurate interpretation.