Jesus, An Early Riser?

Candice M. Coleman, Ph.D.


As you may have noticed, a theme with these articles is to use the logical principles and conversational patterns of everyday speech, called Analytical Reading, to make the meaning of anything we read clearer. A person can have a beautiful voice and never stumble, but if the meaning isn’t clear, it’s much more difficult for the listeners to find the inspiration they expect to find in church or to easily follow a play, movie or broadcast.

In the article Sandwiches, we discussed Nedra Newkirk Lamar’s principle called What Does it Modify or Belong With? (Giving the Sense: How to Read Aloud with Meaning, p. 69). We said that sometimes a word goes with what proceeds it and at other times with what follows. We saw that the results of misreading a phrase can be funny, but can also indicate a theological belief. For instance, when Titus 2:3, is phrased one way, Jesus Christ becomes God, but when the pause goes elsewhere, there are two entities indicated – God and Jesus Christ. You will obviously want to read it the way which supports your beliefs.

We can also define a word by the way we phrase (pause). For example, look at Mark 16:9:

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

We’ll start our analysis with the word “early” and ask what it goes more closely with – “when Jesus was risen” or “the first day of the week”? If we connect it with what precedes it “Jesus was risen^early” what does “risen” mean? That he got out of bed in the wee hours?

However, if we connect “early” with “the first day of the week”, couldn’t “risen” mean “resurrected”? Doesn’t it make more sense to say that

… Jesus was [resurrected] / early^the first day of the week?

There isn’t any punctuation to give us a possible hint, but using Analytical Reading can help you find at least one logical way of reading a verse.

(Quick Tip — Punctuation in the King James Version is notoriously inaccurate (as is much broadcast copy). Don’t rely on it. Think for yourself and use logic.)

Sometimes, the same words will be phrased differently in a different context. In II Kings 6:15 we see “risen early” again.

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth...

In this case, we’d probably agree that “risen” does mean that he got up in the wee hours. To make that clear, where should we put the pause? The punctuation gives us some help this time, but again, be careful before relying on it. We don’t want to look to the punctuation for the phrasing, but to the meaning.

And when the servant of the man of God was risen early,/ and gone forth...

There are also times when logical phrasing can even define a pronoun. In Matt. 17:1-3, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain and is transfigured. The KJV says:

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

Who is talking to whom? Is Elias speaking to Moses? Are they both speaking to someone else? Who is “him”? If you look at Mark 9:4, you get the answer.

And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus.

Since we probably don’t want to stop in the middle of reading and explain that to a congregation, we can analyze the verse ahead of time to see if there’s a way to clarify the meaning.

So, let’s ask ourselves, what does “Elias” go with? “Talking to him” or “Moses? To show that Elias isn’t talking to Moses, wouldn’t we disconnect, or pause, between “Elias” and “talking to him”? That helps. But to make it even more apparent, we’d probably want to keep “Moses” and “Elias” close together so we know they were both speaking to Jesus.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses^and Elias / talking with him.

Can you see how the meaning of the Matthew passage is much clearer than it was? If not, send me an email.

To end on a “win,” here’s one that’s a bit simpler. II Kings 2:1.

And it came to pass, when the Lord would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.

What does “into heaven” go more closely with? “By a whirlwind” or “Elijah”? Is he going to “take up Elijah / into heaven^by a whirlwind”? Or, “is he going to take Elijah^into heaven” and it happens to be by a whirlwind? You could probably make a case either way, but doesn’t it make more sense for the listener to hear that Elijah was going to heaven first and then how that would be accomplished?

As we’ve seen, determining the phrasing according to the meaning and not the punctuation, helps make the meaning much more obvious to your listeners. More importantly, the meaning is more obvious to you. You can’t read with understanding, if you don’t understand.

For more information on voice and speech, you might want to download The Expressive Voice Audio Coach or other learning resources.

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©2019, Say It Well! Permission is given to reprint this article if the following is included: Reprinted by permission of Dr. Candice M. Coleman. She can be reached at 386-402-7047.