Demonstratives

This post will be about a little of this-n-that.

Back East in the 70s, a capable man (who nonetheless struggled inwardly) once started a Bible class for college students.  He hung a green street sign above the door to the classroom, and the sign said “This Place.”  I have no idea what went on inside that room, but the younger me envied the situation.  It seemed as if there was something important going on in “this place.”

A new church that wanted a catchy name called itself “That Church.”  They even use those words “that church” in their web presence.  People may well remember them because of their use of the demonstrative pronoun.

An impressive man named Wes once graced the church I was part of.  He was asked — more often than most — to “head the table.”  (By that I mean “speak the devotional words that kicked off the communion ritual.”)  Wes began every communion table talk with the words “This is the Lord’s Supper.”  Although his enunciation didn’t particularly emphasize the demonstrative pronoun this, his overall emphasis was demonstrative.  It didn’t hurt that he quoted a long passage of scripture, in the anachronistic, less familiar, yet striking, King James, each time.

When Jesus was at the so-called “last supper” with his closest friends, He said, “Do this to remember Me.”  (Luke 22:19)  That was a very demonstrative pronoun that referred to an even more demonstrative event.

In Greek grammar¹ studies, I’ve learned labels for some demonstrative pronouns:  “this” and “these” are called the near demonstratives, while “that” and “those” are sometimes referred to as remote.  So, for instance, the classroom called “This Place” was in a sense near to those within.  From my vantage point, however, it was remote.  Functionally, for me, “this place” was that place.

And when Wes intoned “This is the Lord’s Supper,” he was, whether he knew it grammatically or not, conceptually drawing the experience near to the congregation.  In the same vein, I think Jesus was drawing things near when He said, “Do this” and “this is my body.”

I wish He and it didn’t seem so remote.

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¹ Yes, it is Greek grammar that has most notably informed my understanding of such aspects as tenses and conjugations, moods, and cases.  I am one of those weirdos who likes grammar and usage.  I credit my parents for speaking well around me, so that I grew up pretty much knowing how to speak and write English.  I also credit one Sharon Spingler, my 8th grade English teacher, for teaching some real grammar.

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2 thoughts on “Demonstratives

  1. Steve Kell 07/27/2014 / 5:05 pm

    I share your legacy of grammar lessons fairly early in my life. Suppertime was a social event at our house, and food provided the centerpiece for all the other aspects of family life. During our discussions, anytime someone misspoke with incorrect grammar–or even questionable grammar, it was immediately addressed by the powers that be–and the offender was made to restate the sentence with the correct grammar. This was basically unnoticed by us, the sibs–but whenever my friends would eat with us, they were amazed that an English class was thrown in with the meal–at no charge!

    And my “old school” father suggested that I take Latin….yes, Latin… in junior high, so I did. Two toga parties later–and a lot of days declining verbs over a two-year period, I was granted (little did I know) a fairly strong basis for grammer for a variety of language studies over the years–including the common language of our NT.

    Grammar is like shoes: polished shoes indicate a concerted effort to be presentable and can help make the person/message accepted; conversely, unpolished shoes are noticed and reflect a carelessness about one’s public life. Bad grammar is unfortunately distracting…good grammar is appreciated, effective, and—well, good!

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    • Brian Casey 07/28/2014 / 9:00 am

      This was very satisfying reading, Steve. It’s good to get to know you this way, and I continue to be honored by your reading. I have, oh, maybe 5 or 6 other readers who are language buffs, or Nazis, as the case requires. I should be scared to write anything.) Latin was offered in my high school, but I didn’t take it. I used to think I knew just enough Greek to hurt me. I didn’t even know that much. After more concentrated work during the last year and a half or so, I know just enough now to know that I’ll have to learn more, and the modicum I know will probably never be enough not to hurt me. (Did you learn that double negatives are sometimes OK?)

      I loved your last paragraph; with slight adaptation, it could be applied to other “form” and “appearance” things.

      On Sun, Jul 27, 2014 at 5:05 PM, NT Christianity wrote:

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