The Function of δέ in Ephesians – Introduction

This is an introduction to two discussions of specific occurrences of δέ in Ephesians:

Greek conjunctions are an adventure for English speakers because they definitely are not English conjunctions. And anyone who has been following Rick and his discussions of ἀλλά know exactly what I’m saying. Basically, there is no one-to-one correspondence between English conjunctions & deictic markers and Greek conjunctions. Functionally speaking we cannot simply say that means δέ “but” or that καί mean “and.”

In Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation, edited by David Alan Black, Randall Buth writes an excellent article about conjunctions in the Gospel of John entitled, “Οὖν, Δέ, Καί, and Asyndeton in John’s Gospel” (144-161). According to Buth, John’s use of conjunctions is rather distinct in comparison to the synoptic gospel. In his study, he proposes the following chart for the meaning of conjunctions (157, simplified here):


+close connection -close connection
+significant change οὖν δέ
-significant change καί Null


To summarize the chart, οὖν marks a significant change in the discourse that maintains a connection with the previous material and while δέ marks a significant change there is no close connection with what proceeds, though this also does not mean that there is no connection, its merely not a close one. And καί maintains a close connection with what proceeds, but doesn’t necessitate a significant change in the discourse. Finally, according to Buth, asyndeton marks neither a close connection nor significant change.

Now these conclusions for Greek conjunctions focused specifically in the Gospel of John. Whether they could apply also to other Koine texts is not stated by Buth – other than the fact that John’s gospel is markedly different than the Synoptic Gospels.

But the professor who teaches NT Exegesis at GIAL holds that Buth’s pattern is consistent with other Koine texts, particularly 1 Peter, the letter on which he wrote his dissertation (in the Longacrean discourse tradition).

The next post or two will examine specifically the conjunction δέ in Ephesians up to the point where I am presently studying (4.20-24) with the following questions in mind:

  • Does Buth’s analysis δέ of in John parallel Paul’s usage in Ephesians?
  • And if so, what is the significance for the various appearances of the conjunction both at a clausal and discourse levels.

So that’s what you can expect to see in the next day or two. And then hopefully I’ll get my actually exegesis and outline of Ephesians 4.20-24.