A Word, Syntactical, Narrative and Contextual Analysis of Matthew 8:23-27

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Theology (Th.M)


Exegetical Theology

First Advisor

Greg Perry


This thesis will examine Matthew 8:23-27 (the "Stonn on the Sea" pericope) according to the methodology of discourse analysis at the word, syntactical, narrative and contextual level. Discourse analysis, in its broadest definition, studies the interaction between author, text and reader. This analysis is not just a study of the words on the page. Rather, it endeavors to participate fully with the intention and aims of the author as well as the effect of the text on the reader. Thus, it requires studying the text at all levels while also examining how the parts relate to the whole.

At the word level, this thesis will examine the important terms, grammatical constructions and the tense/aspect of the verbs of this pericope. As the aorist is the tense of the story-line verbs in Greek, non-aorist tenses may be of particular importance in highlighting and emphasizing important themes. Additionally, the terms of address Κύριος ("Lord") and ὀλιγόπιστοι ("of little faith") used by Jesus and the disciples are of definite theological significance. Studying how these terms are used both in this pericope and in Matthew as a whole illuminates the full meaning of these words. A syntactical study examines the sentence structure and how the sentences relate to one another. This analysis will examine how the sentences are connected with one another, the dialog between Jesus and his disciples, and how Jesus is referenced within this pericope.

As Matthew 8:23-27 is a narrative, a comprehensive treatment must include reading this text according to literary principles. Particularly helpful at this point is the Actantial model developed by A. J. Greimas as well as other standard narrative tools. Finally, this study will conclude with an examination of this pericope in its immediate, intermediate and overall context of the Gospel of Matthew. In view here is what function this pericope plays within the overall structure of Matthew's Gospel. This will shed light on the behavior and actions of the participants in this pericope.

Absent from this method is the attempt to clarify difficulties or ambiguities by means of the parallel accounts in Mark and Luke. A central tenet of discourse analysis is to participate with the author in the story he wishes to tell. In this case, this is not accomplished by attempting to clarify Matthew with Mark and Luke. Matthew's voice, and only Matthew's voice, is the object of study. The parallel accounts contained in Mark and Luke will be discussed but only with reference to the following question: "If Matthew's account was not in Scripture, what would be missing"?

Generally, this thesis demonstrates the usefulness of a discourse analysis oriented approach to a text of Scripture. Specifically, the results of this method demonstrate that the ultimate crisis in this pericope is the insufficient faith of the disciples in Jesus. This insufficiency of faith is brought about by an inconsistent and incomplete discipleship caused by an incomplete understanding of Jesus. This theme of insufficient faith is emphasized by the location of this pericope in Matthew's Gospel. The problem of insufficiency of faith in this pericope is a distinctive of Matthew not present in the parallel accounts of either Mark or Luke.


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