Yesterday evening I was reading a print edition of the Greek text of Luke 19:28–44 (NA28), and I realized at one point that the pagination effected me as a reader. The medium effects interpretation. Let me briefly explain.
Triumphal Entry in the Gospel of Luke
I am reading the story of the Triumphal Entry in the Gospel of Luke, following the disciples into a village where they find a colt just as Jesus had told them. A few lines later I am following Jesus who is descending down the slope near the Mount of Olives, riding on this colt, preparing to enter Jerusalem.
It is quite a dramatic scene in the narrative as the Gospel has anticipated Jesus’ arrival to the Holy City for nearly half its “run time” to this point (since 9:51; so much more I would like to say about this). Jesus is lauded by a crowd of disciples whose praise includes, it seems, the application of Psa 118:26 to the miracle-working rider. The Pharisees, seemingly ever-present at times like these, call on Jesus to rebuke these disciples. Jesus returns their serve forcefully, saying, “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out.”
At this point (v. 41), the NA28 has its first new paragraph since v. 29 marked by a new indented line. The new paragraph begins, “And as he [Jesus] came near, when he saw the city, he wept over it . . .” Complete sentence. No punctuation. End of line. End of page (of main text).
Now the sentence goes on in the next verse which is a dependent (participial) clause containing a bit of commentary from Jesus regarding the state of the city. But to move from the last word of v. 41 (αὐτὴν) to the participle of v. 42 (λέγων), the reader must flip the page.
Coming to the end of the page created an extra moment for my mind to process what I had just read. The contrast between the praise of the disciples as Jesus approaches Jerusalem and the weeping of Jesus at the sight of Jerusalem is particularly striking, especially given the extra moment of reflection. I didn’t flip the page immediately. I reflected on this for another moment.
Now, there were a few other factors contributing to this effect besides only the pagination: (1) The indention of v. 41 sets it off, even if slightly, from what precedes; (2) The verse is a complete sentence even though it has no punctuation; (3) The word order of v. 41, which my own translation above roughly preserves, saves the ‘weeping’ for the final third of the sentence, thus it becomes the note, as it were, that ends the page.
Print vs. Digital
Certain features of print media, some of which are not often present in digital versions, can effect the reader (e.g., pagination and paragraph formatting). The same goes for digital. Some digital editions lack any kind of typical paragraph formatting. Some programs that display digital text allow the reader to remove all references (numbers, notes, etc.) in the text to produce line after line of sola textus. Often, the digital text fills the window that contains it, even when that window’s size is changed. The text often has a scrolling feature, so one never quite reaches the ‘end’ of the ‘page’.
I’m not arguing here that one medium, digital or print, is better than the other. I am just pointing out that the medium affects the reader’s experience, and therefore to some extent, the interpretation.