Re: Memorising vocabulary

Carl W. Conrad (
Mon, 02 Sep 1996 10:46:45 -0400

At 9:46 AM -0500 9/2/96, Randy Leedy wrote:
>Obviously, the size of one's vocabulary is an important component of
>one's reading skill. Is it not reasonable, then, to set as a life's
>goal to master ALL the vocabulary? My Ph.D. work included a course
>entitled New Testament Vocabulary, in which we learned glosses for
>all the words. I cannot say that I still remember them all, but none
>of them looks unfamiliar, at least. I suggest this as a LIFE'S goal
>for the non-professional. It's kind of like holiness. When a
>Christian's heart is really right, he doesn't like the idea of ANY
>remaining sin in his life, and, while he must in a sense be content
>with imperfection, in another sense he's never content with it. So
>why not take the same view about Greek vocab? We can feel as though
>we've done as well as we could so far, but we can keep striving for
>more complete mastery.
>I would also like to suggest that both sanctification and vocabulary
>mastery are equally unattainable in this life (with apologies to the
>Wesleyans out there). The point I'm trying to make is that memorizing
>a few glosses for a word is a STARTING POINT, greatly valuable, but
>not at all the same as mastering the word. As best I've figured it
>out so far, to really master a word is to know its full range of
>meanings, the related meanings it CANNOT have, and the kinds of
>contexts in which it fits and doesn't fit. So, it seems to me that
>we've all got our work cut out for us and that we can enjoy pursuing
>it as long as we live.

What a splendid post, Randy! I love these last two paragraphs especially. Were you, by any remote chance, commenting on what I said about hHGIASMENOI in John 17 in my post yesterday? While I do agree with you theologically (I think there are SEVERAL points on which we DO agree theologically!) on this matter of not attaining sanctification (or mastery of Greek vocabulary--and grammar too!) in this life, I am curious about how you understand those particular verses in the "High Priestly Prayer" of John 17:17-19 and also how you understand Paul's regular appellation of his addressees in his letters as hAGIOI? And since I ask you that, let me go ahead, by way of anticipation, and indicate how I understand those passages.

(1) I understand John's gospel to view hAGIASMOS as identical with the attainment of ZWH AIWNIOS and I understand that to be a state attained simultaneously with vision of the crucified and risen Lord in faith--but I see this as a distinctive aspect of Johannine realized eschatology: the believer enters into covenant communion with the crucified-and-risen-Christ and has thereby entered into ZWH that does not end. I realize, of course, that there are futuristic eschatological passages in John's gospel, but I think this realized eschatology dominates the gospel overall, and that the futuristic passages are qualifications that bring this gospel into line with the eschatology of the synoptic gospels and Paul.

(2) In the undisputed Pauline letters I would view hAGIOS as equivalent to the proleptic sense in which believers have gained salvation (Rom 8:18-25, esp. 24, THi GAR ELPIDI ESWQHMEN) and DIKAIOSUNH: they are deemed DIKAIOI, but are in the process, through faith, of actualizing that DIKAIOSUNH (Phil 2:12-13).

I would guess that you are less uncomfortable with the use of the language of "hallowing" and "sanctification" than I am. Is that so?

At any rate, thanks again for a splendid post. I have had half a mind to re-post, in connection with this matter of vocabulary learning, a lengthy post to b-greek that I sent last winter on the subject of studying lexicon entries rather than doing a quick scan to find the meaning one wants for solution of the immediate textual problem. But it's in the archives already, and so many good things have already been said about vocabulary learning.

Regards, c