Re: Monogenhs etymology

Carlton Winbery (
Sat, 4 Jan 1997 20:14:06 +0400

Luke McNab wrote;
> As mentioned in a previous post, interpretation [esp. of theological
>words] in the NT ought to be based on the LXX usage and etymology,
>rather than classical usage of Greek, as the writers quoted voluminously
>from the LXX.
> With respect to "pineapple" and its derivation as suggested by
>Jonathan, it is needful to realize that English like other Teutonic
>languages, likes to put nouns together and in combination, where other
>languages would use an adjective. It is interesting to note that in
>Spanish the word "pin~a" is used; Portuguese "pinha"; and in the tropics
>just the word "pine" is frequently used for pineapple. The etymology
>then does not consist of "pine" + "apple". Perhaps one ought to be very
>careful in linking "apparent" etymology where no relation exists. The
>validity of etymology is, IMHO, the basis for meanings of words,
>otherwise we are reduced to confusion, slang and modern jargon! American
>English is fast becoming such as we emphasize more and more "usage" over

To me the real hurdle in using etymology in interpretation is that most of
the people who use a language know very little of the etymology of the
language they are using. When I read commentaries that major on etymology,
I find myself wondering if the first readers of the document would have
understood such intricate meanings woven into the text. Zeroing in on one
aspect of the early Christian culture, i.e., the Hebrew background, seems
to me also to be very limiting. A large part of the NT was written by a
gentile who probably had read Thucydides and other Greek works. Even Paul,
if you trust Luke, quoted from Greek philosophers. What we are stabbing at
in our interpretations of these texts is a moving target, moving from
eastern to western even as being written and asking constantly a new set of
questions that have to be answered.

I bid you "goodbye," a word that most people use but don't know that it
came from "God be with you."

grace & peace,

Carlton L. Winbery
Fogleman Professor of Religion
Louisiana College
Fax (318) 442-4996
Phone (318) 487-7241