I demonstrate the fallacious use of etymologies in Hermeneutics class with
reference to English examples. This is usually more easily grasped,
although someone will typically say "Yeah, but the Bible, being the Bible,
is DIFFERENT somehow", leading me to a talk on how evangelicals need to
avoid a docetic approach to Scripture's origin.
My two favorite examples for class usage:
1. I challenge them to guess the etymology for the English word "anger" - I
ask for a show of hands for: a. from an Old English word meaning to harm in
turn; b. from the Latin word meaning to inflame (or some such thing); or c.
from the Greek _ancw_, meaning to choke or strangle
C is (surprise) the right answer, but it usually gets no more than 1 or 2
votes. I then point out how one could conceivably give an awe-inspiring
sermon illustration on the "REAL" meaning of anger for each of the three,
and the audience would be none the wiser (and no better informed for it).
2. While talking about anger, I point out that the English "wrath" is
etymologically related to "writhe" - a tidbit I would never have guessed at
on my own, but one that is spelled out in OED. I find it fascinating that
although the only real difference between wrath and writhe is the one vowel,
I still never made the connection. This leads to my point that "today we
know these Greek words are related, because BAGD tells us to lay them side
by side; but would Paul have known that just by his normal everyday use of
This leads occasionally to "Yeah, but God knew!", circling me back to my
original point about docetism...
I also read them the brilliant section about "Marilyn" from Silva's book on
meaning (help me out, someone, on the title?).
Your faithful under-rower (JUST kidding!), Gary
Gary S. Shogren
Biblical Theological Seminary