Words and Such

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Having lurked at a distance for some time from the word study/equivalence
discussion, I think it's time to jump in. The whole emphasis on word studies is
generated by a view of Scripture which our knowledge of language and textual
transmission cannot support. Meaning, as it can at all be theologically
significant, is conveyed on the level of the sentence, not the word. When any of
us has something to say, we express it by the use of sentences and passages.
What we intend never stands or falls on one word. True, one word could be the
source of a misunderstanding, if there is ambiguity. Context almost always
clears this up. Where it doesn't, perhaps then, a word study would be in order
to determine the most likely intended meaning. But this is not generally what
people are doing when they do word studies. This certainly isn't what people who
know no greek are doing when they attempt to do word studies from their
 It seems to me that word studies are the result of a
belief that deeper riches are present to be mined out of each and every word of
Scripture. But this is a linguistically flawed premise. It is not true of what I
say, or what Jesus or Paul ever said. The textual corruptions which have crept
into ancient texts make this even more obvious.Differences in minutiae between
the major manuscripts are present in practically every verse of the NT. On the
verse level, the NT is a more or less stable entity. On the word level, however,
we wouldn't even know what word to study in some cases. The view of Scripture
held by those who handed them down to us was that books are canonical, not words
or verses even. A rigity of text that could justify word studies didn't come to
the Hebrew Bible until after the birth of Christianity. And it never came to the
NT tradition. The Early Church just wasn't so hung up on the text of its
Scriptures as some are today. An example of this will be heard by those of you
whose tradition follows the common lectionary this weekend. When Jesus, in John
17:12, refers to a Scripture that had to be fulfilled, "I guarded, and Noone of
them was lost except the Son of Perdition, that the Scripture might be
fulfilled" he is quoting from Prov 24:22a in the LXX, a verse that doesn't even
exist in the Hebrew Version of the Book! The Early Church, afterall, viewed
Scripture as "inspired (theopneustos; 2 Tim 3:16)", to be sure, but its sphere
of influence was only that it was "useful (wphelimos; 2 Tim 3:16)"
Keith Massey