Re: Words and Such

Ditto to everything Keith Massey says below, and thanks for so lucid and 
well argued a position!  I wish I was as good at contributing to these 
threads as I was at starting them!

"Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana."
--Groucho Marx

Prof. James F. Sennett
Asst. Professor of Philosophy         sennett@goliath.pbac.edu
Palm Beach Atlantic College                    andretg@aol.com
PO Box 24708                             voice: (407) 835-4431
West Palm Beach, FL  33416-4708            fax: (407) 835-4342

On Wed, 11 May 1994, Keith Massey wrote:

> 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
> translations/paraphrases.
>  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