Re: Lexicons

Responding to msg by mcdonald@teleport.com (Dan McDonald) on 
Thu, 1 Sep  7:15 PM

>Secondly, since the aim of the lexicon was not for New 
>Testament theologians, there are no theological biases that 
>creep in.  You are thus more likely to figure out what the 
average first century person on the street in Thessalonica, 
Antioch, or Alexandria would have thought of by the words used.

Am I alone in finding that to be a most extraordinary statement 

on a list devoted to _biblical_ greek  -- and a query dealing 
with NT lexicons?

The writings which go to make up the NT were not written for 
the >>average first century person on the street in 
Thessalonica, Antioch, or Alexandria<<

They were written for communities who had heard the Christian 
kerygma proclaimed for twenty to fifty or more years after the 
events spoken of before ever they were written down.

It is many years since Bishop Lightfoot said: " if only we 
could recover letters that ordinary people wrote to each other 
without any thought of being literary, we should have the 
greatest possible help for the understanding of the language of 

the New Testament ".

Well, as Nigel Turner puts it, better than I could, in his 
Introduction to " Christian Words " ( Edinburgh 1980 ):
" It happens that a towering mass of papyrus material of that 
very kind was recovered and yet I have been at pains to show 
how little of it has helped in understanding the weighty 
Christian words which first appeared in the NT and early 
Fathers, or were applied by those believers in a way different 
from that in which ordinary people exploited them. Always ' the 

greatest possible help ' came to me, I confess, not by closely 
examining the papyrus, which I have done, but from the 
immediate context and from the Greek Scriptures first of all. 
After examining the secular use of the following words, I will 
show repeatedly that it is seldom the same as the Christian 
use, and that we must always go elsewhere for a more assured 
and devotional understanding."

With a dry wit, he goes on:

" God may not after all have communicated ' absolutely in the 
language of the people, as we might surely have expected He 
would '
[ a quotation from J.H.Moulton _Grammar_ vol. 1 p.5 ].
>From a liberal Protestant point of view we might well have 
expected it and yearned for it."

I really do think that the original enquirer on this topic of 
"Lexicons" is better served by Turner's penultimate paragraph:

" I avow than that Christian words are often the ordinary 
vocabulary of ordinary people in the secular world. It is, 
however, important to recollect that when we are examining 
words in any given environment we need above all to be aware of 

the system of thought that lies behind their use -- in our 
case, the Christian system of thought. Indeed, much of the 
difficulty in Christian communication today arises from the 
fact that the very vocabulary whose profound significance is 
familiar enough to the serious reader of the Bible so often 
conveys something quite different to all his secular 
contemporaries,  simply because such a philosophy has radically 

altered the meaning of words. So the way in which each word is 
used in the Christian context is of the first importance ".

The notion propounded by Dan McDonald that there is some 'pure' 

'unpolluted' language which can be examined  -- in the course 
of hearing about the " Good News of Jesus Christ " -- >> 
without theological biases that might creep in <<  I find 

Maurice A. O'Sullivan  [Bray,Ireland]