b-greek-digest V1 #67
b-greek-digest Friday, 5 January 1996 Volume 01 : Number 067
In this issue:
Re: Sin and Language
Re: Sin and Language
Re: Sin and Language
Re: Sin and Language
Keys of death & hell
Re: Keys of death & hell
Bible teacher wanted
From: Stephen Carlson <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 07:06:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Sin and Language
Carl W. Conrad wrote:
[On hAMARTANW et al.]
> I am myself a nut regarding etymology and its bearing upon the meanings of
> words, but I've come to realize that root meanings can become wholly lost
> in later functions of compounds. And I'm not so sure that ideas can't be
> carried across from one linguistic milieu to another. Granted that there
> are great perils and problems, as may readily be seen in usage of words
> like KURIOS and MAR. And it seems to me that Paul is quite conscious of the
> need to defend an understanding of the gospel that is distinct from Greek
> mysticism (a chief concern, I think, in 1 Cor) and also from Judaism (a
> chief concern in Gal). At the same time, he exploits the metaphors of Greek
> athletic competition when he writes to a predominantly gentile community,
> as in Philippians, and Greco/Roman political language too in the same
> letter (I'm thinking of SWTHR and POLITEUMA).
After consulting my lexicons on hAMARTANW (Middle Liddel & BAGD), it
seems clear that the meaning of hAMARTANW has evolved from Homeric
times with the meaning of "to miss the mark" or "to fail in one's
purpose" to Plato and others to mean "to trangress a moral law" and
finally to Septuagintal communities with the meaning "to trangress
God's law." Thus, we may be engaging in an anarchonism if we blithely
assume that whatever meaning a word had in the eighth century B.C.
is still available in the first century A.D.
Although it's possible that the meaning of "missing the mark" had
survived over the course of time in everyday speech, I think we also
need to consider the possibility that most educated Greeks studied the
the Homeric texts and would therefore be familiar with such a usage
even if it was a bit archaic. Therefore, the survival of that meaning,
possibly seen in Rm3:23, could be in essence a Homeric allusion on the
part of Paul. This fits in well Paul's exploiting Greek metaphors.
Stephen Carlson : Poetry speaks of aspirations, : ICL, Inc.
firstname.lastname@example.org : and songs chant the words. : 11490 Commerce Park Dr.
(703) 648-3330 : Shujing 2:35 : Reston, VA 22091 USA
From: Rod Decker <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 06:34:05 -0600
Subject: Re: Sin and Language
>Actually, the question in my mind that prompted the post on hAMARTIA was
>this: Greek civilization did not have a strong sense of sin, and the word
>for it merely means a "missing of the mark." Given that, is Greek the
>wrong language for transmission of Jesus's revision of Judaic tradition?
>Is there not some basic incompatibility? Jesus spoke Aramaic and read
>Hebrew. Doesn't the Greek text already put us at a remove from what he
>actually said, even before the NT is translated into English or any other
> In many ways Islam is right to say, "If it is not in Arabic it is
>not the Koran."
I would suggest that this reflects an inaccurate view of language in
general. There is no concept that cannot be expresed in any other language.
Some may do a particular job more concisely, etc., and technical terms may
need to be created to deal with some things, but if it can be expressed in
words, any language can do the job. (The Islamic claim is linguistic
And as for the stmt. that:
> Jesus spoke Aramaic and read
> Hebrew. Doesn't the Greek text already put us at a remove from what he
> actually said...
This ignores the very high probability that Jesus was also fluent in Greek
and could also probably handle Latin (though that is a bit speculative) in
the tri-lingual context of first century Palestine. Having said that, it is
likely that Aramaic was his normal language for conversation and teaching,
and yes, much of the Gospel account is translation. But then see paragraph
1. Translation is both possible and can be done with considerable accuracy,
particularly when the translator is fluent in both languages and is part of
the same cultural milieu. (Remember that the Gospels were not "made in
China" with English instructions from the same source!) Though there are
certainly differences in the linguistic capabilities of, e.g., Mark and
Luke, it is quite interesting that (so far as I know) this difference never
produces a different meaning when addressing the same saying/event. (Luke
may choose to use a saying differently, granted, but the linguistic
difference has not hindered the translation.)
Carl's comments are right on target:
> And I'm not so sure that ideas can't be
> carried across from one linguistic milieu to another.
> this is an IMMENSE subject. It's one I find fascinating, but one
> that I fear is all too open to facile overgeneralizations.
Rodney J. Decker Calvary Theological Seminary
Asst. Prof./NT 15800 Calvary Rd.
firstname.lastname@example.org Kansas City, Missouri 64147
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 08:49:52 -0600
Subject: Re: Sin and Language
At 6:06 AM 1/4/96, Stephen Carlson wrote:
>After consulting my lexicons on hAMARTANW (Middle Liddel & BAGD), it
>seems clear that the meaning of hAMARTANW has evolved from Homeric
>times with the meaning of "to miss the mark" or "to fail in one's
>purpose" to Plato and others to mean "to trangress a moral law" and
>finally to Septuagintal communities with the meaning "to trangress
>God's law." Thus, we may be engaging in an anarchonism if we blithely
>assume that whatever meaning a word had in the eighth century B.C.
>is still available in the first century A.D.
>Although it's possible that the meaning of "missing the mark" had
>survived over the course of time in everyday speech, I think we also
>need to consider the possibility that most educated Greeks studied the
>the Homeric texts and would therefore be familiar with such a usage
>even if it was a bit archaic. Therefore, the survival of that meaning,
>possibly seen in Rm3:23, could be in essence a Homeric allusion on the
>part of Paul. This fits in well Paul's exploiting Greek metaphors.
You make an interesting point, Stephen, regarding older traditional senses
of words used even in early epic being applied in the Koine and even in NT
writers. Although this might be a lesser influence in most NT authors, it
is a fact that Homer, lyric & elegiac poetry, and tragedy, were certainly
part of the educational system of Hellenistic cities. We don't really know
anything concrete about Paul's education in Tarsus, i.e. whether he had the
lower levels of Greek education, but it certainly is not unlikely. His
Areopagus speech in Acts cites the opening of the Phainomena of Aratus, and
even if that speech is Luke's composition rather than Paul's own, it
reveals the impact of traditional education, which involved memorization of
the major poets. The author of Hebrews clearly knows Plato, too. And
although some interpreters want to see the background of the Johannine
LOGOS primarily from the side of Hellenistic Judaism and the OT DBR-YHWH, I
think it is really unthinkable to suppose that the composer of that
prologue hymn is unaware of Heraclitus and the Stoic LOGOS doctrine.
Which brings me back again to my note of yesterday: the Palestine of Jesus
was anything BUT culturally homogeneous. While I am far from accepting
Mack's theory that Jesus was a kind of Cynic, I have no difficulty
supposing that he may have known and spoken some Greek and that he may have
at least been familiar with Cynic notions. Hengel has shown that even the
far-right-wing nationalist Essenes were profoundly influenced by
An awareness of this makes the interpretation of the Greek vocabulary of
the NT all the more challenging, doesn't it?
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
From: Will Wagers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 10:34:48 -0600
Subject: Re: Sin and Language
Rodney J. Decker writes:
>> In many ways Islam is right to say, "If it is not in Arabic it is
>>not the Koran."
>I would suggest that this reflects an inaccurate view of language in
>general. There is no concept that cannot be expresed in any other language.
>Some may do a particular job more concisely, etc., and technical terms may
>need to be created to deal with some things, but if it can be expressed in
>words, any language can do the job. (The Islamic claim is linguistic
Linguistics and related studies are coveniently simplified by the
assumptions that languages can be accurately translated and that
concepts in one language can be transposed to another. However,
strictly speaking, these assumptions are false.
1. Despite the "mechanical" drudgery involved in translation, language is
a biological, and, in our case, neurological process. When we learn words,
other factors are incorporated into the memory besides the dictionary
definition. If we learn a word from our mother, her smell and smile
might be included in our neurological lexicon. This would cause us to
have good feelings *every* time that word is recalled. If we learn a
word from a book by candlelight, the flickering of the light, the musky
smell of the book, and other sensations are encoded at the same moment.
If we learn a foreign language at the foot of a cruel taskmaster, that
language will forever be to us symbolic of authority, and, for example,
pain, humiliation, submission, guilt, etc.
(Does "mechanical" mean clean, simple, efficient, perfect, runs-by-itself
to you, or does it mean fallable, error-prone, idiotic, hard-to-keep-running?)
For an author, these recorded sensations are present with every word
written. They invisibily play off of each other in the text, influencing
word choice, etc. Unpleasant associations are stronger and more
influential than pleasant ones. Since these factors are rarely, if ever,
known and considered, the written texts are merely the dry husks of
the living words in an author's mind.
2. The learning process changes us. The language we learn first, the
manner in which we learn it, the type of language we learn, etc.
condition our brain both chemically and structurally. Thus, the meaning
consists of both the authoring mind and the text.
As T. E. Shaw learned, no degree of language facility, cultural inculcation,
or cultural sympathy can turn an Englishman into an Arab.
Reading someone else's words is a bit like viewing old movies on
a modern projection system - they use different speeds in frames
per second: a great deal of information is preserved and a great
deal is lost and distorted.
It is probably true that any concept can be "expressed" in another
language, but this is not to say that the two terms will represent
the two side of an equation. Two concepts are necessarily different,
even between two minds, much less between two languages. Languages
are no more intertranslatable than sets of footprints: both have
meaning, but they are not strictly equivalent.
Useful abstractions are made by ignoring differences between minds,
concepts, and words; but, to be unaware of the loss of information is
to fall into a number of subtle intellectual traps.
Try (mentally) re-creating a beloved painting by clipping pictures of the
objects represented from magazines. In my case, Van Gogh's Starry night.
This is what translation is. We tend to recognize this in terms of works
of art, and ignore it in terms of intellectual works.
If you met Paul in Heaven, imagine how long it would take before you
were be able to speak with him conversationally.
Nothing should make the problems more clear than trying to
communicate via e-mail. Imagine that God begins to speak to us again
- - directly - via e-mail. See the difficulties?
P.S. When I say or imply "you", I do not mean Mr. Decker personally.
When someone says "imagine" and you don't, but use a language shunt
instead, you've missed the point.
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 15:44:31 -0500
Subject: Keys of death & hell
Would anyone care to comment on the statement by Jesus in Rev. 1:18:
18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (NIV)
Is there any hint as to time of possession of the keys? Did He always have
the keys, and is simply making a declarative statement, or has He just
recently received or "taken back" the keys?
Does the phrase "keys of death and Hades" hint to other usages or imagery in
Hebrews 2:14 mentions the devil as having had the "power of death." Is this
a related related phrase to Rev. 1:18?
Any comments would be appreciated.
From: Adalbert Goertz <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 04 Jan 1996 17:52:44 -0500
Subject: books 4sale
Dr.Adalbert Goertz,12934 Buch.Trail E.,Waynesboro PA 17268-9329 USA.
internet email: firstname.lastname@example.org OR
Beck,Hans-Georg:Das Byzantinische Jahrtausend,dtv,Muenchen 1982, 381 pp.
Breasted,J.H.:Ancient Times,a history of the early world, Ginn Co NY
Fischer-Weltgeschichte:Der Hellenismus und der Aufstieg Roms, Frankfurt
Habenstein,E.:Lateinische Wortkunde,Stuttgart 1948, 84 pp.
Robertson,A.T.:A Short Grammar of the Greek New Testament,NY 1908,249 pp.
Schiering,E.:Lese- und Uebungsbuch fuer den griechischen Anfangsunterricht,
Frankfurt 1928,240 pp. 8.00
From: Carlton Winbery <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 20:04:40 +0400
Subject: Re: Keys of death & hell
Kenneth Bent wrote;
>Would anyone care to comment on the statement by Jesus in Rev. 1:18:
>18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!
>And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (NIV)
>Is there any hint as to time of possession of the keys? Did He always have
>the keys, and is simply making a declarative statement, or has He just
>recently received or "taken back" the keys?
>Does the phrase "keys of death and Hades" hint to other usages or imagery in
>Hebrews 2:14 mentions the devil as having had the "power of death." Is this
>a related related phrase to Rev. 1:18?
The use of the word KLEIS/KLEIDOS in the NT begins with Matt. 16:19. The
phrase there is TAS KLEIDAS THS BASILEIAS, "the keys of the Kingdom of
Heaven." This seems to represent authority to "bind and to loose."
Interestingly the Scribes and Pharisees are called hypocrites in Matt.
23:13 because they "close off" (KLEIETE) the Kingdom of Heaven from men.
Luke 11:52 - "Woe to you lawyers, because you take THN KLEIDA THS GNWSEWS,
"the key of knowledge." You yourselves do not enter and you have prevented
those who would enter." Here knowledge seems to be an authority (or key)
that was being misused.
The other uses of the word KLEIS are in the Revelation. 1:18, probably
"authority over death" by virtue of his own resurrection, hence he
possesses that authority as the risen Lord. Paul's defence of a future
reserrection in I Cor. 15 on the basis of the resurrection of Christ would
be a similar point. It means that for those in Christ, death does not hold
the ultimate threat. The USE GLADII represented the authority to kill
bestowed by Rome on some of the rulers over conquered peoples.
In Rev. 3:17 it is the "key of David" that he possesses and as a result he
is the one who will open and no one will close (KLEISEI) and closes
(KLEIWN) and no one opens. He has the authority to control the destiny of
the Church at Philadelphia.
In Rev. 9:1 the star that had fallen from Heaven was given the key (KLEIS)
of the pit of the abyss. With this key, the star unleashed the plagues on
those who were not sealed by God (had the mark of God on their forehead).
In Rev. 11:6 there is a reference to the prophets who have the authority to
"close up" (KLEISAI) Heaven so that it won't rain.
Rev. 20:1 Mentions the angel descending from Heaven having "the key of the
abyss." This represents authority over dragon to bind him for a thousand
years. He threw the dragon into the pit and locked (EKLEISEN) it and
sealed it for a thousand years. In contrast the gates of the New Jerusalem
will never be closed (KLEISQWSIN) by night or day.
>From these uses I would say that the use the word key and the verb built on
the same stem often represented authority over something.
Carlton L. Winbery
LA College, Pineville, La
From: Jim A Portillo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 96 19:19:29 MST
Subject: Bible teacher wanted
If anyone would be interested in attempting to teach a
Bible class via the internet (whether it be via irc or
by correspondence) please email me privately ASAP.
This class would be geared for a student who would like to learn more about God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible itself.
If you chose to undertake this class, you would have full control as to such things as subject matter,
method of teaching, materials you'd like to use,
tests or quizes (if desired), expectation of student, and homework assignments (if desifred).
It would hopefully be a serious class for a serious student.
Even some Greek lessons may be used and are even encouraged.
From: Indepen <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Jan 1996 23:18:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Translating sin
Thanks to Carl C. and Carlton W. for some more terms to reflect on.
A second aspect of the problem I'm trying to get at has to do with the way
literary texts, homilies or public speeches use verbal allusion. Part of
the meaning of a word in these contexts has to do with the history of its
use in the reference texts of a given body. The relationship of Aramaic
and Hebrew is close, with cognates easily recognized. Therefore, Jesus,
when preaching, would be able to use any number of terms related to key
words from Hebrew scripture. To make up a contemporary example, suppose I
said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask why it isn't going to
do it," everyone would immediately recognize a variation on the reference
text alluded to, which controls the statement's meaning.
Without Jesus' speech in Aramaic, without those key linguistic markers,
our ability to connect his words with earlier ones in Torah is cripplingly
curtailed--really only reduced to guesswork. And without a sense of the
allusions he was making, can we assert that we have grasped all the
Given that the early apostles' missionary efforts were directed
mainly at the Gentiles, it was inevitable that Greek would be adopted as
the language for texts relative to the new Way. Even so, adopting that
language was the first remove from the historical Jesus (whom I do not
myself believe to have been grecophone), the first attrition wrought
on what he actually said. Of course, we may speculate as well why he chose
not to write down anything; but any such speculation would take us into
the realm of theology, which, according to the parameters of this
discussion group would be hUPERBANEIN. Equally speculative and
theological would be a discussion of Pentecost and the descent of Holy
Spirit as a solution to the Babel of tongues. If it worked for speech, is
there a way for it to work in understanding ancient texts--or, for that
matter, resolving the clash of viewpoints on the 'Net?.
XARIS KAI EIRHNH
End of b-greek-digest V1 #67
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