Linguistic answers for theological problems

How do I work out the meaning of a Greek text? How can I best understand the forms and vocabulary in this particular text?
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Jonathan Robie
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Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm
Location: Durham, NC

Linguistic answers for theological problems

Post by Jonathan Robie » March 18th, 2019, 8:54 am

This is worth elevating to its own thread:
Stephen Carlson wrote:
March 17th, 2019, 6:07 pm
OK, it seems that you are in search of a linguistic answer for a theological problem. Ironically, it is by learning the language well enough that one can appreciate that theological problems have ... theological answers, and that those who proffer linguistic answers to theological problems are often misguided.
Most of the time, the translations really are OK. Even when they differ, there's a reason for the differences, though there may also be a reason to strongly prefer one. But these are texts we have to wrestle with, in English or in Greek, and learning Greek doesn't change that.

A lot of sermons conflate linguistic issues with theological ones, implying that there is a clear meaning in the original Greek that the translator missed, and a particular verb tense or word is the key to this meaning. When a preacher intones "in the original Greek", you should generally be a little skeptical.

Context is more important than anything else. Read each text in context, repeatedly, and ask what questions it is trying to answer. If you bring a theological question to the text, and the text is not about that question, you can't trust your answer. And context is the thing that helps most for knowing what a text is about.
4 x

ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;

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