συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

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Robert S. Daniel
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Robert S. Daniel » June 9th, 2020, 2:28 pm

Here is a translation of the passage from Perseus, by William Whiston:
Manethe adds, "how this namesake of his told him that he might see the gods, if he would clear the whole country of the lepers and of the other impure people; that the king was pleased with this injunction, and got together all that had any defect in their bodies out of Egypt; and that their number was eighty thousand; whom he sent to those quarries which are on the east side of the Nile, that they might work in them, and might be separated from the rest of the Egyptians." He says further, that "there were some of the learned priests that were polluted with the leprosy;

The part that I selected from the Greek is the last phrase "there were some of the learned priests that were polluted with the leprosy..." so the word that translates συγκεχυμένους is "polluted". That can hardly mean that those learned priests were in a state of confusion. It doesn't have the sense of one group of people mixed together with another group either. But this usage shows that the lexicon doesn't capture all the usages of the word that were in use at any given time.

So I have several takeaways to suggest. The first is that use of words in literature, especially in ancient times, represents only a sample of the usages that are current in speech at the time. But here's something else to think about. I think that both of you, Barry and Jonathan, have said you are comfortable with cognitive linguistics, and George Lakoff in particular. There is a big fat book by Evans and Green called Cognitive Linguistics an Introduction, which has a section 5.2.5 titled "Categorization", pp. 168-169 that explains that word meaning is understood by cognitive linguists to be a species of categorization. Categorization is understood in a way that was pioneered by Eleanor Rosch, a cognitive psychologist, who in the 70s described how human categories work: unlike mathematical sets, they don't have definite boundaries, with membership being an all-or-nothing affair. Rather, they exhibit "prototype effects" - that is, category membership is decided on how closely a candidate for membership resembles a prototype. Since word meanings are categories in this sense, there aren't just a discrete number of meanings. There's a continuum of possible meanings, so lexicons can only capture a few data points that inhabit that spread. Lakoff's book Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things is mentioned as a fuller treatment of the consequences of Rosch's ideas for understanding language. I can't do justice to this discussion here, but if you want to have a conversation about it I can say more about it. Not that I consider myself an expert, but I think this info from the Evans and Green book is relevant to this discussion, and I don't think I've done it justice here.

The other thing I'd like to talk about is how a Greek-English lexicon is compiled. I'm thinking it is done by surveying the surviving literature for usages of the word, and the meanings that are given in the lexicon are the English words that have been used to translate the Greek. So this can give the impression that the meaning of the Greek word is represented by some set of English words. So in that case, Liddell-Scott-Jones should have found this usage and entered another meaning of συγχέω, namely, "to pollute". Then you guys might say to me that, OK, συγχέω might mean "pollute" but it still doesn't mean that one group of people mixes with another. I don't know if this is really the way that lexicons are compiled, or if that is how you guys think about these things. What I really want to say is that here is a topic for further discussion, if you are willing.

So. Time for me to be quiet and hear what you have to say.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 9th, 2020, 2:41 pm

Robert S. Daniel wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 2:28 pm
But this usage shows that the lexicon doesn't capture all the usages of the word that were in use at any given time.
Of course not. How could it? People use language creatively to say new things all the time, or they use it playfully, or they use it to describe things that did not previously exist. If I tell you I am going to pour myself a "cup of motivation", you know what that means, even though you won't find that meaning in a dictionary.

But there are different approaches to dictionaries and lexicography. Some are influenced by cognitive linguistics, e.g. the Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew or Ron Moe's work on biblical Greek (still very much underway). Some really do try to capture the meanings found in the New Testament or Septuagint in ways that will be useful to translators based on how the usage has been understood (BDAG, perhaps LSJ takes a similar approach for Classical Greek). Others try to give real solid definitions to words, essentially capturing the prototypical meaning from which extensions are drawn (Cambridge). I know some people are taking case frame analysis very seriously for lexicography these days (and I am helping with one such effort).

I'm painting with a very broad brush here, and very quickly, so perhaps people who know more about Lexicography or especially Lexicography of Biblical Languages can weigh in here and tell me what I got right and wrong.

But please don't assume that all lexicons are the same, that lexicographers have never heard of linguistics, that there is no new work in Greek lexicography, etc. It takes time to get to know and understand any lexicon. And FWIW, don't use the Middle Liddel. And don't judge other lexicons according to it.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Barry Hofstetter » June 9th, 2020, 3:58 pm

Robert S. Daniel wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 2:28 pm
Here is a translation of the passage from Perseus, by William Whiston:
Manethe adds, "how this namesake of his told him that he might see the gods, if he would clear the whole country of the lepers and of the other impure people; that the king was pleased with this injunction, and got together all that had any defect in their bodies out of Egypt; and that their number was eighty thousand; whom he sent to those quarries which are on the east side of the Nile, that they might work in them, and might be separated from the rest of the Egyptians." He says further, that "there were some of the learned priests that were polluted with the leprosy;

The part that I selected from the Greek is the last phrase "there were some of the learned priests that were polluted with the leprosy..." so the word that translates συγκεχυμένους is "polluted". That can hardly mean that those learned priests were in a state of confusion. It doesn't have the sense of one group of people mixed together with another group either. But this usage shows that the lexicon doesn't capture all the usages of the word that were in use at any given time.
Actually, I think it kind of does here. In that passage it simply means "mixed with," and what are the poor fellows mixed with? Leprosy. But that sounds odd in English, and so we look for a more idiomatic way to render it, and your translator came up with "polluted." Now that's fine, but isn't really what it says, just a smoother way of expressing it in English. In other words, be careful not το confuse translation with semantics.

Yes, native and fluent speakers can get creative in their use of the language, and no lexicon can capture everything. But the bottom line in Acts 2:6 is that we have an established usage in common use synchronically that makes good sense out of the context.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Devenios Doulenios
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Devenios Doulenios » June 9th, 2020, 4:40 pm

Hi Barry,

Thanks for your comment on Jerome's rendering of קרן which resulted in the horned Moses. I'm considering a blog post on that for my second Latin piece in the Ancient Language Aids category. As I don't have access to HALOT, I appreciate the citation. I will consider it along with other data if I go with the topic. Some have suggested that it was not an error on Jerome's part, that he purposely used cornata because of the symbolism of power and authority. I don't know if this symbolism would be natural in Latin, or whether it would have been new to his readers (unless the Itala or Old Latin also translated the same way). Thoughts on that?
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Robert S. Daniel
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Robert S. Daniel » June 9th, 2020, 4:53 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 3:58 pm
In that passage it simply means "mixed with," and what are the poor fellows mixed with? Leprosy. But that sounds odd in English, and so we look for a more idiomatic way to render it, and your translator came up with "polluted." Now that's fine, but isn't really what it says, just a smoother way of expressing it in English. In other words, be careful not confuse translation with semantics.
I was thinking the same thing, and that is probably true of many translations. But if you say that it means "mixed with", I quite agree, but I thought that was what you were saying was a meaning that has been lost in Koine times, and that the only meaning left was mental confusion. My suggestion about Acts 2.6 is just that the πλῆθος mixed with itself. If you triangulate the meanings of "mentally confused" and "mixed with leprosy" it sounds to me like both meanings are extensions of the primary meaning of mixing, as you are saying.

Actually, now that I have looked at the glossary in my Nestle-Aland again, it gives Acts 21.27 as an instance of meaning "stirred up" which sounds like another extension of mixing. In this case, it is predicated of the ὄχλος, which is close in meaning to the πλῆθος. So maybe I should try suggesting "stirred up" for Acts 2.6 rather than "mixed together". That brings to my mind a picture of a crowd that is very excited, with people running hither and thither, and lots of hullabaloo. Certainly they aren't social distancing. It is the opposite of what happens when somebody διέσπειρεν them, which is what happens to the people in Genesis 11.9, isn't it?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 9th, 2020, 5:33 pm

Robert S. Daniel wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 4:53 pm
Actually, now that I have looked at the glossary in my Nestle-Aland again, it gives Acts 21.27 as an instance of meaning "stirred up" which sounds like another extension of mixing.
Fascinating how many of these conceptual metaphors work across languages.

Of course, many don't.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Barry Hofstetter » June 9th, 2020, 5:57 pm

Devenios Doulenios wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 4:40 pm
Hi Barry,

Thanks for your comment on Jerome's rendering of קרן which resulted in the horned Moses. I'm considering a blog post on that for my second Latin piece in the Ancient Language Aids category. As I don't have access to HALOT, I appreciate the citation. I will consider it along with other data if I go with the topic. Some have suggested that it was not an error on Jerome's part, that he purposely used cornata because of the symbolism of power and authority. I don't know if this symbolism would be natural in Latin, or whether it would have been new to his readers (unless the Itala or Old Latin also translated the same way). Thoughts on that?
What I found compelling was the fact that Aquila essentially rendered it the same way (in Greek, of course). Yes, I strongly suspect that was the rationale.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

Robert S. Daniel
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Robert S. Daniel » June 10th, 2020, 11:47 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 5:33 pm

Fascinating how many of these conceptual metaphors work across languages.

Of course, many don't.
If you've read Lakoff and Langacker and that gang, then I'm probably not telling you anything that you don't already know, but there is a reason why (some) metaphors work across languages, and that has to do with embodiment. Language sits on top of cognition, which is embodied in our nervous system that controls our bodily movement. So in the case of common human activities, like mixing things together, these activities are shared across linguistic groups, even if the words for them aren't. Each of those activities provides a core conceptual domain that lends itself to metaphorical extension, and often the language used to talk about these activities follows suit, that is, cognitive metaphorical extensions lead the way and language follows along behind. You might also know that this way of thinking can be traced back to the work of philosophers such as Austin and Searle, Wittgenstein, Anscombe, Ryle, and Grice, etc.. Since I studied philosophy as an undergrad, that was my entry into this way of thinking.

I had no idea at the time that this stuff might be applied to understanding the Bible, not that I even had any interest in the Bible at the time. But from where I stand now, I think this is a field ripe for harvest. I'm especially interested in action theory, which also grew out of that mid-20th-century philosophical movement, and is closely related. The notion of embodied cognition is apparently a relatively new phenomenon in our Western intellectual tradition, but it seems to me to be basic to the ancient Hebrew intellectual tradition, which is reflected in the Bible. So with these new-to-us thought tools, I think we've gotten to a point where we (maybe!) at last have ears to hear things that our culture has been deaf to for over two millennia. One embodied metaphor that the Bible makes especially wide use of is walking, and the associated notion of roads and paths in which we walk. I've been thinking a lot lately about how this approach might give us a fresh perspective on issues like justification, faith, works, and the relationships between them. New to us, but not new to the Bible. Maybe we can have some conversations about some of these things here on the BGreek forum.

By the way, have you ever read anything by Michael Tomasello? He isn't a linguist per se, but he has published some journal articles and books on linguistics, and he is an enthusiastic participant in applying action theory to understanding human behavior. Also, there is a fun book to read by Tom Wolfe, a journalistic account of the supposed paradigm shift from Chomskian to cognitive linguistics.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 11th, 2020, 7:49 am

Robert S. Daniel wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 11:47 am
Jonathan Robie wrote:
June 9th, 2020, 5:33 pm

Fascinating how many of these conceptual metaphors work across languages.

Of course, many don't.
If you've read Lakoff and Langacker and that gang, then I'm probably not telling you anything that you don't already know, but there is a reason why (some) metaphors work across languages, and that has to do with embodiment. Language sits on top of cognition, which is embodied in our nervous system that controls our bodily movement. So in the case of common human activities, like mixing things together, these activities are shared across linguistic groups, even if the words for them aren't. Each of those activities provides a core conceptual domain that lends itself to metaphorical extension, and often the language used to talk about these activities follows suit, that is, cognitive metaphorical extensions lead the way and language follows along behind.
Yes, exactly. In this case, I was surprised that "mixed up" works across these two languages, I wonder how widespread that particular metaphor is.

On B-Greek, we aren't going to do a broad survey of the cognitive linguistics literature, though. In this forum, we apply tools like these to explore the meaning of texts and of the language per se. And are people using modern linguistics in biblical Greek studies.

You might be interested, for instance, in this.

[media]https://youtu.be/lvBfdCRQAtU[/media]
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Robert S. Daniel
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Re: συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6

Post by Robert S. Daniel » June 13th, 2020, 8:41 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 7:49 am

You might be interested, for instance, in this.

[media]https://youtu.be/lvBfdCRQAtU[/media]
Thanks for that pointer! I watched the video. It sounds like classic Lakoff. If you know of any books or journal articles that use metaphor theory to explore themes in the Bible, I would be interested in hearing about them.

I guess by now maybe we've beaten the topic of συνεχύθη in Acts 2.6 nearly to death. I've really learned a lot by means of this conversation, so thanks to you (Jonathan) and Barry for your insights and challenges, and for pointing out resources like logeion.

Do you think this is a topic I might be able to publish a journal article about? What I mean is something that proposes a hypothesis that the word συνεχύθη was chosen by Luke to reinforce the link between the Pentecost story and the Tower of Babel story, and that we might view it as participating in the theme of reversal of the confusion of tongues and resultant dispersion of peoples. I could present evidence for and against this hypothesis, as we've discussed in this thread.
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