lexicons and word meanings for a given period

How can I best learn new vocabulary items? What aids are there and what pitfalls should be avoided? How does a beginner learn to use a lexicon?
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Matthew Longhorn
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lexicons and word meanings for a given period

Post by Matthew Longhorn » April 15th, 2020, 6:18 am

Hi all, I was wondering if there is any easy way to identify whether a given word meaning in a lexicon is applicable for a given time period? Other than looking up the dates of each source cited, is there any easy way?
Because I am trying to get started in Josephus again I find myself needed the LSJ rather than BDAG. I would prefer to not learn meanings not current at that time. I guess it depends as well on whether Josephus was using classical meanings to sound clever?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: lexicons and word meanings for a given period

Post by Barry Hofstetter » April 15th, 2020, 8:13 am

The LSJ is normally ordered from earliest attestation to latest, but I'm not sure how consistent that is when a word is broken up in to various senses. As it is, you have to look at the author cited and determine when that author was writing.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: lexicons and word meanings for a given period

Post by Matthew Longhorn » April 15th, 2020, 8:15 am

Thanks Barry. I thought that that may be the case. The other concern around that is if they cited one or two authors and then decided to not site authors later or earlier due to space.
I will probably just try to learn what I can and if it doesn't fit a context then just reject it that way
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nathaniel j. erickson
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Re: lexicons and word meanings for a given period

Post by nathaniel j. erickson » April 15th, 2020, 11:33 am

As you know, Lexicon's are not meant for the study of one particular author or time period, unless they were assembled specifically for that purpose.

There are two really helpful works made for Josephus, though they are not very accessible at all (if you are by a research library, they might have a copy):
Thackeray, Henry St. John, and Ralph Marcus. A Lexicon to Josephus. (only Vol. 1 exists, unfortunately).
Rengstorf's A Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus. (4 volumes, covers all of Josephus). This one is not properly a lexicon, but it does provide a range of glosses for all the words in Josephus.

When I was doing a lot of reading of Josephus I found LSJ to be adequate for most words. Usually you don't have to go beyond the main senses of the words, provided you pay close attention to the normal issues like different meanings of verbs in different voices or transitivity. If you're going to be spending much time in Josephus, it is worth getting an idea of what the author abbreviations are in LSJ for the people writing around his time. With LSJ I have usually found that if there is no sense listed for a word that is specifically noted as a later meaning than the main one, it is usually adequate (though often not ideal) for any given author following the main period. BDAG is often helpful for words in Josephus, when it covers them. Similar for any LXX lexicons (if you have one). I occasionally found helpful glosses in Lampe's A Patristic Greek Lexison (there is a pdf version of unclear legality online) and Thackeray and Sophocles' Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods from B.C. 146 to A.D. 1100 as well (free fully legal pdf version online).

The process I found most helpful was to read the text alongside the Loeb translation (if you have access to it) and Michel and Bauernfeind's German translation (Flavius Josephus de Bello Judaico: der Jüdische Krieg) which comes in a 4 volume set (I got one really cheap from abebooks), if you read German. I found the German to be more transparent to the structure of the Greek than the Loeb translation, most times. The online PACE translations https://pace.webhosting.rug.nl/york/york/texts.htm are really helpful, where they exist. There are apparently many good French translations as well, but I don't really read French. Apparently, Thackeray's English translation is often simply a translation of a certain French translation that he relied heavily upon.

Considering how much work has been done towards a Josephus lexicon in the past, it is sad that one does not exist yet. Adolf Schlatter (a famous German New Testament bible scholar from the early 1900's) had made a personal lexicon of much of Josephus, and these notes eventually made it to Rengstorf, I believe, but are lost or inaccessible (not to mention illegible: Schlatter's handwriting was terrible!). Henry St. John Thackeray did the same thing, again handwritten, and some other scholar got all the pages and they are lost to the scholarly world.
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Nathaniel J. Erickson
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Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
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Matthew Longhorn
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Re: lexicons and word meanings for a given period

Post by Matthew Longhorn » April 15th, 2020, 12:52 pm

Thanks for such a large response. Really appreciated

I have Whiston’s English translation in accordance which I will be using for reading through in the Greek
Unfortunately I can’t read German - one of my pipe-dream projects is to eventually settle down and learn a modern language.
I have Muraoka’s lxx lexicon as well as Thackeray and Conybear. Good to know they may be of some use as well. Likely to overload myself out info if I am not careful. I will see how it goes.
Thanks again
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