RE: dynamic words

From: A. Brent Hudson (
Date: Fri Mar 08 1996 - 00:08:48 EST

On Thursday March 7, Gary S. Shogren wrote:

Good point, although it strikes me that there are all sorts of
complications: whether we are dealing with Aramaic source material, for
example. Also, puns, like other types of jokes, are very hard to verify in
a second language. Also, what looks like deliberate ambiguity may simply be
because we are reading the NT with BAGD in front of us, and are aware of the
translation options at a glance, while a particular author and his community
may be used to using a word like ANWQEN in an idiomatic way.

I guess I'm predisposed to thinking that the NT authors were all conscious
that their books were being heard by an audience for many of whom Koine was
a second language, and that they were inclined toward literal and
straightforward diction. I know when I'm preaching through a translator, I
try to keep it simple and literal. Or maybe I'm reading into the first
century what I would do in that situation.

Any thoughts from the group?

First, there are varying levels of competency in a second language. The analogy of a translator implies a certain competency level of the translator (after all, there are translators who can handle more than "simple" English). The author of the Fourth Gospel seems to have a good grasp of Koine as a second language (cf. GMark, Apoc.). I think it hinders our understanding of the Gospel when we exclude certain literary devices based on our views of source criticism. Should we not evaluate the Greek of the Fourth Gospel first and foremost and work from these conclusions? Even if Aramaic source material was used, the final shape of the Gospel is a literary whole.

Second, the use of ANWQEN could very well have been used in an idiomatic way; however, when the word is used elsewhere in the Gospel it means "from above" (3:31; 19:11, 23). The fact that Nicodemus interprets this as "again" is the reason for "deliberate ambiguity" being applied to this verse in many commentaries. As far as idea of Aramaic sources, the Nicodemus dialogue only makes sense in Greek, since there exists no Aramaic equivalent of ANWQEN (Brown asserts this in his commentary (1.130,31) but this was argued at length in _NTS_ in the late 50's (I do not have access to the article at this time and I forget the bibliographical info., does anyone remember it?)).

Perhaps we need to be reminded of J. P. Louw's application of lexical semantics to Koine Greek (J. P. Louw, _Semantics of New Testament Greek_ (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1982). In sum, ALL words receive their meaning from context. Moreover, IMO, it is context (not source theory or BAGD) that will show passages as using or not using "deliberate ambiguity."

A. Brent Hudson
Graduate Student
McMaster University
Hamilton, ON, Canada OR

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