Use of BAGD

From: Edgar M. Krentz (
Date: Wed Nov 13 1996 - 11:40:28 EST

Jonathon Robie wrote:

>When I tried to describe some of these tools in the prototype FAQ, I got
>feedback indicating that Louw and Nida had completely different purposes,
>and this should be made clear. But I don't know how to clearly state the
>Could somebody *please* give a summary of the different ways you use these
>different works?

I will try, knowing that my response will be inadequate. In our core course
NT: Methods of Interpretation I spend a week, i.e. four class hours,
explaining the use of lexica [and grammar] to students who know Greek.

Louw-Nida is a lexicon of semantic domains, that is, it groups the
different terms that relate to areas of thought, of action, or realia
together to enable you to see the NT vocabulary (and only NT vocabulary)
related to that area. For example, under see and sigfht, it will list the
verbs for see, the words for eye, vision, etc. Thus one can see the
vocabulary for law, commandment, precept, etc. gathered together. It is
useful for examining semantic domains, it very difficult to use to discover
the semantic grid that a term covers, and is almost impossible to use for
doing running translation.

BAGD serves quite different functions. (1) It enables you, if you read it
carefully, to learn something of the spread of a term's use in time and
over different areas of thought. You do that by asking which authors have
used it. BAGD tries always to list the earliest writer to do so. (2) you
can determine the literary locus of the term: does it occur only in poetry?
in history? in cultic contexts, etc. Of course to do this you need to take
the time to consult the list of abbreviations for authors and titles of
ancient works--and need to know something of who they are and whkat sort of
things they write.

BAGD (2) It enables the reader to see what the semantic "grid" is over
which a word extends. That is, you can see the different semantic
possibilites open to an author, speaker, in using a term. It enables you
in the process to get a "feel" for whether a term is cultic, legal,
philosophic, etc. in focus.

BAGD (3) Read an article in this lexicon carefully, which means looking at
the citations, and you can infer something of the clustering of terms. By
looking at related nouns, verbs, adjectives, compound terms, etc. you can
extend your understanding of the connotations that a term has.

BAGD (4) If you note which articles have a single or double * after them
BAGD can even serve as a primitive concordance for many words.

When you do this, you have to be aware that the numbered categories and
sub-categories indicated by Latin or Greek letters are created by the
lexicographer by examining and categorizing many occurrences of a given
term. But the language is never as tidy as a lexicon suggests. Words fall
into the cracks between categories, the categories may be overfine or over
general. Therefore you never use a lexicon like BAGD simply to find the
reference to the passage you are reading and see how Bauer translated it!!!

BAGD also indicates at times variant possibilites for the same term.

This is an all too brief description. One needs to spend time with this,
and on parallel entries in the new ninth edition of LSJ with its larger
supplement, to recognize that sometimes you cannot be as precise as at
times some of the questions put to this list would like the language to be.
Language simply doesn't follow all of the rules you find in grammars and
one may not be able to make the meaning of terms as clear as one wishes.
Try to distinguish clearly between "drink up" and "drink down" for a
non=native speaker of American English sometime and see how difficult it
is, even though up and down are usually antonyms.

This is longer than I usually like to submit--and yet far too brief or
compressed to really anthor Jonathon Robie's question. I look for further
clarification from others. And, by the way, Fred Danker's book is not out
in a fourth edition.

Edgar Krentz, New Testament OR *****
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
1100 East 55th Street
TEL.: 773-256-0752 FAX: 773-256-0782

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