Re: Use of BAGD

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Thu Nov 14 1996 - 19:21:13 EST

I was delighted to see all the careful, thoughtful responses on this
subject. People obviously put some time into this!

At 11:40 AM 11/13/96 -0500, Edgar M. Krentz wrote:

>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.

Hmmm...I think that is true if you only use volume 1, but volume 2 lets you
see the semantic grid for a given Greek word. For instance, volume 2 gives
the following glosses for BLEPW:

a see 24.7
b be able to see 24.41
c watch out for 27.58
d think about 30.1
e understand 32.11
f cause to happen 13.134
g facing 82.10
BLEPW: units
   judge on external appearance 30.120
   start to do and then hesitate 68.6

You can then look up one of the definitions for more detail. For instance,
here is one of the sections referenced above:

30.120, BLEPW EIS PROSWPON: (an idiom, literally 'to see into the face') to
judge on the basis of external appearances - 'to judge on the basis of
appearance, to render a superficial judgment, to pay no attention to a
person's status, to judge on the basis of reputation.' OU GAR BLEPEIS EIS
PROSWPON ANQRWPWN 'for you do not judge a person on the basis of outward
appearance' Mt 22.16. In some languages an equivalent of tis expression in
Mt 22.16 may be 'when you judge, you look into a man's heart' or 'when you
judge you see more than a person's face' or 'when you judge a person, who he
appears to be doesn't count'.

To use Louw and Nida effectively for running translation, you do need to
have room on your desk to have both volumes open simultaneously.

For comparison, BAGD lists the following major senses:

1. Lit. of the activity of the eyes
2. Be able to see, in contrast to being blind
3. Look at, regard: eis w. acc.
4. Of mental functions, direct one's attention to someth, consider, note
5. Notice, mark something
6. Watch, look to, beware of
7. In a very general sense, perceive, feel
8. To designate geographical direction

To me, the major senses in BAGD fulfil a function similar to that of the
glosses in volume 2 of Louw and Nida. Let's take a look at major sense 5
from BAGD:

5. notice, mark someth.: w. acc. 2 Cor 10; 7 (imper.)., w. EIS TI (Polyb. 3,
64, 10 EIS T. PAROUSIAN) EIS PROSWPON B. look at someone's face=regard
someone's opinion Mt 22:16; Mk 12:14

This is very different from the Louw and Nida definition. Louw and Nida
supply many different English glosses to try to define the one sense; BAGD
carefully notes the grammatical contexts involved and has a much more
complete list of citations. BAGD contains much more primary data - you could
use it to write Louw and Nida, but you could not use Louw and Nida to write
BAGD. Louw and Nida gives much more help in finding the right words to use
when you translate the sense, but it doesn't give enough data for you to be
able to draw your own conclusions. BAGD does, and the definitions are really
only glosses, so you really have to take the time to look at the data and
draw your own conclusions.

>BAGD serves quite different functions.

I really liked the list of functions you gave here!

>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!!!

Yes, I've definitely gotten in trouble with this...for quick and dirty work,
I think I get in less trouble with Louw and Nida.

>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.

Yeah, I know, but when I ask a question expecting a simple answer, people
aren't shy about explaining when the real answer isn't the simple one I was
looking for. I like that!

>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.

And in our native language, where we are quite certain that we know the
meaning of both phrases, even if we may have some difficulty explaining it
to a non-native speaker (or to my children, for that matter).

>This is longer than I usually like to submit--and yet far too brief or
>compressed to really answer Jonathan Robie's question. I look for further
>clarification from others.

I'm glad you did such a detailed message. It was helpful, and it really
started the ball rolling - there were *lots* of good responses.


Jonathan Robie
POET Software, 3207 Gibson Road, Durham, N.C., 27703
Ph: 919.598.5728 Fax: 919.598.6728
email:, <--- shockwave enabled!

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