language and science

From: KULIKOVSKY, Andrew (
Date: Fri Dec 13 1996 - 12:00:37 EST

Jonathan and Randy,

If I could butt-in on your exchange.....

I appreciate what both of you are saying but I do tend
to agree with much of what Randy was saying about
the role of science in formulating grammar.

Formal Grammar is always behind the actual spoken
and written language and hence it is more descriptive
than prescriptive. The more I think about language and
see and hear language used and use it myself there
doesn't seem to be much room for hard and fast
rules - for every rule there seems to be an exception!

Language is a creative act and is always changing as
people use their creativity. To use scienctific methods
to test the truthfulness of a grammatical rule is a bit like
using science to judge the work of Picasso or Van

I have heard preachers with a little exposure to Greek
say how wonderful a language it is and how precise and
unambiguous it is. Now those of us who have taken up
the study of Greek seriously know that this is just not
true. In fact I don't believe it is true of any language.

I think scientic methods help us to formulate rules or
hypotheses but the ultimate test is whether these rules
make sense in a particular context. There seems to
be a parallel here with word meanings. We know that
words have a primary(or most common) meaning and
also other secondary meanings (possibly 10 or 20!).
Maybe the aorist has several different meanings - the
primary being a punctilliar action in past time and others
like "default action" where an author just wants to refer
to a complete action or event without saying anything
about it. Context must decide.

Also, who says the Greek corpus we have is always
good Greek grammar? It comprises of legal documents,
poetry, philosophy and letters - and if these documents
are anything like today's equivalents, there is a good
chance there are many many grammatical errors in

Language changes very quickly - you only have look
at English and how much it has changed in the last
50 years. The NT was written over this period of time
and it is quite possible that the function of the aorist
may have changed (albeit only slightly) over this time.
Has anyone ever compared the use of the aorist in
the earlier NT documents with the use in the later NT

I share your concern Jonathan that it could leave the
door open for people to say that it means whatever
people want it to mean, but I don't think there is a
problem in having more flexibility in the grammar by
allowing more than one meaning for a grammatical
construction just as there is more than one meaning
for a word.

I know this doesn't make the exegetical task easy, but
hey - this is a complex problem, and to every complex
problem there is a very simple and very wrong answer!


| Andrew S. Kulikovsky B.App.Sc(Hons) MACS
| Software Engineer
| British Aerospace Australia
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| What's the point of gaining everything this world has
| to offer, if you lose your own life in the end?
| ...Look to Jesus Christ

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