RE: TE . . . KAI

From: Randy Leedy (
Date: Mon Aug 04 1997 - 11:42:45 EDT

Clay Bartholomew wrote:


Has anyone noticed how Carl Conrad is able to figure out what I am
saying even when I use the wrong words, like grave/acute in my
question about TIS. I wonder if this has any implications for

Jim West replied:

>>>Its just called thoughtful reading. Those of us with children
listen to what they mean instead of what they say all the time.

I'll add just a bit here. I believe Clay's hunch is correct: this has
A LOT to do with semantics, particularly lexical semantics. And I
believe Jim is right: it's thoughtful reading, which I believe is, in
kind if not in degree, exactly the same thing as exegesis. I have
been trying to teach my students that exegesis is not some kind of
black art unlike anything they've ever attempted to do. What we call
exegesis is nothing more than reading carried out methodically and
systematically. And what we call reading is nothing less than
exegesis carried out only partially due to limitations of time or
ability. There's a sizeable area between the two poles that we might
tag with Jim's term "thoughtful reading": exegesis to the extent we
can do it using the tools with which our minds are already furnished.

Now to the point of lexical semantics. The fact that we can correct
someone's erroneous word choice tells us something very important
about the nature of verbal communication. It contains a lot of
redundancy; one element of the context implies or requires a
corresponding element elsewhere. When juxtaposed elements conflict
rather than correspond, the recipient concludes that an error has
been made and sets about to decide what change would best bring the
conflicting elements into correspondence. Carl pointed out one point
of conflict: the interrogative pronoun never has a grave accent. I
might point out another as well: a word followed by an enclitic never
has a grave. The reader who is well acquainted with Greek accents can
quickly spot the error and make the appropriate correction.

Just yesterday I encountered in a letter from a friend another
interesting example of this idea of correction facilitated by
redundancy. The offending word was "humitily." Seeing that word apart
from its context, one is inclined to think that it represents a
transposition of letters within the word "humility." I can give a
sentence in which that theory works: "Humitily can be a very good
thing." But the sentence in the letter went something like this. The
writer had been talking about doing paper mache crafts with a group
of children at a youth camp, and she said, "Unfortunately, the
humitily in Florida is so high that the balloons deflated before the
paper mache dried." Now we have enough redundancy to be able to
discern the writer's intent and make the correct correction.

This principle of redundancy is what allows us to do word study. Some
contexts are particularly rich in redundancy, allowing us to discern
in them various constituents of meaning that further reflection
reveals are very appropriate in other contexts as well. Of course we
must be careful not to think that every aspect of meaning apparent in
one or more occurrences of a word is to be expected in every
occurrence. But I don't want to open up this very large can of worms
labeled exegetical fallacies just now.

Enough. This is fun, but there's work to do. I'll be interested to
see whether and how my oversimplifications get jumped on by the more
erudite among us.

In Love to God and Neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC

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