Re: Hebrew and Greek as languages

From: Steven Cox (
Date: Fri Apr 10 1998 - 12:59:22 EDT

        Hi Eric
        I'm not qualified to make comment about the original
        statement as I don't know Hebrew, even if I did I
        certainly wouldn't feel qualified to make comment on
        the various theological(?) points in the tow of that statement.
        But that means I'm not qualified to ridicule them either.

        It strikes me that observations such as "HIGH Hebrew and
        LOW Greek" might well be 'true' in textual contexts such as in
        a [debateable] greater observation of monotheistic correctness
        in the OT more than NT, yes, but this has nothing to do with
        the language per se.

        However as a general point if someone was going to say
        that you can sometimes tell something about the cultures
        of two societies from their languages, how can that be
        denied? For example respect/humility verb forms in
        Japanese are almost as complex and specific as mood/tense
        /aspect in English. This tells you something about the
        society that shaped the language. Family terminology is
        also a good benchmark to social structure - one obvious
        example; westerners don't care about distinguishing mothers'
        older brothers and fathers' younger sisters' husbands; this
        is irrelevant as an "uncle" is just an "uncle". This tells
        you that family obligations in the west are more loosely
        defined (relatively). Therefore in principle it must be
        possible that there are linguistic differences between
        Hebrew and Greek that highlight differences in the background
        cultures of Palestine and the Aegean.

        Whether they amount to anything relevant or substantial
        for actual b-Hebrew and b-Greek texts is another question.
        It might be more relevant to ask how much baggage the
        obligation to render in 20th Century English brings to
        the party, as the culture/time gap is far wider between
        our now and their then, than between b-Hebrew and b-Greek.


>Be skeptical of what you are about to hear when someone who hasn't had
>at least a year or two of biblical Greek and/or Hebrew says: "Now, in
>the original Greek (or Hebrew) it really says (or means) ...."

        Hmm. I'd get more skeptical if they had. At least people
        playing with Strongs know they don't know. And the people
        who *know* these languages are all dead.

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