Re: "Semantic Domain" and Translating Synonyms (was: entropy)

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Mon Jun 01 1998 - 13:23:21 EDT

---Wes Williams <> wrote:

> Dear Rolf,

> First, I express appreciation to you for posting this since it further
> clarifies the question "What is an accurate translation of Greek to
> English?" You posted this several days ago but I wanted to think on
it for a
> time.

> You raise a good point with which makes clear sense: i.e. if we
> translate two (or more) distinct Greek words as a single English
word, the
> English readers lose something in translation. Isn't this similar to
> Eskimos who have seven different words for our American English
"snow?" If
> we translate all seven words as "snow" without discriminating "wet
> "snow and rain," "dry snow," etc., WE lose the fine distinctions in
> that THEY have.

Dear Wes,

I appreciate your observations. In his submission, Rolf brought up the
NWT handling of OLAM. I have no qualms with rendering OLAM as "time
indefinite." Conversely, OLAM in certain contexts could be rendered
"eternity" or "eternal." Either way, there is no translational

The main problem I have with Rolf's model is the one word-one concept
notion. At times in translation, this method just will not
satisfactorily work (as I see it). Take, for instance, the Greek words
MORFE and SXHMA. The two words are synonymous, and can be used
interchangeably in certain contexts. One such context in which they
can be used as interchangeable components is Phil. 2:6ff.

While some commentators like to emphasize the distinctions between the
two words, and some would even say that they are not synonymous--there
is good evidence in the Classics that MORFE and SXHMA are indeed
synonymous. My point is that the CONCEPT of "external appearance" is
not bound by **one word** but can be expressed by two words. Thus,
Jesus outwardly appeared as God in his pre-existence; on earth he
outwardly appeared as a servant.

One could also make the same case for QEOTHTOS and THEIOTHS.


Edgar Foster

Classics Major

Lenoir-Rhyne College

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