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

From: Ron Rhoades (
Date: Fri Jun 05 1998 - 02:38:59 EDT

Greetings Edgar,

>>Edgar wrote: >>Ron, I may be wrong here, but I really don't see how one >>can define SXHMA as "the demeanor, nature or manner." IMHO, SXHMA is >>diametrically opposed to "the demeanor, nature or manner" of a person or >>thing.

>>Earle cites numerous authorities, I will briefly summarize these:
>>"The SXHMA here [in Phil. 2:6-8] signifying his whole outward >>presentation" (Trench).
">>SXHMA indicates "what he appeared in the eyes of men" (Lightfoot).
>>SXHMA is the outward fashion which appeals to the senses" (Vincent).
>>See _Word Meanings in The NT_ Ralph Earle (p. 337).
>>Admittedly, Earle doesn't view MORFH and SXHMA as synonymous. I feel there >>is adequate evidence, however, to support the fact that the two signifiers >>are indeed synonymous (though not fully synonymous).

I'm a little confused. These authorities by Earl all seem to me to be
saying exactly what I said it signifies; the demeanor, nature or manner.
My definition as "demeanor, nature or manner" came originally from
examining the numerous examples cited by Lightfoot, Trench, Earl, and

>Ron said: >The use of MORFH at Mark 16:12 IMO is not interchangeable with >SXHMA. Jesus had a *different* outward appearance (MORFH) than before, but >did he have a different (SXHMA)? In other writings the MORFH always stays >the same however the SXHMA changes at will (a dog still looks like a dog >however his manners can change).<<

>>Edgar: >>In his extensive commentary on Philippians, Moises Silva >>discusses the similarities and differences between MORFHN, hOMOIWMATI, and >>SXHMATI. His comments are as follows:
>>"The literature dealing with these words . . . is very extensive and >>covers a wide range of problems. Whatever distinctions may be posited are >>subject to contextual adjustments, including semantic neutralization, >>which is most likely what we have here [in Phil. 2]. It would be difficult >>to prove that if these three terms were interchanged, a substantive >>semantic difference would result" (Philippians, M. Silva. P. 126 [Moody]).

>>"If we stress the classical usage of this term [MORFH], the technical >>sense of Aristotelian philosophy suggests itself: MORFH, although not >>equivalent to OUSIA ("being, essence"), speaks of essential or >>characteristic attributes and thus is to be distinguished from SXHMA (the >>changeable, external fashion). In a valuable essay on MORFH and SXHMA, >>[Lightfoot] argued along these lines and remarked that even in popular >>usage these respective meanings could be ascertained. The many references >>where MORFH is used of physical appearance . . . make it difficult to >>maintain Lightfoot's precise distinction, though there is an important >>element of truth in his treatment" (Silva 113- 114).

Edgar, there must be something lost in the transmission here. I wish I
had Silva's book. :( But the first quote says there "would be no
substantive semantic difference" if they were exchanged then the second
says MORFH speaks of "*essential* attributes" verses "SXHMA the
changeable, external fashion."

Everyone should read Lightfoot's extended note! He cites many convincing
examples of MORPH and SXHMA in the NT and other writings as examples of
the impossibility of interchanging the two. Kittles has many similar
citations. I'm not even sure Lightfoot was interpreted correctly here;
he does think that MORPH can refer to something that can be changed
(with difficulty?) like the "inner life" of Rom 8:29; 12:2, Phil 3:10, 2
Cor. 3:18 and Gal. 4:19. He believes "In many cases the words are used
convertibly, because the sense is sufficiently lax to include either.
But the difference between the two is tested by the fact that...."

>Ron: >Lightfoot, Trench and Kittel all see significant differences between >the two. Differences that I feel should be retained in translation.<<

>>Edgar: >>While the aforementioned scholars may have failed to see the >>similarities between MORFH and SXHMA, Greek literature does not support >>their conclusions: Continuing, Silva also offers the following: >>"[Lightfoot's] claim that MORFH (opposite SXHMA) refers to unchangeable >>essence can be sustained by some references, but too many passages speak >>against it" (Silva 122).

I don't think that they failed to see the similarities, in fact they
each to one degree or other discuss the similarities. However they do
not ignore the significant differences. I think the numerous supporting
references cited by these scholars speak pretty strongly. (Again I'll
have to round up Silva's and look at his passages.)

So my original point is that this is a good example of where an other
wise good translation such as the RSV drops the ball when they render
two distinct words with the same English word.

>If a translation presents itself as a paraphrase that kind of work is acceptable. But if I stake my LIFE on it I want to know wherever a different word is used no matter how insignificant the translator feels it is. For fun I'll choose a paraphrase but for serious study I want a literal English translation (until I can read Greek with the same comprehension).


Ron Rhoades
Nevada City
Rainy "el nino" Calif. :(

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:45 EDT