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

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Jun 05 1998 - 06:57:29 EDT

I was a bit confused when starting to read this, especially as it is
addressed tome; the problem is that the section attributed to Edgar (second
paragraph below) is actually mine: I'm the one who questioned whether MORFH
is being used the same with with QEOU and then with ANQRWPOU. Further
comment below.

At 2:48 AM -0400 6/05/98, Ron Rhoades wrote:
>Hello Carl,
>>Ron Rhoades wrote: As for MORFH AND SXHMA though basically they can be
>>>termed synonyms, I think the differences in meaning in the example you
>>>cited (Phil. 2:6-8) are important to note: SXHMA denoting the demeanor,
>>>nature or manner and MORFH the outward look, appearance or
>>representation. >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 Foster wrote: There's something about the usage of MORFH in Phil
>>>>>2:6-8 that has always bothered me;'s just always struck me as
>>>>>strange how confident interpreters can be about MORFH's exact sense
>>>when >>it appears to me that it's being used as something fundamental
>>>with >>reference to the MORFH QEOU (this is hardly the "outward
>>>appearance" of >>God, I think: does God has an "outward appearance"
>>>other than fire and >>cloud in tradition?) and as something that can be
>>>put on and taking off >>like a suit of clothes with reference to the
>Of course we can't be unreasonable about the *exact* sense and apply it
>to different writers/writings. But I think we can reasonably assume one
>writer in one paragraph would be consistent in his meaning. I take it as
>something fundamental for both MORFH QEOU and MORFH ANQRWPOU. The point
>of the text is that Jesus became the same fleshly form as mankind, just
>as he had been a spirit form like God. (Some scriptures that relate:
>Jn. 4:24, 1Cor. 15:44ff, Php. 3:21.) God is a spirit, angels are
>spirits, Jesus was/is a spirit, those called in Christ will be spirit;
>all the same MORFH. This is speaking of body material/appearance as it
>appears objectively to others, (fire and cloud if you wish). And
>additionally Philippians states that he went further in humbly accepting
>the attitude/demeanor (SXEMA) of humans.
>My conclusion is that *as a rule* MORFH does not refer to something that
>can be taken off like a change of clothes. SXHMA is used for the
>attitude and demeanor as they appear to others and thus can be changed
>like clothes, according to Lightfoot and his sources. In Greek writings
>the MORFE can be misapprehended or vague so the word does not indicate
>true form from the false or representative. So I'm thinking that it does
>not always serve to identify by itself.

Actually I mis-stated the situation: the two MORFAI in this passage are
2:6, which is followed by hOMOIWMA ANQRWPOU (MORFHN DOULOU LABWN, EN
that the more I re-read this remarkable passage, the more mysterious it
appears to me. Certainly it is centuries away from the Chalcedonian
definition, IMHO. What I'm most interested in here in this passage is the
usage of these nouns, NOT the theological implications, which I have had my
say on at length in threads long ago that could be consulted at the

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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