Re: Trench's Synonyms of the NT

From: James P. Ware (
Date: Mon Aug 17 1998 - 09:55:44 EDT

Just a word in regard to Eric's citation of Carson's comments on Trench's
Synonyms of the NT:

> BUT ... I (not having really used it - I
> got it really cheap at a used bookstore) have cautioned some people
> against it because D.A. Carson, in his EXEGETICAL FALLACIES (p. 54 of
> the 1984 edition) says (re: Problems surrounding synonyms and
> componential analysis): "But if we decide contextually specific
> questions of synonymy on the basis of the total semantic range of each
> word, any synonymy in any context is virtually impossible. Hendricksen's
> treatment [of AGAPAW and FILEW in John 21] illegitimately forecloses the
> question. This particular fallacy is a hallmark of Trench's SYNONYMS OF

I am not sure that Carson is being fair to Trench here. Trench
specifically disavows this fallacy in his methodological discussion in the
introduction, which, by the way, is in it main points in remarkable
agreement with the discussion of synonyms in Louw and Nida. Sure, one
might disagree with his conclusions in individual cases, such as John 21,
in which Trench sees an important distinction between agapao and fileo in
the context where I see only rhetorical variation for the sake of variety.
But that is an exegetical decision (one mooted occasionally on this list
as well, with strong arguments on both sides), hardly a deep-seated
"fallacy" on Trench's part which somehow taints all of his work. Besides,
one can probably learn more from one of Trench's mistakes than from the
best work of a dozen other scholars who lack his wealth of classical
training and theological acumen. So I second Ben's remarks: if you are
able to obtain a copy of Trench, by all means GO FOR IT!

BTW, since the question of the best edition has come up a couple of times:
the best edition is the 11th (1890), if you can find it, but the 9th
edition (1880) is just fine. That is the one you are likely to find,
since it is the edition Eerdmans reprinted. I don't know why they chose
the 9th instead of the 11th. At any rate, they are almost identical.
In fact, any of the old editions are fine. The only one to avoid is the
Baker version, which is not really an edition but an (IMHO) unsuccessful

Jim Ware

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