Re: HELP: Paul and the greek word musterion

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Sep 27 1998 - 07:10:15 EDT

At 4:22 PM -0500 9/26/98, wrote:
>Carl W. Conrad wrote: [majorly snipped and dubbed]
>> I'm sorry for the intemperate outburst. But here we differ very sharply on
>> the nature of linguistic analysis; I'm not questioning your sincerity, nor
>> your ingenuity; nevertheless, what you are doing with words like MUQOS and
>> AIWN seems more akin the machinations of an alchemist than anything else
>> that I can think of.
>If it's any consolation, I did the same thing with Aristotle's
>formulation that is translated into English as 'essence' [TO TI ESTAN
>EINAI ~ 'The what it was being to be'] 25 or so years ago. The word
>'essence' just left me clueless. [Dr. Warren just smiled and nodded.]

But this is frankly quite different; although the phase TO TI HN EINAI is
equivalent to one of Aristotle's meanings for OUSIA, I think it really
ought to be given an English equivalent; what Werner Jaeger gave as an
English equivalent for it (I sat in on the last class he taught--on what
was probably his single most important life's work, Aristotle, at Harvard
before retiring in 1959) "the being what it was"--understanding this
grammatically as an articular infinitive with TI HN understood as an
indirect question functioning as the predicate complement of the implicit
subject of EINAI. So that, whether or not it's accurate, your version of
that phrase has an intelligibility to it which your machinations with MUQOS
and AIWN do not, since these involve rather an analysis of the word-stems
into elements that didn't exist separately as combinable units--as if (I
offer this purely for the sake of explaining what it is that I find
illegitimate in your etymologizing) you were to explain the meaning of
"short" as a combination of "shhh"--the interjection with which one tries
to quiet a long-winded account and "ort," the tidbit that one throws to a
dog to satisfy it and stop it from yelping. One ought, however, to explain
the word "short" in terms of discernible cognates in English and other IE

>I really do not mean to vex anyone, and when differences arise in
>approach, and I have great differences with most on this list,
>vexations are not hard to understand. I am sorry that I am not more
>sensitive in how I say what I do say, and I remain in the little bit
>of truth that I am graced with. I only have a little of it, as do we
>all, and I can only share what I have, and hope for the best. May God
>richly bless our efforts here...

I certainly share this sentiment altogether. Let us remain in the little
bits of truth that we are graced with (and I retain your end-positioned
preposition deliberately!)--for unquestionably, though we might like to
imagine ourselves as 'relatively' enlightened, the truth is that the
ignorance to which we are all subject vastly outweighs the meager sum of
what we really understand.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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