Re: Etymology of QEOS

From: Will Wagers (
Date: Thu Oct 15 1998 - 13:27:35 EDT

Carl writes:

>I have to say that this is the sort of etymologizing that obfuscates rather
>than assists understanding of ordinary historical Greek texts, in my
>opinion. It's fun, but it usually isn't very illuminating.

Dear Carl,

Assuming we are discussing valid etymologies, I believe that
etymologies hold the keys to understanding many of the *mysteries*
of the Bible and of other ancient sacred texts. The reason is that etymologies
reveal the cultural mindset or paradigm of the ancients--the essential
and missing ingredient needed for interpretation in most cases.
Etymologies are especially helpful in the cases of broad, sweeping words
and concepts, such as QEOS, perhaps. In other words, etymologies should
be used to establish the conceptual (mythological) framework or backdrop
upon which or before which translations are made.

Why, when we understand the ancient texts so well and already have such
accurate translations? Because, I believe we do *not* understand what the
ancients meant or were thinking and merely use the translations to further
our own beliefs, whether theological, historical, linguistic, etc. Advanced
grammatical or linguistic knowledge offer us no protection in this regard.

While I think most of us would share your disgust with many simple-minded
or *mystical* etymologies, especially those which seem to fly in the face of
linguistic "facts", there are two points to be made in their favor. Firstly, no
one, to my knowledge, has unravelled what the heck the ancients were really
talking about and saying (something even an accurate translation can be
incapable of revealing). And, here I would include many *scientific* and
philosophical works besides the Bible. Secondly, the ancients themselves
were heavily influenced by spurious etymologies and, therefore,
incorporated them into both their thinking and their works. Thus, even
erroneous etymologies are of value in interpretation when they influenced
the ancients. This etymologizing habit, by the way, lies at the very heart of
the creation and evolution of language.

I think much of the academic world is either blind to or prejudiced against
etymologies, just as many academics refuse to connect mythology with
the works of respected *scientific* and philosophical writers, e.g. Aristotle.

(> DAIW means
>to "divide" or "allot" or "distribute," or even "dispense." Early theogonic
>narratives speak of the primal DASMOS (also from this verb) of Zeus,
>wherein the sovereign god allotted to each of the Olympians his or her own
>proper sphere and privilege in the divine "dispensation." DAIMWN is an
>agent noun from DAIW and means "one who allots" or "one who authorizes a
>dispensation." The earlier usage seems to point to a supernatural spirit
>that assigns a destiny and/or assures that it is fulfilled.

There is just such a mythical root in Jn 19:23.)

Further, I believe that the prejudice against etymologies is, in large
measure, part of the severance from the past accomplished by Christian
apologists and theologians who treat the New Covenant as if it had no
roots in paganism (especially Greek myth) and the Old Covenant as if it
were merely a seal of authentication for the New.

As for etymologizing gaining a more respected status, despite its poor
history, that awaits a seminal work which establishes a viable paradigm
which leads to solutions not only to simple, grammatical translation, but
to understanding what was meant, what was intended by the original
thinkers. In the mean time, a great deal can be pieced together by the
motivated individual.


Will Wagers "Reality is the best metaphor."

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