RE: Etymology of QEOS (WARNING!WARNING!large off-topic digressio

From: Hultberg, Alan (
Date: Fri Oct 16 1998 - 20:41:37 EDT

Amen and Amen!

>Also, in my opinion, the
>general diachronic scheme needs to include citations fairly close
>chronologically to the NT use to be of much certainty.

I would add, "fairly close socially" as well. It must be demonstrable, or at last reasonably assumed, that a NT author would know of a specialized use of a term in another social group (or even type of literature, say, medical writers) before positing such a connection as meaningful to the NT.


>From: Jon Robertson on Fri, Oct 16, 1998 4:34 PM
>Subject: Re: Etymology of QEOS (WARNING!WARNING!large off-topic digressio
>To: Biblical Greek
>Dear list,
>Because it was my fault that Stephen Charnock's name was brought up
>on the list, I feel I cannot leave his image too "tarnished". I will
>mention a word on his behalf (and say nothing else about him). Also,
>I would like to mention a few thoughts of my own about etymological
>study (about which I was not asking in the original message, but seem
>to have elicited some thoughts).
> Just to defend Charnock a little (but not too much), one needs to
>remember 1) that he worked on this in the 1670's and 2) that the
>manuscripts were prepared by others for publication after his death.
> The form QEISQAI could very well be a typo made by someone else with
>little or no knowledge of greek. Charnock really did know his way
>around classical as well as biblical greek, and so this is an error
>that it is hard to believe he would have committed. Back to number
>1, we cannot be too quick to anachronistically judge the work of
>another era by our own standards, even when our standards are most
>likely true, as I believe them to be in this case. I agree with the
>opinion of Dr. Conrad concerning the danger of etymological
>"meanings" and I can also agree that any "essential meaning" for the
>term QEOS cannot be derived from this pseudo-etymology (hence, I was
>only asking about the etymology, not the method for arriving at
>meaning). However, I do not believe I can then imply that he was a
>"bad scholar." He was working with the state of the science as it
>then existed, there was no other option, of course. He, as was very
>common at the time, thought that one could often arrive at the
>"essential" idea of a word through etymology. This, I think, is
>demonstrably wrong, but one can merely note the error, without
>necessarily casting aspersions on his scholarship, which has to be
>seen in its historical context. I need to say that this argument
>(which Charnock mentions in passing) really does not reflect on his
>work and could be excised (it represents a line and a half out of
>over 1100 pages) without altering at all the rest. So much for
>the apologia.
> On the interesting side issue of etymological studies
>in general for arriving at meaning for NT passages (and, mercifully,
>bringing this topic a little closer to appropriateness for the list),
>I too believe there is real danger, even, I think, when the
>etymological connections are more sure than that of Charnock's
>fancies. Diachronic studies (which emphasize the meaning of a word
>"through time" i.e. its meaning at different periods of history) in
>particular are susceptible to distortion as can be seen easily in any
>commentary by Barclay (who had, by the way, much less excuse than
>Charnock). It is all too common to hear, "the word Paul uses here,
>(fill in the blank), was used by Aristotle and means (fill in
>another)". Easier to say that than to prove any real connection
>between the two. A good example of this in English is when someone
>chastises me for saying "gee" because it supposedly is somehow
>related to the name "Jesus". Whether or not it ever was related, it
>certainly does not mean that for me when I say it. This piece of
>"etymology" (surely spurious anyway) has nothing to do with my
>meaning. In the same way, it must be shown that an historical usage
>of a term has something to do with the NT usage, or it is simply not
>to the point. It seems to me that diachronic word studies are
>mainly helpful when we can demonstrate the process of change of
>meaning of a certain word over time and then fit the NT use into the
>general scheme that we've been able to work out. This requires more
>than a few quotes and also requires citations from before as well as
>after the NT use to really be of any help. Also, in my opinion, the
>general diachronic scheme needs to include citations fairly close
>chronologically to the NT use to be of much certainty. This then
>would give us an idea of where the NT use fits in the "conceptual
>framework". Obviously, a term such as QEOS would be difficult to
>assess. These are simply factors that I think we all need to keep in
>mind as we delve into the murky waters of etymological studies.
>(And, PLEASE don't preach that DUNAMIS is where we get the word
>dynamite!! I doubt that Paul or Jesus cared!) While synchronic
>studies (which emphasize word meaning "with time" i.e. uses more or
>less contemporaneous) seem to me a little safer, I also think care
>should be taken, more in terms of geographical (rather than temporal)
>distance, especially in the Hellenistic world. Well, there! Maybe
>this will get us off the topic of southern english! ; ) So, what do
>y'all think? (Obviously plural in this case.)
>Jon Robertson
>B-Greek home page:
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