RE: How to find the meaning of words

From: Bill Ross (
Date: Tue Apr 06 1999 - 23:21:40 EDT

Moreover, how do you account for the fact, if etymology is so vaunted a
guide to
meaning, that a word like DOXA, which originally had the sense "opinion" ,
is used
throughout the GNT with the meaning of "glory"?

I would not champion the cause of etymology being the sole or even primary
consideration for consideration, but I would resist efforts to deem it

Which scenario do you imagine for DOXA:

* one day someone pulled "DOXA" from a bunch of letters in a hat;
* the word evolved naturally to mean "glory" because some element of the
word conveyed some element of the people using the word had in mind.

DOXA in Greek and "glory" in English are quite enigmatic words. What does it
mean to "give God glory?" Is not at all related to high opinion?

My point is not ignorance of word usage, but respect for the origin,
imagery, history, development and cognates.

===> My conclusion: to imply that hUPHRETHS in 1 Cor 4.1 carries
implications of special subservience or meniality is folly, based on
etymological wishfulness. In fact, our survey of the contexts suggests a
different possible avenue: the facts that
1. Paul uses the word,
2. Paul at times favors military metaphors,
3. hUPHRETHS could be used in military contexts both in and out of the NT
are far more suggestive of what Paul might have meant and how that verse
should be preached than anything etymology could generate.

Note this definition from:

Please notice the first thing they give is the word's origin and "roots":

Etymology: Middle English ethimologie, from Latin etymologia, from Greek,
from etymon + -logia -logy

Date: 14th century
1 : the history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its
development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it
is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by
analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other
languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in
an ancestral language

Now, your *usage* of the word "etymology" has been such that it is apparent
that you conceive of it as meaning something other than considering its
development and history. If we allow *your usage* of the word to *dictate
the meaning* of the word, then there can never be an improper usage of the
word, because the usage defines the word! Etymology now means only origin,
exclusive of development. Hmm.

Paul exploited the imagery of words such that the words leaped out of
historical context into the immediate situation in surpring ways:

1 Cor 9:
7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard,
and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not
of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of
the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this
is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that
thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

"Warfare" "plant a vineyard" "eat the fruit" "feed a flock" "eat the milk?"
"muzzle oxen?" "plow in hope" "thresh in hope?"

Would not a "right" understanding of the historical use of these words imply
a physical muzzle on an ox? But by grasping the picture, we gain many

So, I will never read 1 Cor 4:1 without picturing a rower, because it is as
providential as all of the other gifts in languange. It is a part of the
richness of words. It lends "color."

"Cleansing" in Kosovo may "mean" genocide and/or expatriation, but it
evolved naturally from "cleaning" and carries some sense of making one race
clean from another, or a land clean from a people, no? Does cleansing "mean"
genocide or expatriation? Or does it mean "to free from defilement" and is
*used* euphemistically or religiously in reference to genocide or expulsion?
This may be a poor example, but hopefully you get the idea.

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