RE: Source for the semantic range of ...

From: George Goolde (
Date: Fri Aug 27 1999 - 13:14:48 EDT

Just a note to say that I think Jim has hit the nail on the head. Words do
derive their meanings from context. Dictionaries, lexica, etc. attempt to
gather together and REFLECT those meanings that the lexicographers have
gained by reading the context.

We don't always have time to do this, and obviously could not with every
word, but we teach our students to do word studies on key words when they
desire to know what the Bible teaches. We have them do these studies
inductively by looking up each biblical occurrence of a word and asking the
Who?, What?, When?, Where? Why? questions about the word. In other words,
Who does it? When? Under what circumstances, etc.

This is, of course, easiest with words that occur 15-50 times. There is
enough information to induce a meaning (or set of meanings) but not so much
data that the student is snowed. And I'm sure that Carl or others on the
list could point to the profitability of doing this in non-biblical usage
as well.

It is also obvious that this means we bring our pre-understandings as well
as our hermeneutics to the text. We attempt to NOT read anything into the
text, but we must each admit to some set of pre-understandings and some set
of interpretive principles. The lexicographers do the same, as do
grammarians who comment on the meaning of such and such a construction in
such and such a verse. (I surmise that at least ONE of the factors in
whether we prefer or do not prefer a certain grammar or lexicon has to do
with what we believe the pre-understandings and/or the hermeneutics of the
grammarian or lexicographer to be).

Anyway, all this to say that I would encourage each student to do his own
studying and interpreting, inductively if the time allows.

George A. Goolde
Professor, Bible & Theology
Southern California Bible College & Seminary

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