RE: translation: Glossing, Domains, and Arguments

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue May 23 2000 - 08:04:45 EDT

At 1:10 AM -0400 5/23/00, wrote:
>I'm not sure where this line is going, but I noticed the last few comments
>came from teachers of the language, and mentioned preachers of the language.
>Well, I sometimes preach, and more often teach Bible classes, though in the
>last 3 years not as often as I wish. I do use the Greek in preparation and
>sometimes in the presentation. I restrict my public use of Greek to only
>that which helps make the lesson more clear, or more rememberable. (Is that a
>word?) I have heard too many preachers who, it seems, use the Greek to show
>off their degree. I get very little from them. I would rather use it just a
>little and have the listeners get closer to God and leave me out of it.
>I hope that more future teachers could see the purpose of the use of Greek
>from the student's perspective. It does not help them to use a language they
>know very little of in a way they cannot understand. It is better to explain
>in ways the can get their minds around so that God's thoughts can become a
>part of their lives. I guess that requires that the teacher know his
>audience as well as he knows his subject.
>Just a few thoughts. Thanks for letting me ramble.

I think it's worth the effort to ramble like this from time to time (it can
be AT LEAST as salutary as Clay's random terrorist tactics).

I particularly appreciate that final substantive comment above concerning
the importance of the teacher understanding the student perspective. I'm
reminded of my recurrent sense over the years that too few commentaries
(whether on Greek or Latin texts) display a serious effort to anticipate
and respond to the kinds of questions that are uppermost in the minds of
students seeing a particular text for the first time (too many commentaries
are concerned only with the substantive issues raised by the text and
ignore the grammatical or idiomatic or lexicographical feature of the
passage that is sufficiently extraordinary to puzzle the unfamiliar
student--I also feel that puzzlement of this sort is exactly what is on
display in many of the inquiries that come regularly to us on B-Greek, and
that it behooves us, if we can, not to respond minimally but to EXPLAIN why
one construes the text as one does.

As for use of Greek by preachers, I've rarely found explicit reference to
the Greek text particularly useful or memorable to the congregation hearing
the sermon (but one notable exception was a shrewd fellow who noted GNT
usage of PERISSWS and EKPERISSWS as implying "with elephant-size footprints
so as to be unmistakable." That's one sermon I've never forgotten). On the
other hand, I've heard sermons on the John 21 dialogue of Peter and Jesus
focusing on the difference between AGAPAW and FILEW (and I know that there
are B-Greekers who think the difference really IS profound in that passage)
wherein it has seemed to me that the preacher was displaying questionable

On the other hand, I remember vividly a TIME lead article some 50 years ago
or so on George Buttrick, who was a chief editor of the Interpreter's Bible
and who at that time was Preacher to the University at Harvard's Memorial
Church. The article described Buttrick's weekly practice of working out his
exegesis of the sermon text on a 5'x8' piece of heavy cardboard lined into
blocks wherein he explored the dimensions of everything, including the
Greek or Hebrew vocabulary or syntax. A very few years later I was
privileged to listen to George Buttrick in Memorial Church the year before
he retired; while it was clear that his sermon had been prepared by a
scholar, it was nevertheless the implications of his exegesis of the text
that made his preaching powerful and effective--I don't recall that he ever
had the Greek or Hebrew words on his lips.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243 OR

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