Re: BLEPW & hORAW MK 8:23-24

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Jun 19 2000 - 16:55:27 EDT

At 1:33 PM -0700 6/19/00, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>As a test case in lexical semantic methodology the use of BLEPW and hORAW in
>MK 8:23-24 can serve to bring to light certain issues which seem to come up
>perennially in discussions of the Greek NT.
>In MK 8:23 Jesus asks the question:
>The man answers:
>Now the most obvious question is what distinction if any should we draw
>between BLEPW and hORAW in this context. What is Jesus asking? Is the focus
>of the question on the issue of ability or the content of his seeing? In
>other words does Jesus really want to know what is out there before the
>man's eyes or does he want to know what level of ability the man has to
>perceive what is before his eyes. Does the use of BLEPW tell us anything at
>all about this or is it essentially equivalent to hORAW in this context?
>This question is useful for examining the lexical semantic methodology in
>different lexical reference works on NT Greek.
>BAGD cites MK 8:23-24 use of BLEPW as "an activity of the eyes." In this
>context Jesus' question is being understood to be a question about the
>content of the man's visual experience not a question about his ability to
>see. Both BAGD and Louw & Nida cite examples of BLEPW where it has to do
>with the ability to see but the do not include MK 8:23-24 as an example of
>Zodhiates dictionary, "The complete Word Study Dictionary of the New
>Testament" (WSDNT) has a substantial article on BLEPW. I was not able to
>find a citation of MK 8:23-24, but there is a long paragraph discussing the
>"subtle distinctions" between BLEPW and hORAW. This paragraph is typical of
>what makes professional philologists, translators and NT Scholars shun the
>use of "popular" NT dictionaries. In reading through this article and the
>article on hORAW there seemed to be a lot of "subtle distinctions" which
>would probably not stand up to close scrutiny by a person with some
>background in lexical semantics.
>In doing some more thinking about the underlying exegetical model that is
>represented in popular expository NT dictionaries, I would say that the
>major weakness in these works is not the translation equivalents that they
>give or the supporting texts they cite. The major weakness is the notion
>that one can understand what a TEXT is saying by the analysis of individual
>words. The whole business of finding "subtle distinctions" between words
>were "subtle distinctions" probably do not exist is driven by the
>fundamental idea that the basic unit of meaning in a text is the word and
>that the analysis of individual words is where we will find the message.
>IMHO this exegetical model is just plain wrong. To say that this approach to
>understanding a text is pervasive in the popular literature on the bible is
>a understatement.
>The popular works are by no means the only offenders in this respect. To
>some extent the very idea of a theological dictionary implies a word based
>approach to exegesis. I think that those who make use of NIDNTT or TDNT or
>EDNT ought to take a look at a book like Zodhiates dictionary and ask
>themselves some hard questions. Are they not doing the same thing using the
>cover of more sophisticated language? I know that this question has been
>asked over and over and over again but what I find troubling is that no
>matter how often the question is asked there are a lot of people who still
>seem to think of lexical analysis as the central key to understanding an
>ancient text. And these discussions of "subtle distinctions" seem to go on
>Anyway, what about BLEPW and hORAW in MK 8:23-24? Is there any distinction
>here at all? I don't have an answer to this question but I am tempted to
>find a distinction. Is my temptation caused by decades of exposure to
>popular literature on the bible?

Admitting at the outset that I myself know nothing of the science of
lexical semantics and am therefore incompetent to offer the observation
that I'm about to offer, I don't think there's a whole lot of difference
here between BLEPW and hORAW, but I rather think there is some. BLEPW has
replaced hORAW as the normal word for "see" in Koine, although in classical
Attic BLEPW meant "look at" rather than "see." I have a notion that BLEPW
has more the sense "spy" or "catch sight of" and that here the more formal
and older hORAW implies discerning vision. But that's not really any more
than what the context suggests, is it? (My first reaction was that BLEPW is
the sermo vulgaris for "see" while hORAW is the more formal word used by
educated people--that may still be partly right, but that's a speculative


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

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