From: Wayne Leman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Sep 23 2000 - 00:21:47 EDT
Mark Wilson suggested:
> I would suppose that whenever a particular word or phrase can modify
> the clause before it or after it, and there is no conclusive evidence to
> eliminate one clause or the other, then we "must" preserve that ambiguity.
Mark, this is a reasonable approach from our viewpoint as exegetes *today*,
but from the viewpoint of typical language usage, and especially that in the
Bible, writers do not often intend ambiguity, *except* when they are punning
or otherwise playing with language. In the absence of clues by an author of
scripture that he is syntactically playing with us, it is almost always more
likely that there was no syntactic ambiguity intended. The ambiguity is only
*our* problem, because we can't go back and interview the author to know
which of the options he intended. But, we are often not left without any
hope of resolving *potential* syntactic ambiguity since careful study of the
context can often tilt us quite reasonably toward one option or the other.
> If the original writer left it ambiguous, I would think a good rule of
> would be to not remove "his" ambiguity. In fact, just the opposite: I
> highlight this ambiguity, since it is not the norm.
I agree, but this is a very big "IF". There appear to be very few cases of
intended ambiguity in scripture. This is not surprising because ambiguity in
serious literary would be confusing to a writer's audience, and few biblical
writers likely wanted to confuse.
There are *no* certainties in any of my claims in this message, but, rather,
a strong tilt of the odds from what we know about language usage around the
Again, if ambiguity is intended, there are typically some kinds of clues to
that, such as the twitch of the corner of my mouth that my children always
looked for when I tried to pull a linguistic play over on them.
> Now, in this case, I think we are not confused as to whether or not AGAPH
> was involved in BOTH our being presented as blameless AND our adoption.
> If my suggested rule above is not objectionable, I would relate this
> prepositional phrase, EN AGAPHi, to BOTH clauses surrounding it.
This is theologically reasonable, but not as likely syntactically. We still
need to go back to authorial intention, IMO, and it seems likely in this
passage that ambiguity was not originally intended. Oh, if we only could go
back far enuf in time to interview the authors!!
> Absent of any conclusive grammatical rule that eliminates either clause, I
> would think we are compelled to relate EN AGAPHi to BOTH, and unashamedly
> might add.
I don't think so, Mark, respectfully.
> For some reason, I think our tendency is to "clear things up a bit." I
> personally have not looked too intently into this, but I would assume that
> it would not be too difficult to determine whether or not "conclusive"
> evidence can be produced.
This has been a tough one for exegetes for nearly 2000 years.
> And, I would even venture to say that with the available computer aids
> today, we should be able to demonstrate quite easily whether this phrase
> in fact ambiguous.
No, the computer aids aren't smart enough yet to help us this way. They
can't yet think like the human mind thinks and verbalizes those thoughts
into words to share with others.
And, yes, I do use my computer all the time in my Bible translation work. We
have wonderful computer aids, but computers are still limited.
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