[b-greek] Abraham or Sara?

From: Steven Craig Miller (scmiller@plantnet.com)
Date: Thu Dec 07 2000 - 08:06:42 EST

To: Iver Larsen,

<< One comment about what this phrase "literally means". The noun KATABOLH
occurs 11 times in the NT, 10 of which are followed by KOSMOU. These ten
refer to the creation/foundation/beginning of the world. It is therefore
reasonable to suggest that the primary meaning of the noun is
foundation/creation/beginning. >>

One must not forget that Greek was a living language in the 1st century CE.
And that most Greek words (like most words in any other language) will have
a range of meanings associated with them. Furthermore, the "primary"
meaning of a Greek word can never be determined simply by NT usage. In
addition, while "foundation" could be considered a "literal meaning" of
this word, "creation" and "beginning" cannot. They are rather figurative
extensions of the literal meaning. Instead of arguing for this word's
"primary" meaning (whatever that might be), I would suggest trying to argue
that "foundation" is a "common" meaning for this word (which it is). In
fact, the argument might even be made that "foundation," and its metaphoric
senses, are a much more "common" use for KATABOLH than the meaning "sowing"
of sperm in the act of begetting (at least that is my sense of it from
reading LSJM and BDAG -- not that one can always tell these things simply
by reading a lexicon).

BDAG offers two possibilities for this passage. First DUNAMIN EIS KATABOLHN
SPERMATOS ELABEN could mean "she received the ability to establish a
posterity" or else our Greek text probably is in error since if KATABOLH is
used to mean "sowing" of seed used in begetting, this expression could not
be used of Sarah.

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)

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