[b-greek] Re: On the meaning of OLIGOS, -H, -ON (Ex. Mat 9:37) (Slow Response)

From: Hirokatsu Yoshihara (hiro-likeluke@mbd.nifty.com)
Date: Wed Aug 15 2001 - 02:18:48 EDT

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Dear Clayton Stirling Bartholomew
Dear Maurice A. O'Sullivan
Dear Carl W. Conrad

I just want to say thank you to your responses and sorry for my
extremely slow response. I think the topic has already gone to the

# Clayton wrote:
| Just took a look at Louw & Nida to refresh my memory. As far as I can
| determine there is no negative connotation to this word. It is an adjective
| of comparison, like more and less, greater and fewer and so forth.
| The only way this could be given a negative slant is if someone were to buy
| into the great American myth that big is good and little is bad.

Thank you very much. I just wanted to know if there was a syntactic
devise to distinguish a positive meaning and a negetive meaning such as
"a little" and "little" in English or OLIGOS could mean either of them
without such. The American thing sounds funny.

# Maurice wrote:
| I'm not quite sure what you mean by "inherent" -- is there any such thing?
| To look at usage is quite another matter, and if you have access to the
| Theological Dictionary of the New Testament you will find :
| >>> OLIGOS means a. $BET(Bsmall,$B(B $BEG(Bfew,$B(B to denote a small number or group,
| opp. POLUS Infrequently it can also mean b. $BEM(Bittle$B(B to denote a small
| quantity, opp.
| Of more significance, is the comment on LXX usage -- which cannot, IMHO, be
| overemphasised in studying the NT -- is this entry:
| >>> In the LXX the concept of $BEM(Blittle$B(B takes on theological significance
| in certain recurrent trains of thought. Thus God can work much with few
| means, 1 Kg. 146; 2 Ch. 14:10, and so can the righteous with God's help.
| They are on God's side. What matters is not that they have little but
| that they know how to use it, Tob. 4:8; 12:8; Job 8:7; y 3616; Prv. 15:29a.<<<
| Also, have you noticed the MEN .... DE construction, beloved of classical
| Greek writers to strike that balance between 'many' and 'few' -- much less
| common in Koine?

Thank you very much. First of all, when I asked, "So, is the negative
meaning (or connotation at most) inherent to the Greek word?", I wanted
to know if OLIGOS included a negative meaning that could be expressed as
"there are few people" in contrast to "there are a few people" even if
the difference is not syntactically explicit. I understand that you,
with the other two members, explained that there was not such in the
word itself and that whether interpreting the word in a positive sense
or a negative sense is a matter of pragmatics.

Your comment on LXX usage is theologically interesting. Thank you for

As for MEN ... DE construction, I did not know that its use was
declining in Koine. I was rather thinking that it was increasing
because of the Koine's preference of explicity such as more usages of
unnecessary pronouns or analytic expressions. Thank you for pointing
that out.

# Carl wrote:
| That said, I think it really depends upon the context whether OLIGOS has a
| positive or negative connotation. Obviously it has a negative connotation
| when Matthew's Jesus is talking about the disciples as OLIGOPISTOI--where
| the OLIGO- root obviously means "insufficient" or "inadequate in measure."

Thank you very much. I am convinced. However, can we really say that the
root "OLIGO-" have a negative connotation such as
"insufficient/inadequate"? Or, is OLIGOPISTOS ("little+faith") interpreted
in a negative way with our common sense ("having much faith is good";
here Clayton's idea of American myth may cut in) or with Jesus' rebuking
or didactic words following such an adress?

I am sorry to bring up the old topic again. I just wanted to say thank
you all.

Hirokatsu Yoshihara (hiro-likeluke@mbd.nifty.com)
Asia Pacific Theological Seminary, Baguio City, Philippines
August 15, 2001 (Wed.) 14:24 +08:00

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