[B-Greek] Re: Semantic Domain of SARX
nebarry at verizon.net
Fri Dec 3 19:31:52 EST 2004
Kenneth, thanks for your response. A few comments:
> That words like "lnclination" or SARK have different,
> varying, meanings, is not at issue. I concur with
> that obvious observation. I would raise, however, the
> 1. Should we assume that a NT writer is going to use
> a word in a totally novel sense from what any of
> his/her contemporaries might expect for the word?
> While that is possible, it is implicitly unlikely, if
> the author hopes to communicate. So, should a lexicon
> assume that NT authors go around doing the former
> regularly? I don't think so.
I both agree and disagree with your observation here ("Go not to the elves for
wisdom..."). To answer directly, I think this can only be determined on a case
by case, usage by usage analysis of each lexical item. By analogy, we might
think of some of the ways authors in our own language use terminology. There
are times when a writer uses a term in an extended sense in which other authors
may not. The term becomes nuanced by the writer, and context clearly indicates
For example, let's say that I'm writing a work of science fiction, in which I
have certain characters who pilot remote control spy planes (oops, that's not
science fiction anymore!), and I decide to call those individuals "drivers."
Now, if we ask the typical American on the street of your average town what a
driver is, the first thing he'll likely say is that it's the guy behind th wheel
of a motor vehicle (unless he's a real computer geek, whence he'll start
spouting something about compatibility issues). In the context of the book, the
term makes sense, and it is fairly easy connection, since what the remote
operator does is control the spy plane in a way analogous to someone driving a
car. However, the usage is still extended, but it is completely understandable
in the context of my hi-sci-fi-tech thriller that's gonna make me million bucks
when I get around to writing it.
Now, do you see what I'm (ahem) driving at? Maybe nobody else in the world uses
"driver" in quite that same sense, but native speakers of the language have no
problem understanding the usage. However, just maybe others will pick up on it
and use it, and it will become standard in the language. If so, then an
additional entry under "driver" in the lexicon will be necessary.
I think Paul's use of SARX is the former dynamic operating. He certainly means
SARX, but he means it in an extended sense that is perfectly understandable if
you follow the flow of his discourse. Does that mean he always uses it in that
extended sense? Well, not necessarily, anymore than if I mention "the driver of
the car" in my novel I am thinking of the extended sense "remote operator of a
spy plane." Spy vs. Spy!
> 2. Must SARX mean "sinful nature" anywhere in Paul's
> writings? I would have said yes before, but Walt
> Russell's essay in _Christian Perspectives on Being
> Human_ has me convinced that this is an invalid
Again, it must be determined case by case.
> 3. More to the point, however, since this
> understanding of Paul's use of SARX is up for debate,
> it is difficult to justify telling lexicon users that
> SARX="sinful nature." I had, regrettably, a prof in
> college explain that the word APOSTASIA in 2
> Thessalonians 2, because it literally means "from
> standing," that Paul's statement there is a reference
> to the Rapture. Should BDAG list "Rapture" as a
> meaning for APOSTASIA? That's no different from
> "sinful nature" for SARX: it is the interpretation of
> some authors, not something evidenced elsewhere as an
> establsihed part of the word's semantic domain.
Your regrettable professor was guilty of the etymological fallacy, and I would
say that your professor's misunderstanding is hardly parallel to Paul's
consistent usage of the word SARX. However, you highlight the danger of
"dynamic equivalence" (or whatever the acceptable term is these days). Whenever
possible, I think it is better to translate consistently by the same term and
let context do the rest. If we translate SARX consistently as flesh, then
"flesh" does in English what Paul had SARX doing in Greek: a word taking on an
extended usage defined by context.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Adjunct Faculty, The Center for Urban Theological Studies
Adjunct Faculty, Reformed Theological Seminary
Opinions expressed by author of this message do not necessarily reflect the
opinions of the institutions listed above...
More information about the B-Greek