Etymology of QEOS (WARNING!WARNING!large off-topic digressio

Hultberg, Alan alan_hultberg at
Fri Oct 16 20:41:37 EDT 1998

Amen and Amen!

>Also, in my opinion, the 
>general diachronic scheme needs to include citations fairly close 
>chronologically to the NT use to be of much certainty.

I would add, "fairly close socially" as well.  It must be demonstrable, or at last reasonably assumed, that a NT author would know of a specialized use of a term in another social group (or even type of literature, say, medical writers) before positing such a connection as meaningful to the NT.


>From: Jon Robertson on Fri, Oct 16, 1998 4:34 PM
>Subject: Re: Etymology of QEOS (WARNING!WARNING!large off-topic digressio
>To: Biblical Greek
>Dear list,
>Because it was my fault that Stephen Charnock's name was brought up 
>on the list, I feel I cannot leave his image too "tarnished".  I will 
>mention a word on his behalf (and say nothing else about him).  Also, 
>I would like to mention a few thoughts of my own about etymological 
>study (about which I was not asking in the original message, but seem 
>to have elicited some thoughts).
> Just to defend Charnock a little (but not too much), one needs to 
>remember 1) that he worked on this in the 1670's and 2) that the 
>manuscripts were prepared by others for publication after his death. 
> The form QEISQAI could very well be a typo made by someone else with 
>little or no knowledge of greek. Charnock really did know his way 
>around classical as well as biblical greek, and so this is an error 
>that it is hard to believe he would have committed.  Back to number 
>1, we cannot be too quick to anachronistically judge the work of 
>another era by our own standards, even when our standards are most 
>likely true, as I believe them to be in this case.  I agree with the 
>opinion of Dr. Conrad concerning the danger of etymological 
>"meanings" and I can also agree that any "essential meaning" for the 
>term QEOS cannot be derived from this pseudo-etymology (hence, I was 
>only asking about the etymology, not the method for arriving at 
>meaning).  However, I do not believe I can then imply that he was a 
>"bad scholar."  He was working with the state of the science as it 
>then existed, there was no other option, of course.  He, as was very 
>common at the time, thought that one could often arrive at the 
>"essential" idea of a word through etymology.  This, I think, is 
>demonstrably wrong, but one can merely note the error, without 
>necessarily casting aspersions on his scholarship, which has to be 
>seen in its historical context.  I need to say that this argument 
>(which Charnock mentions in passing) really does not reflect on his 
>work and could be excised (it represents a line and a half out of 
>over 1100 pages) without altering at all the rest.  So much for 
>the apologia.
>	On the interesting side issue of etymological studies 
>in general for arriving at meaning for NT passages (and, mercifully, 
>bringing this topic a little closer to appropriateness for the list), 
>I too believe there is real danger, even, I think, when the 
>etymological connections are more sure than that of Charnock's 
>fancies.  Diachronic studies (which emphasize the meaning of a word 
>"through time" i.e. its meaning at different periods of history) in 
>particular are susceptible to distortion as can be seen easily in any 
>commentary by Barclay (who had, by the way, much less excuse than 
>Charnock).  It is all too common to hear, "the word Paul uses here, 
>(fill in the blank), was used by Aristotle and means (fill in 
>another)".  Easier to say that than to prove any real connection 
>between the two. A good example of this in English is when someone 
>chastises me for saying "gee" because it supposedly is somehow 
>related to the name "Jesus".  Whether or not it ever was related, it 
>certainly does not mean that for me when I say it.  This piece of 
>"etymology" (surely spurious anyway) has nothing to do with my 
>meaning.  In the same way, it must be shown that an historical usage 
>of a term has something to do with the NT usage, or it is simply not 
>to the point.   It seems to me that diachronic word studies are 
>mainly helpful when we can demonstrate the process of change of 
>meaning  of a certain word over time and then fit the NT use into the 
>general scheme that we've been able to work out.  This requires more 
>than a few quotes and also requires citations from before as well as 
>after the NT use to really be of any help.  Also, in my opinion, the 
>general diachronic scheme needs to include citations fairly close 
>chronologically to the NT use to be of much certainty. This then 
>would give us an idea of where the NT use fits in the "conceptual 
>framework". Obviously, a term such as QEOS would be difficult to 
>assess. These are simply factors that I think we all need to keep in 
>mind as we delve into the murky waters of etymological studies.  
>(And, PLEASE don't preach that DUNAMIS is where we get the word 
>dynamite!!  I doubt that Paul or Jesus cared!)  While synchronic 
>studies (which emphasize word meaning "with time" i.e. uses more or 
>less contemporaneous) seem to me a little safer, I also think care 
>should be taken, more in terms of geographical (rather than temporal) 
>distance, especially in the Hellenistic world.  Well, there!  Maybe 
>this will get us off the topic of southern english! ; )  So, what do 
>y'all think? (Obviously plural in this case.)
>Jon Robertson
>jmrober at
>B-Greek home page:
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