Why do etymology at all?

James S. Murray jsmurray at execpc.com
Wed Jul 28 23:12:50 EDT 1999

"Jeffrey B. Gibson" wrote:

> I wonder whether--if for no other reason than to beat the Summer heat, but also as a
> useful exercise in further illustration of the point Carl and David have been trying
> to make--other B-Greeks might send in to the List other examples of words used in the
> NT or other Hellenistic Literature whose meanings no longer (i.e., by the first
> century CE) bear any resemblance to what they "originally" meant or what a literal
> and wooden understanding of their etymology suggests they "should" mean?

I wonder if SPERMOLOGOS, translated in Acts 17:18 as "Babbler", might be an example.
Literally, it means "picking up seeds", referring to birds.  Non literally, it means one
who makes a living picking up scraps, a gossip.  Maybe one of the classical scholars on
the list knows if the meaning changed over time, or if it had this range of meanings
throughout  the Classical and Hellenistic periods.  I had to chuckle, though, when I
considered the Athenians commenting on Paul's eating habits.  I understand birds eat a
multiple of their weight in food each day (but this was after he was let down in a
basket).  Maybe it's getting too hot here.


Jim Murray
Racine, WI

More information about the B-Greek mailing list