[B-Greek] RE: Trench's Synonyms

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Wed Feb 19 07:50:59 EST 2003

At 9:21 AM -0500 2/18/03, Mark Wilson wrote:
>>But I do not agree that BDAG should have the last word! That is very useful
>>lexicon and it has an important contribution to make, but it is not
>I hope the reason many have undertaken the study of Greek is so they do NOT
>have to rely on Trench, BDAG, etc. Using secondary sources, such as BDAG,
>should only be used as a pointer. Secondary sources inform us / point us to
>One reason I decided to learn Greek is so I would not be dependent on
>sources such as commentaries, lexicons, etc. What is the point of learning
>Greek if we are going to stop at lexicons? Is that learning Greek? Can we do
>any better than say, "Well, that's what BDAG says." (Like those who know no
>Greek and say, "Well, that's what this commentary says.")
>Bear in mind I have a long way to go myself, but that is the direction I am
>headed. Am I heading in the right direction?

After mulling this and responses to it for a day or so, I feel I need to
say my own say on the matter.

If you really think you are going to reach the point where you are no
longer "dependent on <re>sources such as commentaries, lexicons,etc.," I
can only say: "Lots of luck!" I've been working away at Greek for 52 years
now and I don't believe that I'll ever--in this life--feel that I can
dispense with major reference works in Greek. Different persons will have
different judgments about which reference works are most important, but I
have and use on a regular basis BDAG, LSJ, L&N, BDF, ATR's big grammar,
Smyth, and, to a considerably lesser extent, Wallace GGBB. I've never used
Trench, Moulton & Milligan, or some other resources that many deem very
valuable, but I cannot imagine serious work in ancient Greek texts without
access and utilization of these resources.

While I will readily agree that it is dangerous to suppose that any one of
these reference works is error-free or wholly free of a degree of
subjective judgment: I don't think we ever quite shake that bias, however
hard we try--we human creatures are prone to be ornery; nevertheless,
there's a considerable difference of degree between (a) utilizing carefully
a reference work compiled over carefully over the course of many years and
reliant upon both the knowledge and the wisdom of many generations of
students of Greek and (b) skimming a lexicon or grammar for a simple
single-word equivalent in the target language of a Greek word with an
immense range of usage.

References and grammars need to be studied, not simply consulted for a
"quickie" solution to a problem in a text one is reading. One of the
greatest abuses of a lexicon or grammar  is the skimming of headings for a
preposition like APO or META. The immeasurable worth of LSJ and BDAG (what
clearly demonstrates the relative{?} worthlessness of the Newman glossary
commonly bound with UBS4) is the plethora of texts cited in support of the
sense suggested for a Greek word: one who consults such a lexicon or
grammar is capable of exercising his or her own judgment on those texts and
validating or invalidating the lexicographer's or grammarian's work.
Serious students of Greek on this list have challenged a judgment regarding
a word or construction in BDAG, LSJ, L&N, or BDF, or even Smyth (whose
judgment has over the years seemed as close to impeccable as one can get),
but my judgment, for what it's worth, is that no serious student of Greek
can expect to declare independence from these resources. Let's draw a
distinction between idolizing them and utilizing them as indispensable

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at mcsinternet.net
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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