[B-Greek] LInguistic question on Luke 1:1

mark lama markosl80 at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 18 16:47:35 EDT 2003

Kenneth Litwak <javajedi2 at yahoo.com> wrote: I have a question for anyone on the list who has
training in linguistics. Based on current thinking in
linguistics, is there a resource I can go to that
would provide guidance in determining how a first
century reader/hearer would go about determining the
meaning of a word in its context if the word was
polyvalent? The specific word I am interested in is
PEPLHROFORHMENWN. I want to know if linguistics can
help in determining how someone, coming to LUKE 1:1
for the very first time, without later assumptions of
commentators, would go about determining from the
semantic domain of this word, what it means. 
What is the effect of this not being a particularly
common, and fairly formal word? I"m not interested in
anything but a linguistic perspective. I don't think
it is right to determine what this word means based on
some interpretation of the rest of Luke's Gospel since
the first audience has not gotten there yet. I'm
hoping there’s a good book or article out there that
talks about the process of determining the meaning of
a word from its semantic domain by a hearer/reader. 

Kenneth D. Litwak, Ph.D.
Affiliate Faculty
Professional Studies
Southwestern College
Wichiita, KS

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I am not a linguist myself, but I think one must say that those who prepare respected lexicons of the NT (such as the BDAG) are. If you look up a word (such as PLHROFOREW) in such a lexicon you will find information, not only on how the word is used in the NT and early Christian literature, which seems to me in most if not all cases to be perfectly relevant, if perhaps not always complete, information on how the word would have been used, and therefore perceived, by contemporary speakers, but also information on how it has been used historically in Greek literature, including literature of the time period of the NT documents themselves. Let's face it-- it is impossible for us to approach the NT in exactly the same way as someone in the first or second century would have, or even to determine exactly how they would have approached it. The only way we can determine if a word was polyvalent, as you say, is by examining all the extant texts that we have in which that word occurs, and
 noting the context in which it is used. This is the work that people who do NT lexicography do. My advice, then is to get acquainted, if you have not already, with a good lexicon, such as the BDAG, Spicq, or Kittel. 


Mark Lama

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