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

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sun Jul 20 12:06:16 EDT 2003

On Sunday Jul 20 08:32:37 EDT 2003 Bill Starkey wrote:
>I have a question for the responders to Dr. Litwak's question.
>For those who answered with the "lexicon" approach, how does a
>lexicographer understand or describe "happen" other than documenting all
>the forms and uses of the word "happen."
>Does it not fall upon the linguist to determine reading, hearing and
>An objective Greek lexicographer as he catalogues his words can only say
>"ah, this is pass participle, it's genative."
>The objective linguist says "ok, what did the first hearer/reader hear and
>understand when a pass.part.gen was used?"
>Hope I am not being too simplistic but maybe the discussion is crossing
>"sacred territory."

It's not that this is "sacred territory" and it certainly does not lie
outside the parameters of legitimate discussion on B-Greek, but it does
seem to me that there is a curious and questionable assumption here that an
"objective lexicographer" is nothing more than an accurate parser of
word-forms, while an "objective linguist." I would question the notion that
any lexicographer worth his or her salt is something other than a linguist
of high caliber. I would avoid using the word "objective" because it seems
to imply that personal judgment based upon learning and experience doesn't
play a major role in cataloging and analyzing the range of usage of words
within the extant literary corpus of a given period of time in a language's
history. Certainly it does--and scholars are entitled to question the
lexicographer's judgment regarding any entry where the evidence cited is
either lacking or inadequate to verify or validate to one's own
satisfaction that judgment. But what differentiates a trustworthy
lexicographer from one who is not lies in the range of evidence cited for
that judgment, both in terms of indication of dates and authors cited and
in terms of relevant discussions of the word in question in scholarly
literature. That is to say, the trustworthy lexicographer is one who
provides the basis for critiquing his own judgment. There have been a
number of reviews of the still relatively-new Danker lexicon that we cite
now as BDAG; different questions have been raised about particular items in
each of these reviews, but nothing I have seen thus far has hinted at
reasons why it would be preferable to use the older BGAD in preference to
it. No reference work compiled by any scholar is exhaustively complete and
not subject to revision in the light of new evidence, but I submit that
"documenting all the forms and uses of the word GINOMAI in the New
Testament and Early Christian Literature" involves considerably more than
parsing grammatical forms correctly.

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

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