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

kent lee k-lee7 at students.uiuc.edu
Mon Jul 21 15:55:27 EDT 2003

   I find some of this recent discussion odd, namely, the a priori
dismissal of the relevance of current linguistics to matters of biblical
interpretation. Lexicography is a sort of applied linguistics, and the
information that it can provide on word meanings is probably sufficient
for many students of biblical Greek or biblical scholars. However, its
domain is more restricted to denotational meaning in literary contexts,
and some scholars have questions that go beyond what lexicons can provide.
In such cases, it is necessary to turn to other relevant fields for
methods that can help answer those questions.  Such is the case here, and
we can't dismiss a priori other relevant paradigms that can help us.
   For a case like this, this is a valid area of linguistic inquiry, where
semantics, pragmatics, and discourse analysis can be helpful to understand
how the original audience might have understood the meaning of a biblical
text or a particular word, based on the interaction of semantics and
context, i.e., pragmatics, and how these interacted with genre and
reader/listener expectations in shaping interpretation (pragmatics and
discourse analysis).
   For semantics, the functional/cognitive approaches to semantics would
be more practical for biblical scholars. For this, works by John Taylor
(_Linguistic categorization) or Cliff Goddard (_Semantic analysis: a
practical introduction_) would be a good, easily accessible introduction,
especially Goddard, who also discusses pragmatics. M.M. Turner & Peter
Cotterell (_Linguistics and interpretation_, InterVarsity Press, 1988)
discuss pragmatics and biblical interpretation. For more theoretical
pragmatics, a good but sometimes more difficult reading is G. Green's
_Pragmatics and natural language understanding_.
   These linguistic paradigms can be very useful to biblical scholars and
language scholars, and can provide well grounded methodologies that can be
brought to bear on interpretive questions, and can help us avoid the
linguistic abuses of two dangerous extremes, of excessive literalism or
unbridled deconstructionism.

kent lee

"Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body;
now here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his
commandments, for this is the whole duty of humanity."  -- Ecclesiastes

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