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

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Jul 22 07:58:42 EDT 2003

At 11:29 PM -0500 7/21/03, kent lee wrote:
>    Now I'd like to address the original question that started this
>discussion thread, which was a valid linguistic question. I'm trained as a
>linguist and psycholinguist, not a Greek scholar.

Quite frankly, although I've dealt with ancient Greek for just over a
half-century, I really don't know what a Greek scholar is, although I know
very well that I am not a professional linguist. Nevertheless, I have
reacted to the discussion of Ken's question about PLHROFOREW in Lk 1:1 with
both fascination and frustration, fascination with the promise of a new and
exciting methodology for probing the meanings of words in texts with which
we are well acquainted in the Greek but in which we continue to find oodles
of problems in ascertaining precise senses in which the words are being
used by first-century writers and speakers of Greek, and frustration with
the recurrent expositions of methodologies that might be used--usually with
the implication that considerably greater precision would be attained by
using such methodologies than has been attained or can be attained by the
methodologies employed by the lexicographers whose works are currently
absolutely essential tools for the serious reader of the Greek NT.

So while I can't give a
>direct answer, I can discuss some of the questions that a linguist would
>ask (and all this would make for a good linguistics paper or article if
>anyone cared to research it). (And if any of the questions seem invalid,
>bear with me, since my Greek is limited). ...  In fact, most or all
>interpretation of words in their context involves some degree of
>inferencing, ... How do specific types of implicature work with this word
>in this context to derive a meaningful interpretation?
>   You'd want to ask about the contexts in which the word is normally used
>and the contextual associations that are evoked in the process of
>inferencing and interpretation here.  And the associations and connections
>that a Jewish person makes might be different from a non-Jewish person,
>which might be of interest.
>   Going a bit further, how "literally" is the word used? ...  More
>specifically, you can look at not only the  usage of PLHRO-FOREW,
>but how the meanings of its component parts contribute to the meaning of
>the whole compound verb, and what kind of idiomatic and semantic
>extensions are involved in this. Using these techniques, you can do your
>own historical semantic investigation (assuming you do plenty of
>lexicographic, textual, and linguistic research) to arrive at the core
>meanings of the verb and its component parts, how secondary meanings were
>derived via pragmatic or idiomatic extension, and how the relevant
>meanings come out in this context as they interact with pragmatics and
>sociolinguistic factors. ... Well, this is just a brief outline of some
>ways you could go about this. Hope this helps, not overwhelms.

I have just perused the materials available to myself in the Accordance
program: all texts in the GNT in which the verb PLHROFOREW is used, the
complete entry for the verb in BDAG, the four accounts of Louw & Nida of
the verb as used in the GNT in different contexts according to semantic
domain, and Ceslas Spicq's Theological Lexicon of the NT--this last a
rather thorough examination of usage of the word in secular, LXX and NT
literature. While I had thought it might be useful to put all of this into
a message to the list, I realized that I had five pages of material with a
considerable abundance of it cited in Greek, and that this would be
unwieldy and overly long--and many would not really be sufficiently
interested in pursuing it. For those who may be so interested,however, I
have compiled those items into a PDF file which retains all the Greek texts
in imbedded fonts; I have uploaded this to my primary web-site where it may
be accessed at:


If that doesn't work because the file name is truncated, simply go to the
index of PDF files at http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/Docs/ and click on the
file in question.

I suspect that someday we may have access to better tools that will be made
available to us by those who may reasonably claim to be both professional
linguists and authentic Greek scholars, but until that day, we are not
altogether helpless.

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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