[B-Greek] "The lexicon is wrong!"

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Tue Sep 25 10:06:28 EDT 2007

On Sep 25, 2007, at 9:00 AM, frjsilver at optonline.net wrote:

> Dear Friends --
> Oh, my!  YES!  There are many outstanding examples of this problem  
> and I consistently stumble across new ones.
> The situation is exacerbated because (in my experience, although  
> I'm far from alone in this) 'mainstream scholarship' is often stuck  
> in first gear and on the whole exhibits the same liabilities as the  
> lexikons.  It's those of us outside that 'mainstream' who often  
> have a better handle on the text.
> Consider TRAPEZA in Acts 6.  Traditionally, it was thought that the  
> apostles were 'waiting tables' at the expense of their time and  
> energy which should have been devoted to preaching and teaching, so  
> they asked the Church to select seven deacons to take over the  
> menial work.
> It's true that some commentaries barely allow the possibility that  
> there might be a resonance of financial administration here, but  
> most completely miss the point.
> Guess what H EQNIKH TRAPEZA THS hELLADOS is?  No fair peeking, but  
> I'll give you a hint:  It's The National Bank of Greece!
> People who speak Greek get the meaning of Acts 6 right off the bat,  
> but the experts and scholars who don't speak the language are too  
> unconsciously comfortable in their dead lexikons to understand what  
> was going on.

I think there's a logical short-circuit here; one might just as well  
say that one who speaks (Modern) Greek may be all too unconsciously  
comfortable about understanding the usage of a modern Greek word to  
be the same as that of the ancient word so-spelled. It is not quite  
the case that those who speak Greek today speak NT Koine Greek.

> The apostles weren't waiting tables;  they were administering the  
> common fund, and being overwhelmed by that task to the point that  
> their preaching suffered.  And they weren't doling out the money  
> too efficiently either, hence the complaint of the Greek-speaking  
> Protochristians that theirwidows were getting short-changed while  
> the Aramaic-speaking community were apparently better served.
> Does anyone appreciate the significance of the fact that all seven  
> of the first deacons have Greek names?!

Or that the only work that Acts tells us of the seven actually doing  
is proclamation of the gospel to Greek-speaking audiences rather than  
EITHER waiting tables OR financial administration of ecclesiastical  

> They don't tell us that sort of thing in those lexikons!

Actually they do, if you use the right lexicons -- the ones that  
should be consulted for ancient Greek and NT usage:

	c. the table on which the money changers display their coins (Pla.,  
Ap. 17c; cp. PEleph 10, 2 [223/222 BC] the τραπεζῖται  
ἐν τοῖς ἱεροῖς TRAPEZITAI EN TOIS hIEROIS) Mt 21:12;  
Mk 11:15; J 2:15. Hence simply bank (Lysias, Isocr., Demosth. et al.;  
EpArist; Jos., Ant. 12, 28; ins; PEleph 27, 23; POxy 98 al. in pap.  
The Engl. ‘bank’ is the money-lender’s ‘bench’; s. OED s.v.  
bank sb.3) διδόναι τὸ ἀργύριον ἐπὶ  
τράπεζαν (DIDONAI TO ARGURION EPI TRAPEZAN) put the money in  
the bank to bear interest Lk 19:23.—Ac 6:2 may contain humorous  
wordplay, which mingles the idea of table service and accounting  
procedures: serve as accountants (on the banking terminology s.  
Field, Notes 113, referring to Plut., Caesar 721 [28, 4]; 739 [67,  
1], but w. discount of meal service as a referent. In addition to  
Field’s observations note the prob. wordplay relating to λόγος  
(LOGOS)[for its commercial nuance s. LOGOS 2a on the same verse; s.  
also Goodsp., Probs. 126f, w. reff. to pap]. For epigraphs s.  
RBogaert, Epigraphica III ’76 index).—B. 352 (meal); 483; 778  

II. money-changer's counter, ἐν ἀγορᾷ ἐπὶ τῶν τ.  
(EN AGORAi EPI TWN TRAPEZWN) Pl.Ap.17c, cf. Plu.2.70f; αἱ τ.  
τῶν κολλυβιστῶν (hAI TRAPEZAI TWN KOLLUBISTWN) Ev.Matt. 
21.12; most freq. bank, Lys 9.5, etc.; ἡ ἐργασία ἡ  
τῆς τ. (hH ERGASIA hH THS TRAPEZHS) the right to operate the  
bank, D.36.6; ἡ ἐγγύη ἡ ἐπὶ τὴν τ. (hH ENGGH hH  
EPI THN TRAPEZAN) security given to the bank, Id.33.10;  
δοῦναι ἀργύριον ἐπὶ τ. (DOUNAI ARGURION EPI THN  
TRAPEZAN) Ev.Luc.19.23; τὸ ἐπὶ τὴν τ. χρέως (TO EPI  
THN TRAPEZAN CREWS) D.33.24; οἱ ἐπὶ ταῖς τ. (hOI EPI  
TAIS TRAPEZAIS) bankers, Isoc.17.2; κατασκευάζεσθαι  
τράπεζαν (KATASKEUAZESQAI TRAPEZAN) set up a bank, Is.Fr.66;  
τῆς τ. ἀνασκευασθείσης (THS TRAPEZHS  
ANAKEUASQEISHS) the bank having been broken, D.33.9; δημοσία  
τ. (DHMOSIA TRAPEZA) public bank at Delos, IG22.2336.180 (i B. C.);  
in Egypt, POxy. 835 (Aug.), etc.; βασιλικὴ τ. in Egypt,  
PEleph.27.22 (iii B. C.), PTeb.27.70 (ii B. C.), etc.;  
χειριστὴς τῆς ἐν τῇ Πολέμωνος  
PEnteux.38.1 (iii B. C.); opp. ἰδιωτικὴ τ. (IDIWTIKH  
TRAPEZA) POxy.305 (i A. D.), etc.; κολλυβιστικαὶ τ.  
(KOLLUBISTIKAI TRAPEZAI) ib.1411.4 (iii A. D.).

> Do we want to go into 'Our Father"?  Maybe some other time....

Preferably some other time ...

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Jonathan Robie
> Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 8:37 am
> Subject: [B-Greek] "The lexicon is wrong!"
> To: B-Greek
>> I'm involved in a discussion that revolves around the meaning of
>> a few
>> Greek words, and some of the participants in the discussion (who
>> actually don't speak Greek) are claiming that a particular word
>> doesn'tmean what it says the lexicon says, but means something
>> significantlydifferent. I doubt that they are right, and none of
>> is is a
>> lexicographer, but this makes me wonder ...
>> Can you think of examples where the meaning of a New Testament  
>> passage
>> has changed in the eyes of mainstream scholarship because we
>> came to
>> realize that our earlier understanding of a Greek word was
>> wrong? Are
>> there recent examples, say, in the last 20-30 years? Are there major
>> changes in the meaning of some words between BADG and BDAG?
>> Jonathan
>> ---
>> B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
>> B-Greek mailing list
>> B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org
>> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-greek
> ---
> B-Greek home page: http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek
> B-Greek mailing list
> B-Greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-greek

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Ret)

More information about the B-Greek mailing list