[B-Greek] The Grrek Lexicon Is Wrong

Jeffrey B. Gibson jgibson000 at comcast.net
Tue Sep 25 23:09:09 EDT 2007

Dan Storm wrote:

> A few years ago I posted that EUTRAPELIA does not mean coarse jesting, but rather harmful witticism. It means something like a well-formed or witty turn of phrase, but one that is at the expense of another. See Ephesians 5.4.

Umm .. are you saying that the lexicons do not note the meaning you say the word bears?

If so, why is it then that we find the following in BDAG?

εὐτραπελία, ας, ἡ (Hippocr.+, mostly in a good sense: ‘wittiness’, ‘facetiousness’; so also Posidipp. Com. [III bc], fgm. 28, 5 K.; Diod. S. 15, 6, 5; Philo, Leg. ad Gai. 361; Jos., Ant. 12, 173; 214. Acc.
to Aristot., Eth. Nic. 2, 7, 13 it is the middle term betw. the extremes of buffoonery [βωμολοχία] and boorishness [ἀγροικία]; acc. to Aristot., Rhet. 2, 12 it is πεπαιδευμένη ὕβρις) in our
lit. only in a bad sense coarse jesting, buffoonery Eph 5:4. M-M.*

And why do we find   T.K Abbot (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians, p. 149) saying this?

     εὐτραπελία. Aristotle defines εὐτρ. as πεπαιδευμένη ὔβρις. οἱ ἐμμελῷ παίζοντεͅ εὐτράπελοι προσαγορεύονται. But he adds that, since most
     persons are pleased with excessive jesting, οἱ βωμολόχοι εὐτράπελοι προσαγορεύονται (Eth. Nic. 414), i.e., as in many other cases, the extreme usurps the name of the near. This
     would justify St. Paul’s usage, were there nothing else. But for the adjective compare also Pindar, Pyth. 1178, μὴ δολωθῇς εὐτραπέλοιͅκέρδεσσʼ and 4:104, where Jason boasts that he has
     never spoken ἒποͅ εὐτράπελον. According to Dissen, the word was used “cum levitatis et assentationis, simulationis notatione”; but this does not seem to be the meaning here, where the context clearly
     points to licentious speech; see ver. 5. Trench compares the history of the Latin “urbanitas” and the English “facetious.” He notes that in the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus, the old man who describes himself as
     “cavillator facetus” says: “Ephesi sum natus; non enim in Apulis, non Animulae.”

And why is it that E. Best ( A critical and exegetical commentary on Ephesians, p. 478)  has this to say?

     The final term, εὐτραπελία (the disjunctive ἤ before it marks it off as a distinct vice from the preceding; Ellicott), is unusual in that it was used in various ways (see P. W. van der Horst, ‘Is
     Wittiness Unchristian? A note on εὐτραπελία in Eph. v. 4’, Miscellanea Neotestamentica II (SupNT 48), Leiden, 1978. 163–77).
     The formation of the word suggests it should have a good sense and it often does; however as Van der Horst has shown it also had from the beginning ‘negative overtones nearly as often as positive ones’ (173). It has
     no necessary connection with speech and probably takes on this aspect from its present context and might be translated ‘suggestive language’ or ‘smutty talk’, perhaps including humour with double entendre; it
     indicates the type of humour to be found in a pornographic magazine. Its humour ‘is often also at someone else’s expense’. It could describe ‘the way of life of urbane high-society persons, the cultivated, no
     doubt well-to-do young men, who could afford the life of a gentleman’. It can therefore have a bad sense, probably associated with sex. To some extent the two sins of speech here spell out the more general reference
     of 4:29. The condemnation of sins of the tongue is a popular ethical theme (e.g. Ecclus 28:13ff; Jas 3:1ff)

And why do R. Bratcher and E.A. Nida  (A Handbook on Paul's letter to the Ephesians, p. 126) say this:

     The third Greek noun originally had a favorable meaning of “ready wit,” “pleasantry,” but it acquired a connotation of suggestive talk which employs euphemisms and double meanings. So Barth “ribald talk” NIV
     “coarse joking” TNT “suggestive language” Abbott “licentious speech.” So it means not just jokes as such (as RSV“levity” suggests) but dirty jokes.

So if I've read you correctly, it doesn't look like you've researched your claim very well or taken account of the context of Ephesians 5:4 and how it makes in determining which of the (Lexicon noted) meanings with which the word
was used it bears in Ephesians 5:4)

Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
Chicago, Illinois
e-mail jgibson000 at comcast.net

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