[B-Greek] BDAG on TI ZHTEITE

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Fri Oct 2 13:31:59 EDT 2009


On Oct 2, 2009, at 12:15 PM, Daniel, Robert S wrote:

> I looked up ZHTEW in BDAG to find what meaning it assigns to the  
> usage in John 1:38. They list this usage under the third meaning,  
> which has to do with desire and wishes, and specifically say that  
> here it means "What do you want?"

Text: John 1:38 στραφεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ  
θεασάμενος αὐτοὺς ἀκολουθοῦντας  
λέγει αὐτοῖς· τί ζητεῖτε; οἱ δὲ  
εἶπαν αὐτῷ· ῥαββί, ὃ λέγεται  
μεθερμηνευόμενον διδάσκαλε, ποῦ  
μένεις;  [John 1:38 STRAFEIS DE hO IHSOUS KAI QEASAMENOS AUTOUS  
AKOLOUQOUNTAS LEGEI AUTOIS· TI ZHTEITE; hOI DE EIPAN AUTWi· hRABBI,  
hO LEGETAI MEQERMHNEUOMENON DIDASKALE, POU MENEIS; ]

Perhaps this is a matter of interpretation, but in John's gospel, I  
would understand the question "TI ZHTEITE?" in the broadest possible  
sense, "What is it that you are really looking for?" -- just as I  
would understand the question "POU MENEIS?" in the broadest possible  
sense, "What is your 'abode'?" Verbs and nouns in John's gospel have a  
tendency to point beyond any concrete temporal-spatial reference  
toward spiritual realities and possibilities.

> They also mention "TI ZHTEIS" in Gen. 37:15 as a species of this  
> usage. Especially in the Gen 37:15 usage, it seems that the question  
> clearly has to do with the attempt to determine the geographical  
> location of something, in this case Joseph's brothers, and not with  
> Joseph's wishes or desires. I think it was the first meaning given  
> for ZHTEW that has to do with determining the location of something  
> in space (sorry, I don't have my copy of BDAG at hand at the  
> moment), so listing TI + ZHTEW under the third meaning seems to  
> exclude this sense.

BDAG has "c. w. interrog. pron. τί ζητεῖτε; [TI ZHTEITE?]  
(cp. Gen 37:15) what do you want?"

I wouldn't fault BDAG on this either. A stranger roaming around  
gawking in every direction may well elicit from one who accosts him  
the broad question, "What is it you're after in these parts, mister?"  
i.e. "What is it that you're really looking for?"

> So there seems to me to be a disconnect here. Can someone explain  
> why BDAG chose to assign this particular meaning to "TI ZHTEITE"? Am  
> I perhaps not understanding the BDAG entry correctly, or is the BDAG  
> entry wrong, or something in between?
>
> Originally this question came up because I was trying to find out  
> why the NIV translates Jesus' question in John 1:38 as "What do you  
> want?" whereas the NRSV has it "What do you seek?" Seeking seems to  
> carry the sense of determining the spatial location of some object  
> or person (e.g. Jesus' temporary residence), whereas wanting does  
> not. Of course this is a translation question, so off bounds to the  
> list, but I believe the question of meaning is not off bounds, so  
> please take my question as a question of meaning and of what might  
> lie behind BDAG's choice of what meaning to assign to this usage.

There's room for disagreement here, but I do think that interpreters  
and translators of John's gospel probably tend to view questions such  
as, "What are you looking for?" as potentially open-ended, suggesting  
something more than a concrete specific answer.


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






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