[B-Greek] Synonym study

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Tue Oct 13 09:28:20 EDT 2009

On Tue, Oct 13, 2009 at 2:35 PM, Iver Larsen <iver_larsen at sil.org> wrote:
>> shalom Iver,
>> On Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 6:02 PM, Iver Larsen <iver_larsen at sil.org> wrote:
>>>> Iver egrapse
>>>>> As I studied the occurrences in the GNT where MIMNHSKOMAI occurs 23
>>>>> times
>>>>> (0 in
>>>> LXX) and MNHMONEUW occurs 21 times (26 in the LXX), I suggest that there
>>>> is a
>>>> slight difference. Whether that holds up to closer scrutiny, I don't
>>>> know,
>>>> but
>>>> it is worth looking into.>
>>>>> MNHMONEUW is basically, I think, "keep in mind" or "retain in memory"
>>>>> (you'll
>>>> find these glosses in BAGD). The idea is that you should not forget what
>>>> you
>>>> already know. (I remember the good old days.)>
>>>>> MIMNHSKOMAI is basically "come to mind, realize". The Middle/Passive
>>>>> forms
>>>> correspond somewhat to English "it occurred to me". Some event or
>>>> thought
>>>> made
>>>> me realize something. If an imperative is used it is "put to mind, think
>>>> about
>>>> it." (When I had closed the car door, I remembered that I had left the
>>>> keys
>>>> inside.)>
>>>> When looking at words with different lemma in a dictionary one must be
>>>> careful to
>>>> see how they pattern in usage of the language. There are many verbs
>>>> that function
>>>> as 'suppletives' or "near suppletives". For example, most NT students
>>>> link BLEPEIN
>>>> to IDEIN 'see', though in older Greek it is more common to link ORAN
>>>> to IDEIN. Both
>>>> linkages are 'suppletives', pieces of older words that recombine to
>>>> form newer verbs.
>>>> MNHMONEYEIN and MNHSQHNAI are two such words that are near suppletives
>>>> in
>>>> Koine.
>>>> Your statistics on the verbs above could mention that MNHSQHNAI is
>>>> 21/23 (aorist
>>>> and PARAKEIMENH),
>>>> while MNHMONEYEIN is 19/21 (present/PARATATIKH).
>>> If one ONLY occurred in the aorist and the other ONLY occurred in the
>>> present, I would happily buy your thesis of suppletives.
>> Hmmm?!
>> So BLEPEIN wouldn't be a suppletive with IDEIN because BLEPSAI occurs?
>> Or would you teach a student to say ORW TO DENDRON?
>> I find ORAN somewhat restricted in KOINH and use BLEPEIN as plain vanilla
>> 'see'.
> Well, I think the issue is too complex and language too fluid to make
> comparisons like that.

Well, "nothing" is not an option. The words exist and comparison must be
made. See below.

> I don't teach Greek, but am only a student, but when it comes to the
> imperatives, it is interesting that we find both the normal IDE for the
> aorist imperative and the unusual BLEPSON in Act 3:4. Is there a semantic
> disctintion that is going out of use? IDEIN is as far as I know only used in
> the aorist (341 times in the NT). There are two aorists of BLEPEIN in the NT
> (Act 3:4 and Rev 22:8) out of a total of 132. Here the statistics are so
> overwhelming that I doubt there is any semantic difference at all between
> the two verbs.
> Concerning the present imperatives hORA(TE) and BLEPE(TE), both are used in
> the NT with hORAN accounting for 13 and BLEPEIN for 28. I would think that
> some semantic difference might still be felt when you have such a choice.


> is difficult to know whether these are exact synonyms or very near synonyms,
> but generally speaking, exact synonyms are rare.

WE are actually agreed here. I said that I see ORAN as restricted. It tends to
be used in warnings ("watch out") and not in literal, physical contexts like
'look at that tree over there'. That restriction was apparently a result of the
development of the spread and growing use of BLEPEIN in the KOINH.

Having said this, it is also significant that most lexicographers of Attic
and Homer tend to link ORAN with IDEIN, something that we agree does not
really fit the NT or KOINH. So this is a development or change.

> Why two synonyms as imperatives? Is it simple repetition or is there a
> different nuance? Like be on guard, take care?
>> Many things in language allow newer configurations to occur along
>> with older forms and usages. So there should be room for inconsistencies
>> or usage that is outside the common pattern.
> Yes, I am aware of language shifts and a time when two forms overlap without
> any distinguishable meaning difference. When that is the case, and when
> there is still some meaning difference, I find difficult to judge, not being
> a native speaker of Koine Greek.
>>> I accept that the subtle distinction in meaning may not be maintained in
>>> the
>>> portions of the GNT most influenced by Hebrew, such as Revelation and
>>> Luke
>>> 1. As I mentioned only one of the words appear in the LXX.
>> In principle I would agree that one always wants to look for differences
>> when
>> the morphology is different. But there is a lot of collapsing and
>> overlap in the Greek system.
>> Sometimes there is more than people are aware of in Hebrew, too.
>> Like when niggashti 'I came' (nif`al past) forms a pair with eggash 'I
>> will
>> come' (qal future). I've heard people try to "exegete" the difference, but
>> the
>> difference is just tense (TAM), not semantic vocab/binyan.
>> I don't think that MNHSQHNAI and MNHMONEYEIN relate to either Hebraisms
>> or Aramaisms, it's a Greek phenomenon. MNHSQHTI KAI MEMNHSO TOYTO.
>> That distinction doesn't exist in Hebrew. It's Greek.
>> For  MNHMONEYE in Mishnaic Hebrew we do have "hve zoxer", and the
>> above could all be "zxor".
> Would that not explain the total absence of MNHSQHNAI in the LXX? The
> difference is a Greek phenomenon not found in the LXX because it is not
> found in Hebrew?

I didn't follow your comment or data.
Actually, MNHSQHNAI (aorist) is used about 185 times in the LXX
MEMNHSQAI (perfect) 10 xx in LXX, and
MIMNHSKESQAI (present system) 7xx (and never in imperfect).

Against this,
MNHMONEYSAI (aorist) is used once in the LXX (2Sam14:11, where an
active sense is invoked)
EMNHMONEYKENAI (perfect) is used zero 0 in LXX, and
MNHMONEYEIN (present+imperfect system)  19 in LXX


Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

More information about the B-Greek mailing list