[B-Greek] Rhetorical exaggeration and Lexical information (was "MISEW in Lk 14:26")

Donald R. Vance, Ph.D. donaldrvance at mac.com
Thu Oct 29 10:26:47 EDT 2009

BTW, this is one of my major complaints with the Hebrew Aramaic  
Lexicon of the Old Testament, the now standard lexicon of Hebrew and  
Aramaic as found in the Old Testament. They constantly list figures of  
speech as glosses for entries without noting that it is, in fact, a  
metaphorical expansion of the meaning of the word. It doesn't help  
that it is a translation into English of an original German work,  
especially since they chose British English as the target language.

Donald R. Vance, Ph.D.
Professor of Biblical Languages and Literature
Oral Roberts University
dvance at oru.edu
donaldrvance at mac.com

On Oct 29, 2009, at 6:29 AM, Carl Conrad wrote:

> On Oct 29, 2009, at 12:56 AM, Iver Larsen wrote:
>> ... what a word "means" is a rather complex
>> notion.
>> And you are quite right that what we are dealing with in Lk 14:26
>> and many other
>> places is a figure of speech, hyperbole (exaggeration). This is very
>> common in
>> Hebrew culture and language together with the tendency to speak in
>> extremes for
>> rhetorical effect. So, an expression like "hate x and love y" taken
>> as an idiom
>> means to put higher priority on y than x or something like that.
>> Similarly "all"
>> and "none" are often to be understood as intended to "mean" "many"
>> and "few".
>> If some dictionaries include "love less" as a "sense" for the word,
>> it must be
>> because they are trying to assist the user in how this might be
>> translated when
>> used in a literal rendering from Hebrew. They are putting into the
>> lexical item
>> what does not properly belong there, but is part of the linguistic
>> and cultural
>> context.
>> How one translates MISEW in Lk 14:26 depends on what one demands of
>> the reader.
>> If the reader knows Hebrew culture and understands that it is meant
>> as a
>> hyperbole, a literal rendering is adequate, but if the reader does
>> not have such
>> a background, a literal rendering is likely to be misunderstood.
> Rhetorical exaggeration is, of course, exactly what we have here, but
> I hardly think that rhetorical exaggeration is something unique to
> Hebrew culture. It's common enough in English, certainly, and probably
> common in most languages.
> Apart from that I think that Iver has fingered a genuine and common
> problem in lexicography, one that reflects the worst of our
> pedagogical practices: the accursed quest for "le mot juste" -- a
> gloss that will fit perfectly into the "translation" that the student/
> reader conceives as the goal of his endeavors in reading or working
> through a Greek text. One must produce an "accurate version" of the
> Greek in one's target language. While I think the lexicographer
> certainly ought to indicate common exaggerated usage and even to note
> egregious instances of it within the literary corpus represented, such
> differentiations should be clearly indicated in the lexical enry. But
> beyond that, students really ought to be advised and urged to study
> the lexical entries rather than to scan them for a gloss that "works"
> in the passage that took them to the lexicon in the first place.
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
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