[B-Greek] MISEW in Lk 14:26

rhutchin at aol.com rhutchin at aol.com
Sat Oct 31 12:06:10 EDT 2009

As MISEW is the condition for becoming a disciple of Jesus,  it may be that a study of the word, MAQHTHS, would help to sort out the meaning of MISEW and then the proper translation.  If being a disciple meant that a person must always yield to the commands of the master over the desires of family, we might not be surprised at family members concluding that the disciple must certainly hate them but perhaps they only exaggerate.  Absent a knowledge of Hebrew culture, a knowledge of one's mother might be sufficient to determine what reaction the continual preference for the master over the mother might elicit even if she were not a Jewish mother. 

One problem with a translation such as "love less" is to determine what less means and now you are having to sort out the meaning of the translation and not the Greek.  This does not seem to be an issue of Greek grammar.

Roger Hutchinson

Date: Thu, 29 Oct 2009 07:29:57 -0400
From: Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
Subject: [B-Greek] Rhetorical exaggeration and Lexical information
    (was "MISEW in Lk 14:26")
To: Iver Larsen <iver_larsen at sil.org>
Cc: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org

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 entry. 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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