[B-Greek] referential complexity: frames & scenarios and Galatians 6:18

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Tue Apr 27 06:38:03 EDT 2010


On Apr 26, 2010, at 4:34 PM, Elizabeth Kline wrote:
> 
> On Apr 26, 2010, at 12:10 PM, Carl Conrad wrote:
> 
>> I personally would
>> agree with Yancy's view that a serious student of the Bible who
>> cannot read Greek would do best to read several different versions
>> rather than any single one. Like it or not, those who DO read Greek
>> with some competence are hardly of one mind about what any
>> particular Biblical Greek text must mean. Nor are they of one
>> mind about which is/are the better translation(s). One who does not have
>> any competence in Biblical Greek will have to discern for herself
>> which supposedly-competent "expert" she chooses to trust. I would
>> want to do my own picking and choosing, but I don't think I would
>> lay the burden trustworthiness all on any single so-called "expert."
> 
> 
> Ok, I'm going to break my promise and post again on this. In the English speaking world where there are versions of the bible for every peculiarity of personal taste and sub-culture, reading multiple versions will go some of the distance for nullify the built in problems with "meaning based translation". 
> 
> Textual meaning is indeterminate (K. Vanhoozer). A text only comes to mean something in a particular social cultural religious framework at particular place and time for members of a community of shared meaning. This is one of the implications of scenario theory. Why should we give a third party the responsibility for determining the meaning of a text? The idea that meaning is only actualized for an individual within a very narrow time, location, cultural, historical, religious context makes it difficult to accept the idea that we should turn over the responsibility of determining meaning to "experts" who are not even members of our community of shared meaning.[1] 
> 
> I have no objection to people reading whatever bible version they want to read. But versions should not take on the authority of telling me what the text means. If they do, they should be treated like commentaries.  In a culture that has had no bible and no ecclesiastical tradition, meaning based translations have the very real danger of becoming the "virtual-KJV" for that particular language community.  The dangers associated with attempts to unpack the meaning and freezing that meaning in the form of a version for a language community which will have no other versions are very real. 

Nor do I want to give a third party responsibility for determining the meaning of a text for myself, either. But if one can NOT read the GNT as a Greek text that imparts its meaning directly to the reader, should one renounce for that reason any effort to understand the Biblical text? I would think not. I think that most readers of the Biblical text have no alternative but to rely upon one or more translations; in that case, I myself would certainly recommend a judicious choice of several versions, not just some one particular version. The question that remains is: What constitutes a judicious choice between available versions? Who makes it and on what basis? If one cannot make the judgment oneself, whose judgment will one be willing to trust? For many their church or community has settled the matter without consulting the individual reader. Others explore what's available and make their own choices. Many will seek out advice from those whom they trust as more knowledgeable than themselves and then decide whether to heed such advice or make their own selection of one or more versions.

"A text only comes to mean something in a particular social cultural religious framework at particular place and time for members of a community of shared meaning."
I think this is quite true. It suggests, as does the even-more-restrictive formulation, "the idea that meaning is only actualized for an individual within a very narrow time, location, cultural, historical, religious context",  that those who reside outside of that "very narrow time, location, cultural, historical, religious context" will not ever have access to the entirety of the meaning of such a text -- and that includes all of us who confront the Biblical Greek text in the 21st century. As Iver has stated, " If we all grew up
learning Hellenistic Greek and lived in the 1st century, this list would have no or very little function." But we obviously have NOT grown up and acquired Hellenistic Greek in the 1st century --  and therefore a small percentage of 1868 current subscribers to B-greek sit at computers and exchange questions and conjectures about how elements of the Biblical Greek text are to be understood. We are all frustrated, I think, by questions regarding the Biblical Greek text for which we have no ready and fully-satisfying answers, and so, rightly or wrongly, we continue to think it useful share our questions and responses (not necessarily answers) with each other.

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






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