[b-hebrew] "Rope Imagery" in Biblical Hebrew

K Randolph kwrandolph at gmail.com
Fri Dec 12 10:39:04 EST 2008

When I started out, I had Davidson's analytical lexicon, Gesenius' lexicon
translated into English with access to BDB, and Lisowski's concordance. Each
gave glosses indicating the meanings of the words. Often the glosses are
different depending on which dictionary is used.

Davidson listed all words according to their supposed roots. Many times the
roots are speculated roots because they are never found used.

Gesenius and BDB made heavy use of cognate languages, hence would often give
multiple, contradictory meanings for the same word. An extreme case was one
word (I don't remember which) has five distinct meanings given in Gesenius
and BDB, but when I looked up in Lisowski, has only four times used in the
Hebrew Bible.

Lisowski's definitions I found the most accurate, giving meanings in German,
English and Latin. But sometimes he gave an accurate meaning in German, but
when he looked up in a dictionary to find an English gloss, chose the wrong
one. Another thing I considered a fault is that he followed the Masoritic
points, which I have found not always to be accurate.

As with any human effort, no dictionary will be perfect, without error. For
example, none of them considered that some of the uses of words in the Bible
could be idiomatic, e.g. sometimes the word "lost" used as an euphemism for
 "death". But they are for the most part good enough, especially for a
beginner who knows even less.

Translations are even more problematic. They vary in quality. Sometimes the
way phrases are used will require very different words in English than are
actually used in Hebrew, and that is of translations that don't try to push
an agenda. Those that push an agenda will sometimes deliberately
mistranslate to advance their ideology. That's why a good theologian is
asked to be able to refer to texts in their original languages and not rely
on translations.

Use what you have. Recognize that the first time through, there will be
plenty of times that you misunderstand the text, but the second and third
times will be better. Even after more than 20 times reading the text, I am
still correcting myself from earlier misunderstandings. So relax, don't
expect perfection the first time through. You have started on a journey that
will take the rest of your life.

Karl W. Randolph.

On Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 9:30 AM, Mary Thompson <maryethomp2005 at mac.com>wrote:

> Hey Karl -
> If a person cannot go by previous translations (presumably done by
> those who have already studied the language), or by what appears to
> be a root word based on the letters, then what hope is there to
> arrive at an understanding of the word?  You say that we should look
> at the language itself, do our own investigation, but how is that to
> be done?  Isn't that what the dictionary writers did?
> If the answer to this question is too long or detailed, you could
> refer me to a book that explains how an ordinary person is supposed
> to accomplish this.
> Thanks,
> Mary.

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