Smarter than a lexicon? Really?

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Posts 13398
Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 10:57 AM

If you ignore the over-stated headline, isn't the simple point that rather then just look up a word in a lexicon every time we need a definition, we ought instead to be investing time into learning at least the basics of Greek and Hebrew for ourselves?

When I teach first-year seminary students exegesis (from English texts as they haven't learned enough Greek at that stage), the first thing I tell them is don't look at the commentaries. Why? Because they need to learn to think for themselves, let the Word of God speak to them. They need to study the Bible, not merely study a book about the Bible. It's the same principle.

With both lexicons and commentaries we encourage the students always to attempt to answer their own questions about the text. They are only 'allowed' to look at lexicons and commentaries if either (a) they have failed to answer their questions after much perseverance, or (b) they have thoughtfully found an answer that they now need to check.

Posts 1674
Paul Golder | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 11:19 AM

Mark Barnes:

If you ignore the over-stated headline, isn't the simple point that rather then just look up a word in a lexicon every time we need a definition, we ought instead to be investing time into learning at least the basics of Greek and Hebrew for ourselves?

When I teach first-year seminary students exegesis (from English texts as they haven't learned enough Greek at that stage), the first thing I tell them is don't look at the commentaries. Why? Because they need to learn to think for themselves, let the Word of God speak to them. They need to study the Bible, not merely study a book about the Bible. It's the same principle.

With both lexicons and commentaries we encourage the students always to attempt to answer their own questions about the text. They are only 'allowed' to look at lexicons and commentaries if either (a) they have failed to answer their questions after much perseverance, or (b) they have thoughtfully found an answer that they now need to check.

Mark, How I miss the days when someone in my class would say: "Such and such commentary says this..."

Instead now what I hear mostly is: "Well to me, this verse means..." (I do try very hard not to scream)

 

"As any translator will attest, a literal translation is no translation at all."

Posts 596
LaRosa Johnson | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 11:24 AM

Paul Golder:
"Well to me, this verse means..."

I cringe & grind my teeth every time I hear someone say that, especially from behind the pulpit

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Posts 1674
Paul Golder | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 11:38 AM

LaRosa Johnson:

Paul Golder:
"Well to me, this verse means..."

I cringe & grind my teeth every time I hear someone say that, especially from behind the pulpit

I know what you mean.

If I every have the great misfortune of hearing this from behind the pulpit of a church I happen to be sitting in, I'm afraid that my wife will get quite mad at me.

I can just imagine her words now: "You didn't have to slam your Bible shut, kick over your chair, and walk out in the middle of the sermon..."

 

"As any translator will attest, a literal translation is no translation at all."

Posts 13398
Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 12:05 PM

Paul Golder:

Mark, How I miss the days when someone in my class would say: "Such and such commentary says this..."

Instead now what I hear mostly is: "Well to me, this verse means..." (I do try very hard not to scream)

What the congregation wants (and should get) is a simple, "This verse means…".

When I said "let the Word of God speak to them", and phrased it so as to make it clear that it is the Word of God that is 'in charge'. In no way was I suggesting that I can create my own meaning from the text. Having said that, too many preachers are like used car salesmen, merely passing on somebody else's thoughts and exegesis. Surely biblical preaching means that the preacher first sits under the Word, lets the Word speak to him (note the Word taking the lead again) and then communicates what God is clearly saying in that passage (note the 'what God is saying').

 

Posts 1674
Paul Golder | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 12:25 PM

Mark Barnes:

What the congregation wants (and should get) is a simple, "This verse means…".

When I said "let the Word of God speak to them", and phrased it so as to make it clear that it is the Word of God that is 'in charge'. In no way was I suggesting that I can create my own meaning from the text. Having said that, too many preachers are like used car salesmen, merely passing on somebody else's thoughts and exegesis. Surely biblical preaching means that the preacher first sits under the Word, lets the Word speak to him (note the Word taking the lead again) and then communicates what God is clearly saying in that passage (note the 'what God is saying').

Hi Mark,

I understood what your were saying, and what you speak of is the ideal form of exegesis.

It's just that nowadays we (at least in North America) have to fight so hard against "personal interpretation", and subjective truth, that your post led me to my lament.

It was much easier to explain the authoritative aspects of the Biblical text in respect to a man's opinion, when society and so much of the church wasn't pushing so hard at spiritualization of the text, or worse yet disregarding much of it.

Students, for the most part, no longer seek the true meaning of the Word, from any source.

 

"As any translator will attest, a literal translation is no translation at all."

Posts 62
Mike T | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 12:28 PM

I think that there is an undercurrent to Francis' post that is not being addressed here.  Francis, correct me if I'm wrong... 

Francis:

Actually underlying my post is a concern I have long had with the way ministry studies are going. There used to be a time when common mortals saw themselves as such and recognized that there were a few who were very gifted in specialized disciplines and who were consulted and respected as authorities. Part of my objection is that I see the displacement of authorities.

I believe that Francis considers lexicons as authoritative, and objects to the idea that beginning students should be encouraged to disregard their authority.  If so, I would strenuously disagree.  If someone were to study my writings in the year 2050, I believe that they could consult contemporary dictionaries and consider them as authoritative.  After all, we have had dictionaries for quite some time that define the meanings and semantic ranges of words in the English language.  If I were to use a word in a manner contrary to the dictionaries at my disposal, it would be just to say that I was mis-using the word (e.g., contra-authority).  This is not, however, the case for scripture.  Show me the lexicon that Paul used, and I will consider it authoritative.  But the fact is that there were no lexicons at that time.  While an over-simplification, the lexicons that we now have for biblical literature could be portrayed as compilations of the various translations/interpretations of the words of scripture.  They are no more authoritative than the underlying interpretations.  That said, I do have a lot of respect for the work that went into these lexicons and find them invaluable...  just not authoritative. 

Michael

 

Posts 3770
Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 1:27 PM

Micheal, it's go that you said "if so" because it ain't so. What I object to is the reductionist approach to "you can be an expert in biblical languages". Apparently, we don't need to consult the work of those who have done years of detailed study and are actually experts: just take out your Bible software and toss their works out!

Many exegetes I know don't speak another language than their native tongue and they exhibit a critical lack of awareness of how languages work. But encouraged by this kind of nonsense they go out there and speak as if they actually knew what they are speaking about...

That's all I want to say: let's use the tools but be humble. We can't all be experts in all fields that pertain to ministry and so should not speak as if we were. With that comes added respect for those whose expertise or gift exceed our own and recognition that our ignorance leaves room for many blindspots in our studies.

Posts 222
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Mike Aubrey | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 1:51 PM

Francis:
What I object to is the reductionist approach to "you can be an expert in biblical languages". Apparently, we don't need to consult the work of those who have done years of detailed study and are actually experts: just take out your Bible software and toss their works out!

Then its good that nobody has said that.

Posts 5615
Todd Phillips | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 1:53 PM

Does anybody else find it funny that the "You Are Smarter Than a Lexicon" blog entry is posted the day after the blog entry on the Logos Lexicons softball team ?  Is that Dr. Heiser on the right in the team picture?

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Posts 13398
Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 1:58 PM

Francis, I really don't think that's what Michael is saying. I think he's saying: "Don't assume you're an expert in your use of a lexicon; you're probably not, because they're not for beginners. But with some tools, some training and 'practice, practice, and more practice' you can take 'the first step' towards helping you better understand the grammar and complexities of language - and not just the meaning of words."

Posts 4508
Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 2:06 PM

Todd Phillips:

Does anybody else find it funny that the "You Are Smarter Than a Lexicon" blog entry is posted the day after the blog entry on the Logos Lexicons softball team ?  Is that Dr. Heiser on the right in the team picture?

 

Yes, I find it funny....but that also means that I'm smarter than anyone on the team....which also means that I shouldn't listen to Dr. Heiser, but that means that the premise that I'm smarter is now false also...arggg! What a tangled up mess.... Big Smile

Robert Pavich

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Posts 3770
Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 3:12 PM

Forums are quite instructive about the limitations of effective written communication. It must keep us ministers humble to know that we can be so slow to listen and quick to speak.

Blessings on you all. As for me and my house, we shall no longer follow this thread!

Posts 109
Larry Heflin | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 4:30 PM

Maybe Logos will create some good study tools to help us understand and agree on what Dr. Heiser really meant!

Posts 18876
Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 5:55 PM

Paul Golder:

If I every have the great misfortune of hearing this from behind the pulpit of a church I happen to be sitting in, I'm afraid that my wife will get quite mad at me.

I can just imagine her words now: "You didn't have to slam your Bible shut, kick over your chair, and walk out in the middle of the sermon...

Is your wife the preacher? Smile

Posts 1674
Paul Golder | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jun 3 2010 6:49 PM

Rosie Perera:
Is your wife the preacher? Smile

Now that would be something. If you could only imagine the scenarios that zipped through my mind when I read it. Big Smile

My wife "claims" that my forthcoming demeanor, and my tendency to speak and act on my beliefs (with no regard for the consequences), can often lead to her embarrassment.

 

 

"As any translator will attest, a literal translation is no translation at all."

Posts 4508
Robert Pavich | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jun 4 2010 3:20 AM

Paul Golder:

It's just that nowadays we (at least in North America) have to fight so hard against "personal interpretation", and subjective truth, that your post led me to my lament.

It was much easier to explain the authoritative aspects of the Biblical text in respect to a man's opinion, when society and so much of the church wasn't pushing so hard at spiritualization of the text, or worse yet disregarding much of it.

Students, for the most part, no longer seek the true meaning of the Word, from any source.

Brother....you said a mouthful!

That's been my experience...

Robert Pavich

For help go to the Wiki: http://wiki.logos.com/Table_of_Contents__

Posts 4
Rebecca Hahn | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 5 2010 12:37 PM

Hi Francis, I actually agree with both you and the author.  I think the problem lies with the lexicons.  I used Quickverse prior to purchasing Logos and when I looked up a word in Strongs Dictionary I got this for H2822:

From H2821; the dark; hence (literally) darkness; figuratively miserydestructiondeathignorancesorrowwickedness:—dark (-ness), night, obscurity

This helps me understand the word.  Combing the literal definition with the fact that Christ is the light of the world, and I can better understand the figuratives uses of the word.    I have this great english dictionary and  when I look up a word it gives the origin and thier meanings, the meanings of common and archaic usage, examples used in context, and synonoms.  All of these things are provided so that I can better understand the meaning of the word.

Not happy with the dictionary's that came with Logos I decided to purchase Strongs (which in Quickverse I was very happy with) - when I look up H2822 I get this:

From 2821; TWOT 769a; GK 3125; 80 occurrences; AV translates as "darkness" 70 times, "dark" seven times, "obscurity" twice, and "night" once. 1 darkness, obscurity. 1a darkness. 1b secret place.

Where is the literal definition?  It tells me how many times it was translated into different English words (severly disappointed with my purchase).  So in this I agree with the author of the blog in that this does not do me much good.  Especially without knowing what the corresponding verses are (I know that I can find this in Logos I am focusing on the Lexicon that Logos has, supposedly, enhanced).   Where is the definition in Logos version of the dictionary?  Where does it tell me the literal meaning, so that maybe I can better understand why it was being translated 70 times as dark.  So in this I agree with the author of the blog that this does me no good whatsoever. 

Posts 13398
Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 5 2010 1:27 PM

Rebecca Hahn:
Where is the literal definition?

The literal definition is there:

  • 1 darkness, obscurity.
    • 1a darkness.
    • 1b secret place.

It looks like you have The New Strong's Complete Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words in Quickverse (this is also available in Logos). It's entry in Logos is:

  • from 2821; the dark; hence (lit.) darkness; fig. misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness:— dark (-ness), night, obscurity.

 

Posts 4
Rebecca Hahn | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Jun 5 2010 2:06 PM

Thank you for letting me know that?  But it's not in the Lexicon.  So what good is the Lexicon?

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