Attn Sean: Question regarding Bible tagging

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Aug 22 2019 3:18 PM

Hi Sean -

As you may remember, I have qualms about the anachronistic tagging of "wind" in Gen 1:1 as "Holy Spirit". At the moment, I am engaging in documentation that requires me to sell this to others. Would this be a fair description of your tagging philosophy? First, some definitions:

  • hyperliteral meaning: this is the strictly denotative meaning of the text without regard to figurative meaning. This is where much linguistic analysis begins ... especially for novice language students.
  • literal meaning: this is the meaning of the text including connotative meaning and figurative language. This is where much literary analysis begins ... what the author or editor expected their audience to understand as the meaning.
  • fuller meaning (sensus plenior): this is the meaning known to God as author but not to the human author or editor. It is sometimes described as reading through the lens of the cross.

When FL codes "Holy Spirit" in the OT when the concept was unavailable to the author or editor or expected audience, they are coding the "fuller meaning". Is this done consistently throughout the OT?

Thanks for your time.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Sean Boisen | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 28 2019 6:25 PM

Hi MJ:

In the best case (we all make mistakes), we would start with a more literal meaning. Whether it's hyperliteral or simply literal depends on the task, i suppose. In many cases, we're trying to capture (at best) a majority consensus of reputable scholarship, or when that isn't available, at least a responsible and defensible perspective. 

In this particular case, many English translations have "Spirit of God", so I don't think we're innovating here (and the Bible Sense Lexicon has both wind and spirit (God), which is only applied in the Hebrew Bible: but we also have Holy Spirit as the referent, to your point). Just as a translation has to squeeze a treasure house of meaning and nuance into the thimble of a single word or phrase, we often have to squeeze the same wealth into a single annotation (but at least without the requirement for fluid expressions, sounds good read from the pulpit, etc.). 

Calling this sensus plenior annotation goes a little too far for me: but we always face the split/join trade-off:

  • Splitting everything lets you describe it more particularly, but makes it harder to find things that are "the same"
  • Joining everything lets you find things, but doesn't necessarily do justice to their differences. 

We're constantly evaluating this tradeoff, and there's no One Right Solution: we just do the best we can given our constraints. 

MJ. Smith:

Is this done consistently throughout the OT?

Perhaps more consistently for BSL senses (which don't annotate most proper nouns, however), because it came later. But even here, these two types of annotations serve slightly different purposes:

  • Referents probably capture more of the "who is this" from the perspective of a modern reader (I'd be uneasy claiming we've captured the meaning known to God! But I understand what you mean.)
  • BSL captures a more literal lexico-semantic perspective
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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Aug 28 2019 6:58 PM

Thanks for the reply Sean. It gets me closer to understanding the tags which I see as anachronistic.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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