To What Extent Should The Biblical Languages Shape Our Theology?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by TCGreek, Jul 23, 2007.

  1. TCGreek

    TCGreek
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    1. I have been in a few discussion where the Subjunctive mood has been tossed around to build positions or to refute positions.

    2. The Subjunctive with all its possibilities wasn't intended to strangle anyone.

    3. Here's the appreciation of the Greek verbs: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve" (1 Cor 15:3-5, ESV, emphasis added)

    4. The Greek verbs speak to kind of action and not time of acton, per se.

    a. Christ died is aorist.

    b. Christ was buried is aorist.

    c. Christ was raised is perfect.

    d. Christ appeared is aorist.

    5. He died, was buried, and has been raised, never to die, the implication of the perfect tense.

    6. When the same verb is used of Lazarus, it is the aorist, ηγειρεν (John 12:9).

    7. And what do we make of our good friend the Subjunctive: Well, it was never intended to strangle anyone, but it has:

    a. When we say that because a verb is subjunctive it conveys only Possibility and not Certainty, aren't we challenging orthodoxy: "the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent(Col 1:18, ESV, emphasis mine)

    b. Are we to question whether or not Christ is the preeminent one because of our friend the Subjunctive "he might be"?

    c. The verb is Subjunctive because it is part of a hina clause, signifying either purpose or result at this point.

    8. The Subjunctive was never meant to strangle us but only to support us.

    9. I was thought to move from Theology to Text to Theology To Application.

    10. And that context defines meaning and not just an isolation of a word or two.
     
    #1 TCGreek, Jul 23, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2007
  2. npetreley

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    Excellent analysis, thanks!
     
  3. Hope of Glory

    Hope of Glory
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    If the grammar contradicts your belief, your belief is wrong.

    If the context contradicts your belief, your belief is wrong.

    The grammar and the context will never contradict each other; they support each other. If either seems to contradict the other, then one is wrong.

    Both can be used to support doctrine.

    Unless you think that God is too inarticulate to say exactly what he meant to say.

    This is borne out by the fact that you are attacking people who are coming from both sides of the issue: Some who are KJVO and don't even look at the grammar and those who do.

    To those who do, you say, "Ignore the grammar!"

    To those who don't, you say, "Look at the grammar!"

    Both are relevant.

    If the text says "May", then I don't think God meant, "It's a sure thing!" If God says that something's a sure thing, then I don't think that there are exceptions, unless he qualified it with exceptions.

    I think that God is powerful enough and articulate enough to say exactly what he meant to say.
     
  4. AresMan

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    Exactly. While I am no Greek scholar, I am enough of a grammar buff to understand that the subjunctive mood is not always a "possible" or "hypothetical condition", but, depending upon the context and syntax, shows a cause/effect relationship. I have explained this to Greek students who seem bent on using their textbook lexicon for deriving doctrinal "treasures" from verses.

    The subjunctive mood is "hypthetical" only if its clause stands alone. It can be used to signify the result of an indicative. In fact, sometimes it is only grammatically possible (or would otherwise be awkward) to use the subjunctive in a subordinate clause to define the presumed true result of a stated cause.
     
  5. npetreley

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    Then it isn't a sure thing that Christ is pre-eminent in everything. Apparently someone else may be pre-eminent in everything if it happens to work out that way. According to you, anyway.
     
  6. Hope of Glory

    Hope of Glory
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    This, by definition, means that the subjunctive is a possibilty and not a definite thing. Is there a subjunctive verb that is ever used anywhere in Scriptures (or elsewhere, for that matter) that is not dependent upon a causal effect?

    If so, where?

    An example:

    The children of Israel were given a promised land from the Nile to the Euphrates that was based on nothing other than being in the family. Even if the individual never left his house in Goshen, he was in that Promised Land. If you were to write out a narrative of this, this would be indicative. No cause and effect.

    However, they were given the promise of the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey, based upon being faithful; works. If you're faithful, you'll have a better inheritance. If you're not faithful, you'll perish in the wilderness. Receiving this promise would be subjunctive, and would be based upon the individual's faithfulness. It's not a sure thing. Now, it is a sure thing if the individual is faithful because God has promised it in return for that faithfulness, but there is no guarantee that these people who are already in the Promised Land (saved) will be faithful, so the promise of the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey is subjunctive. (Wages.) But, if the individual is faithful, he will receive this promise, so that would be indicative because it's based upon the completion of the subjunctive in the previous clause.
     
  7. AresMan

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    The text (Greek) does not say "may." It can sometimes be difficult to render something exactly in English. It is difficult to render a subjunctive whose context indicates a cause/effect situation without the limitations of the English language making it appear that the text is not stating an absolute.

    Because in English, the word might as an auxiliary, can mean "maybe... maybe not," the reader can be led to make that assumption. This is not the fault of the translation; it is the fault of the limitations in the English language.

    Here is my attempt to render the subjunctive in more certain terms:
    A is the cause of B. Or, B is made possible, yea is, by means of A, which, in fact, is.
     
    #7 AresMan, Jul 23, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2007
  8. Hope of Glory

    Hope of Glory
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    See, this is your problem. You don't think that Christ is pre-eminent, and that he can't really mean what he says.

    If you would only realize that God (and Jesus is the God-Man) is omnipotent, then you would realize that a works based spirtual salvation is false, and that God is powerful enough to say exactly what he means.

    But, I'm sure there are many in your boat who think that Jesus is insufficient.

    BTW, I just quoted you as accurately as you quoted me.
     
  9. Analgesic

    Analgesic
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    Great post. To answer the [rhetorical?] question posed in the title..."Much more than they currently do."
     
  10. AresMan

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    Where do you get any of this from npet's (sarcastic) inference?
     
  11. TCGreek

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    1. Per your position on the Subjunctive, npetrely is only saying what you would say, unless you are prepared to deny it at this point, which seems to be the case.

    2. Or unless you appeal to the Subjunctive conveniently.

    3. According to Dr. Daniel B. Wallace to call the Subjunctive the mood of probability is an overly simplistic definition in light of its usage in the NT (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pp.461-493, emphasis added).

    4. Again, context defines meaning and not the isolation of a word or two to support someone's position.

    5. We need to examine carefully in light of context how the writer intended to use the Subjunctive. Why this mood and not another? Why this construction and not another?

    6. Warning: The Subjunctive was never meant to strangle.
     
    #11 TCGreek, Jul 23, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2007
  12. npetreley

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    Translation:

    A. When it strengthens my case to make the subjunctive mean "it is only possible, not definite", then that's what it always means.

    B. When it would be absurd for it to mean "it is only possible, not definite", I will pretend you didn't say anything and repeat point A.
     
  13. Charles Meadows

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    I'll toss in my $0.02...

    Despite my interest in linguistic stuff I'll choose the rather minimalistic stance that biblical language knowledge can be a double edged sword.

    The notion that 4 semesters or so of a language prepares one to translate competently, that is competently enough to discern subtleties of interpretation, is in my opinion, fairly dubious. Language is in constant colloquial flux and is filled with idiomatic references.

    I will also assert that the notion that Greek knowledge is needed to read the Bible is flawed. The level of preparation required to get to Dan Wallace's level in huge - most lack either the ability or the time.

    Being overly dogmatic about the meaning of this or that tense is a double-edged sword indeed. Better to just read the English than to insist on an out-of-context reading based on the Greek text. This is a big problem for novice linguists.

    I assert that for the average non-linguist the theological context of the passage will yield much more insight than the Greek verbs.

    This post was not meant to malign anyone's stance - but rather to serve as a warning that a "little knowledge" can be a dangerous thing.
     
  14. TCGreek

    TCGreek
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    1. Have you inquired as to how much Greek any of us have taken?

    2. How do you know that the most any of us have taken are four semesters of Greek?

    3. Don't you think it would have been wise to find out where we are in the Greek department?

    4. How much Greek do you know?

    5. You say you do not intend to malign yet you have assumed so much.
     
  15. Hope of Glory

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    Sorry. TC Greek and a few others respond, debate, and discuss reasonably.

    npte's sole reportoire consists of flinging invective, misquoting, and using untruths. (I won't call them "lies" because I will give him the benefit of the doubt as to whether it's intentional or not.)

    So, my reply was a complete misquote of him, intentionally. That's why my last line pointed out that I quoted him as accurately as he quoted me.

    TC Greek, while being on the opposite side of many of these issues responds intelligently and reasonably in most instances. A small hanful of others do as well.

    Npet's strategy of misquoting, using untruths, and slinging invective is simply irritating.

    From this point on, I will only respond to reasonable posts, and will ignore the irritating ones.

    Most of the time, at least.

    (But, all posts will have to wait until later at this point.)
     
  16. mnw

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    Does anyone think Baptists are heading in the direction of the old Catholics. In as much that some seem to state or at least imply that you need to know the original languages in order to understand the Scripture?

    Are we in danger of falling to a two-tier Christianity where many are made to feel unable to study the Word for themselves and so they leave it to the "experts"

    There is always the danger in the church of certain things being left to the "professionals", such as singing, preaching, teaching etc. And while I believe in pursuing excellance in the worship and service of our God, I do not believe it should be to the exclusion of any.

    I believe in study, I believe it is valuable to study the original languages, but there have just been posts recently which seem to elevate study of the original languages to a higher plain than they deserve.

    Is my assessment wrong in this? I am not attacking any one here, just sharing a concern I see within some circles.
     
  17. Charles Meadows

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    Now now TC,

    No I don't intend to ask how many semesters anyone has taken or where anyone "is" in Greek. This is because my comment was not directed at anyone individually.

    I would suspect that the Greek abilities here vary widely, with some individuals being very skilled and others having no more than the most basic familiarity.

    My concerns are:

    1. Most well-meaning believers have enough Greek to be dangerous. You know exactly what I mean here.

    2. I object to the notion that we need Greek to understand what the Bible really says. That means that it was not written for everyone. There is a need for individuals who are highly skilled in languages - that is for certain. But that is a level that will not be attained by most.

    This does not mean I object to language study by believers. I simply think that general linguistics is often neglected in this type of study and that students are not adequately warned of the complexity of the task being undertaken. There is the potential to do more harm than good.

    And thus I reassert that a little Greek is a dangerous thing. As long as the believer realizes this then all is good!
     
    #17 Charles Meadows, Jul 24, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 24, 2007
  18. TCGreek

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    1. I do agree that we must find that balance.

    2. And if I am one of those who have given the wrong impression, I never meant to, and I genuine welcome and accept your caution.

    Thank you.
     
  19. mnw

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    Hi TC, I appreciate your posts. There is a good chance I am misinterpreting some things but I thought I'd put in my $.02 worth.

    I don't believe any individual here is actually saying Bible interpretation is for the professionals, but it is a direction it seems some in Christian circles have gone.
     
  20. Amy.G

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    I believe there is a danger and tried to point that out during my recent debate about ME. It seems to me that the only way the ME proponents could make their case was to try and prove what the Bible "really" said by quoting the greek in minute detail. Thereby, making it impossible for the average reader to understand the plain reading of the text or even to verify their interpretation of the greek language.

    I do have great respect for those who study the original languages and am NOT trying to undermine the importance of it. We need them. But, I also believe there must be a balance between words and context. And I also believe that the Bibles we have today have been translated by teams (not just one person) who were far more capable of translating the original languages into english than me. I also believe in God's ability to preserve His word and His ability to help me understand it through the power and knowledge of His Holy Spirit.

    My 2 cents as someone who is an average Bible reader and not a greek scholar. :)
     

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