Word-Study Fallacies/Words of Caution

Discussion in 'Calvinism/Arminianism Debate' started by Reformed, Aug 1, 2014.

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  1. Reformed

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    Dr. Robert J. Cara, Professor of New Testament at RTS in Charlotte, N.C. wrote a helpful essay on word-study fallacies. I want to quote some highlights from Dr. Cara's essay. Perhaps it will help us in our discussions on this board. It certainly was a helpful reminder to me as I re-read the essay this afternoon.

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  2. plain_n_simple

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    Can't you just ask the Holy Spirit what it means? He answers me a lot with plain langauge
     
  3. Winman

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    I am assuming that RTS stands for Reformed Theological Seminary??

    It is not surprising that a Reformed professor would not like the Greek word hamartia to be defined as "missing the mark" because that would imply that men attempt to obey God. This would absolutely refute the Reformed doctrine of Total Inability.

    So, this comes as no surprise whatsoever, in fact, it is to be expected.
     
  4. Reformed

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    Etymological Fallacy

    In modern linguistics, etymology is the study of the history of the word with an emphasis on its origin. This study of a word's history often looks back through multiple languages. This is contrasted with the "meaning(s)" of a word, which is based on current usage. The etymological fallacy is to assume that the origin of a word is its true meaning. No, the true meaning of a word is its current usage.

    Consider the sentence, "I live in Charlotte, N.C., which is in Mecklenburg County." Virtually everyone reading this correctly understands the word county even though they do not know it etymology. Part of the etymology relates to French nobles or "counts" and the land then owned in feudal Europe. Knowing this is interesting, but it does not help a modern English reader better understand the word county. In fact, most speakers and readers of any language can communicate reasonably well even though they rarely know the etymology of any of the words they use.

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  5. Winman

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    Unfortunately, your example in the OP shows that many Bible students do know the origin of many Greek and Hebrew words and this is why this student asked his professor if it was not true that hamartia means "miss the mark".

    You are defeating your own argument.
     
  6. Reformed

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    Reverse Etymological Fallacy

    The reverse etymological fallacy occurs when the later historical usage of a word is considered primary for determining the earlier meaning of that word. Of course, this does not make sense logically, but sometimes the manner in which a pastor explains a Greek word may encourage some in the congregation to fall into this trap.

    For example, a pastor may explain that the Greek word for power in the New Testament is dynamis, and in the 1860's, Alfred Nobel names his invention "dynamite" based on the Greek word dynamis. This is true and interesting. However, this does not give the interpreter of the New Testament more insight into the meaning of dynamis in Scripture. In fact, one may wrongly assume that the "power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13) must be explosive power like dynamite as opposed to constant power like electrical power.

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  7. Revmitchell

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    First, lost people do not attempt to obey God. Second slamming the source is not an argument it is simply a debate tactic.
     
  8. Winman

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    Now you are contradicting yourself and saying the modern interpretation is error, and that the original meaning was correct.

    If so, then hamartia is correctly interpreted as "missing the mark".
     
  9. Reformed

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    Occasional Usefulness of Etymologies

    Etymologies are occasionally helpful. Sometimes the combination of two Greek words does directly relate to the current meaning. The Greek word ekballo, which is often translated as "cast out" (for example Matt. 9:33), is a combination of to throw and out.

    Etymologies are also useful for the few situations, especially in the Old Testament, where there are not enough occurrences of a word to be sure of its meaning. Scholars look at cognate words in other languages (such as Ugaritic, Akkadian, and Aramaic) during multiple guesses as to the meaning of a Hebrew word.

    continue...
     
  10. Iconoclast

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    You are a deluded person.You are not getting direct revelation from God.How can anyone take you seriously when you post like this?
     
  11. Winman

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    Cornelius was not saved, he was lost, and he tried to obey God.

    I am not slamming the source, it should be expected that a Reformed professor would not interpret hamartia to mean "missing the mark" because it implies men do attempt to obey God.

    You are ASSUMING your view is correct, when that is the question. Perhaps men do attempt to obey God, and "missing the mark" is an accurate interpretation of hamartia.
     
  12. plain_n_simple

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    I get understanding from the Spirit, who teaches all things.
     
  13. Reformed

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    Totality Transfer-Fallacy

    A common word-study fallacy is to assume that the broad semantic range of a word is being used in every specific instance of that word. That is, the totality of the semantic range is illegitimately transferred. Or to put it in laymen's terms, the same writer does not always use the same word in the same way. At some level this is obvious, but it is good to be reminded of it.

    Paul many times uses the word flesh (Greek sarx) in a negative, sin-dominated manner (for example, Gal. 5:17, Phil. 3:4). But at other times, he uses flesh with a neutral meaning as in "flesh and blood" (Gal. 1:16, 1 Cor. 15:50) or simply to refer to the whole physical body (2 Cor. 7:5). The mistake is to assume that every time Paul uses flesh (sarx), he is using a negative term.

    New Testament writers have a wonderfully developed understanding of Christian faith that includes the total trust of the Christian in the person and work of Christ. However, sometimes the Apostles use faith in a more truncated way to emphasize the set of doctrines about Christianity, as for one example in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:5) and "to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). This meaning of faith well parallels our modern expression "the Christian faith". Of course, Christian faith is more than a set of Christian doctrines, but knowing some basic doctrine about the Trinity, Christ, salvation, sin, and so on is a required aspect of Christian faith. The totality transfer fallacy is to assume that everything the Bible says about the Christian faith is being equally emphasized every time the word faith is being used.
     
    #13 Reformed, Aug 1, 2014
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  14. OldRegular

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    I have heard preachers use "missing the mark" as a definition. I have always thought that was nonsense!
     
  15. DHK

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    Reformed is right. Etymologies may be helpful, but they don't give the definition of the word.

    For example, the definition ekklesia means "assembly." It comes from ek (from, out) and kalew (to call), thus "to call out." But "to call out" is not the meaning of the word as some like to give it. It is "assembly." The church is an assembly of believers.

    Or in English (another example), Sunday, means "a day to worship the sun." Is that the meaning Sunday has to you? I hope not. But that is its derivation.
     
  16. Winman

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    So did the Reformed professor from RTS, so he redefined it!
     
  17. Reformed

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    There were times when I was not as careful and diligent in my exegesis and took the populist or lazy approach to understanding the original language. It hurt my preaching because I had to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the word. Experience is a good teacher.

    Is the etymology of hamartia rooted in the archery term of 'miss the mark'? Probably. But if that is given as the meaning of the word it misrepresents the seriousness of sin. After all, don't you get credit at horseshoes if you miss the stake but lean on your opponents horseshoe? No, sin is as author of the essay stated. It is breaking God's law; His commandments. As such it has perilous consequences. That is the meaning of the word.
     
  18. Winman

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    Nevertheless, perhaps the correct view of man is that he does attempt to obey and please God but fails. Then "missing the mark" would be an accurate interpretation of hamartia.

    You assume your view of man (Total Inability) is true, and so harmartia cannot mean "to miss the mark".

    Not a very scholarly approach.

    It seems the word harmartia should be telling you something about your view of man.
     
  19. Rippon

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    Rd2 might be in sympathy with the comments of pns. The former places experience as the seat of authority --not the Word of God.
     
  20. Rippon

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    Reformed: Everything Dr. Cara has said in your quotes goes right in line with what I have been saying about Bible translation for ages on the BB. More importantly, it's what knowledgeable Bible scholars I have quoted have been insisting upon all along.
     
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