Sunday, June 04, 2017

Anthony Thiselton's "Semantics and New Testament Interpretation" (Link and Screenshots)

Anthony Thiselton gives numerous exegetical warnings in this article. I've included a couple of screenshots to give you some idea of the argument he is trying to make.



Duncan said...

Much of this argument again hinges on the notion of "A" nature of language. It is unavoidable that Noam Chomsky comes into this work. I am still not sure that this pidgin-holing the characteristics of communication is completely valid.

Some things examined here show similarities to Pirahã.

Anonymous said...

Hi Edgar,

I appreciate the insights that linguistic theory can bring to the translation table, but I've seen a number of chases where various arguments were dismissed as "inadequate" because the one presenting them "is not sufficiently informed of modern linguistic theory", or some such words. Carl Conrad is not a linguist, yet I'd trust his expertise in Greek over, say, Thomas A. Howe, Ph.D any day of the week and twice on Sunday!

This reminds me, what did you think of the interaction between Moises Silva and Chrys Caragounis?

Caragounis: "Silva’s review is basically polemical. His stated basic criticism is (a) that Caragounis romanticizes Greek, and especially (b) that he does not use modern linguistic theory and jargon. In what follows I shall scrutinize each one of the 2 points Silva raises to show that his criticism is unfair. But first a few remarks on why I do not use the jargon and categories of modern general linguistics...

...My book is not in the least concerned with how the theories of the discipline
of modern general linguistics are developing, at what stage they are at present, or
what the competing positions and arguments are. Therefore, any criticism directed
at my book from that perspective is totally irrelevant...

...Silva does not show in what respects the terminology of modern linguistic theory
is more appropriate than the terminology I use, or what would have been the gains which I have now forfeited."

I think that Caragounis's complaint could be offered in response to myriad criticisms like the one offered by Silva.


Edgar Foster said...

Hi Kas,

You're right about Carl. He's got some unmatched talents when it comes to reading/understanding Greek. However, it seems that one must have some knowledge of modern linguistic theory in order to handle the Bible text aright. Realistically, not everyone can be a linguist, and as you noted, Caragounis (a talented exegete) is not a linguist, although he is a philologist.

Bible/religion studies have become so compartmentalized, but some things just cannot be understood without knowing linguistics. For instance, aspect theory and Aktionsart. Yet knowing linguistics does not replace the importance of mastering grammar.

Randall Buth also criticizes Caragounis for not being a linguist: he believes that Caragounis' non-linguistic approach limits his ability to understand the dynamics of ancient Greek and the biblical text. However, I think Caragounis (the non-linguist) understands ancient Greek aspect better than Stanley Porter (the linguist) does. Another talented philologist whom I would trust above almost any linguist would be Donald Mastronarde. See his Introduction to Attic Greek.

At the end of the day, I would submit that biblical studies profit from multiple disciplines being used to further our understanding of the text.



Duncan said...

Chapter 23 regarding "bird song" which has been demonstrated in Pirahã as a form of linguistic communication. The language can be sung as well as spoken so mantras such as these do not have to be older than language but rather a form now seldom used.

Alethinon61 said...

Hi Edgar,

"At the end of the day, I would submit that biblical studies profit from multiple disciplines being used to further our understanding of the text."

Amen to that!

What do you think is more important when it comes to understanding a language, immersion in the language itself, or immersion in linguistic theory applied to the language?

Folks like Carl Conrad, and no doubt Chrys Caragounis as well, seem to benefit from total immersion in the language. This is how native speakers learn their languages, though it's obviously different with a dead language.

I know someone who took his college entrance exam at a local technical college and got the highest score in the language section in the history of the test, which at that time had been around for several years. He went back to the college 5 years later to inquire whether his score had been beat yet, and it had not; his was still the highest score. Yet at that point in this person's life, he hadn't read a book or article in linguistics, while he did study grammar and vocabulary. I'm not saying that a professional linguist wouldn't have gotten an even higher score, but there's obviously a lot to be said for the total immersion approach.


Duncan said...

Kas makes a good point but I am not sure how one can immerse into a dead language as the context is lost to us & we can only hypothesize. One would have to live in and experience the culture.

The link I had already emailed you gives a good overview of the problem regarding Hebrew:-

Edgar Foster said...

Hi Kas and Duncan,

My experience would say that immersion in the language and culture of the source language is probably more important than studying linguistic theory. Another expert linguist, who also immersed himself in the classics, was Mikhail Bakhtin. His writings show a deep knowledge of Greek and Roman writings. And Carl is another example, as you write.

Latin/Greek are normally taught differently than French, German or Spanish, but those who read plenty of Greek/Latin and learn the cultures tend to understand the texts better, IMO. Yes, technically, Latin and Greek students don't normally immerse themselves like Spanish/French students do. But some professors are trying to help classics students develop more oral proficiency.