If you don’t you’ll get lost and your Greek won’t improve.
Some time ago, I was working through 1 Samuel 4 for the Lexham Interlinear Septuagint project (1 Samuel is now available in the most recent build of the Interlinear Septuagint).
Now, perhaps the Hebrew of Samuel is in terrible shape, but the Greek text is surprisingly easy – either that or I read the stories of Samuel and Kings too many times when I was a child and they’re permanently engrained in my head. That could be too. In any case, I’m greatly enjoying the text. I’m picking up more vocabulary and I’m learning more about the usage of words that I already know.
And that’s what this post is about: learning more about usage for words you already know. And I’m going to affirm what others, such as Rod Decker and Carl Conrad, have already stated.
- Use BDAG
- Read the entire lexical entry for whatever word you’re looking up
- Mentally process and work through that entry
So where was this little lesson reinforced for me?
It was in 1 Samuel 4:18.
Now I never would have expect that a verb that seemed as easy and simple as ἔχω would cause me so much trouble. But it did. And after staring at the text for what seemed like hours (it was really only a minute or two). I pulled out BDAG. And so I spent a good five minutes or so working through its entry for ἔχω.
And I really had to work through it. The definition entry that finally helped me understand the text was the very last one, number 11:
⑪ to be closely associated, in a variety of renderings, hold fast, be next to, be next, mid. (Hom. et al.) in NT only ptc.
More specifically, it was 11bα that did it for me:
ⓑ of proximity
α. spatial, to be next to someth: ἐχόμενος neighboring (Isocr. 4, 96 νῆσος; Hdt. 1, 134 al. οἱ ἐχόμενοι=‘the neighbors’; Diod S 5, 15, 1; Appian, Bell. Civ. 2, 71 §294; Arrian, Peripl. 7, 2; PParis 51, 5 and oft. in pap; 1 Esdr 4:42; Jos., Ant. 6, 6 πρὸς τὰς ἐχομένας πόλεις; 11, 340) κωμοπόλεις Mk 1:38.
Here’s the text in question:
And for those who really don’t care for interlinears (I’ll admit I would prefer just the text):
καὶ ἔπεσεν ἀπὸ τοῦ δίφρου ὀπισθίως ἐχόμενος τῆς πύλης, καὶ συνετρίβη ὁ νῶτος αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπέθανεν, ὅτι πρεσβύτης ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ βαρύς, καὶ αὐτὸς ἔκρινεν τὸν Ισραηλ εἴκοσι ἔτη.
Can you find it? In retrospect, I wish I had translated ἔχομενος as “beside” rather than “next to,” but I still might be able to have it changed for the final version—1 Samuel is still in Draft status. We’ll see.
In any case, I do hope you see my point. Had I already worked through the lexical entry for this quite common word, I wouldn’t have been surprised by this usage.
Now I don’t mean to say that another lexicon wouldn’t have provided this information. In fact, the practice of working through dictionary entries would actually improve even more if you worked through two dictionaries comparing how they analyze a given word. But you must use it. You cannot merely refer to an entry find your reference and leave. Get to know your lexicon and don’t let the Greek language surprise you.