A Serious Question

How in the world does a Greek word mean an English one???

15 thoughts on “A Serious Question

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  1. Seriously…

    2 thoughts come to mind and they might contradict each other, but here goes

    1. It doesn’t. duh.
    2. Since words don’t have meanings, but rather meanings have words, if a Greek speaker and an English speaker conceptualize the exact same thing in the exact same way (good luck!), then both of their respective utterances of their identical conepts could be said to mean the same thing. However, that the utterances mean the same concept, not that an English word means a Greek one.

  2. When I read this, I just think of the English idiomatic ideas of what words “mean.” We ask “What does that mean?” all the time. So a Greek word “means” what ever it does, while we must describe it to others in English, which involves an English word that matches the concept pretty well sometimes. It isn’t as much that the Greek word “means” the English word, but both words point to the concept, and we describe the concept. But most people don’t think that way. How did this come up anyway? Argument about translations?

    1. no argument, just thinking about how Greek is taught & translation methodology in conjunction with all of the TNIV/NIV announcements.

      Do we need to describe it in English – I’d like to see a monolingual Hellenistic Greek lexicon, personally.

  3. This is, of course, one of the central questions for translation.

    Unfortunately, in Representation and Reality, Hilary Putman essentially makes the point that words don’t have meanings.

    W.V. Quine agrees, and writes the following in Quiddities:

    [Two expressions] have the same meaning if use of the one in place of the other does not make any relevant difference. The question of sameness of meaning, then, comes down to the question what to count as relevant difference.

    So, for us, what is the relevant part of the Greek that we want to convey in English?

  4. Not to go to technical, but words communicate on different levels simultaneously. On one level, they refer. If I say καθεδρα means ‘chair’, it’s accurate in that the Greek word refers to more or less the same class of objects that the English word does. But on another level words allude. Here καθεδρα and chair part company. Roman era Greeks associated wealth and authority with καθεδρα which English speakers do not.

    Much of the debate about Bible translation revolves around wanting to save all the allusions. Attempts to do so end up compromising reference.

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