Friday, May 03, 2013

Biblical Words and Their Meaning (by Moises Silva)

biblicalwordsOne of the most difficult books that I have read in recent years is that of Moises Silva, “Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics.” I read the Kindle edition, so instead of page references, you will find location references.

When reading this book, it is important to keep your wits about you. Even though Silva wrote this as an introduction to lexical semantics, if this is not your field of study, you will have to concentrate hard.

However, I really enjoyed reading this book. There were some things that I already knew, but even then, Silva explained those things very well with some different ideas and examples. Then there were some other things that I didn’t know, and he opened my eyes to new things.

For instance, something that I already knew:

“Theologians have been particularly concerned with pointing out the differences between Greek and Hebrew thought. [I was taught this.] The former, we are told, is static, contemplative, abstract, intellectualized, divisive; the latter is dynamic, active, concrete, imaginative, stressing the totality of man and his religion. Whatever we may think of this contrast, Barr claims that the linguistic arguments used to support it are ‘unsystematic and haphazard.’ Evidence of the kind adduced by these theologians is valid only when the Biblical languages are rigorously examined and hen the method is integrated with general linguistic science. Modern theology fails on both scores.” (location 221/p18?)

Something that I did not consider before:

“In some cases, a derivative [a word derived from another] that has not undergone phonetic changes may nevertheless undergo semantic changes and become unrelated to the original word. English regard was a derivative from guard, but the meanings of these words have drifted so far from each other that the speaker is not aware of their connection (as is reflected by the difference in spelling).” (location 664)

Having read the above piece in the book, I wondered how I could have missed this, it is so logical!

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. While it was challenging, I found it very rewarding. Even if you do not understand Greek or Hebrew, the principles that are taught in this book could help you from falling into the trap of misusing Biblical words like so many Christians do.

There are some publication problems that I have with my edition (Kindle: ePub edition, March 2010, ISBN: 978-0-310-87151-4), and perhaps even with the paper edition. Unfortunately, I do not have the paper edition.

I am a stickler for spelling, and to find a spelling mistake right on the copyright page in the subtitle of the book is simply ridiculous. Ever heard of SEMNTICS? According to the Amazon “Look Inside” page for this book, that mistake is in the paper edition too!

Then there are a couple of misprints.

At location 2917 (somewhere on pp204-205), it is written:

"When προσκυνεω is used in this sense of entreaty, it is properly synonymous with another verb found in the New Testament, προσκυνεω, which also means  to entreat..."

Here, the 2nd προσκυνεω should be another word.I tried to use the Amazon “Look Inside” feature here, but that page is unavailable. The 2nd προσκυνεω is a misprint!

At location 2981:

"ευσεβεω is another New Testament verb for worship from the same root..."

You see, ευσεβεω had just been dealt with, so how could ευσεβεω be another word for worship? Using, once again, the “Look Inside” feature of Amazon, here I found that my Kindle edition had the wrong words! Instead of ευσεβεω, the paper edition has σεβομαι (this can be seen on pp208-209). Yet another misprint!

Surely, the process of editing the Kindle book is the same as the paper edition? The same original files should have been used for both. I have made my own Kindle book, so it cannot be that difficult for the publishers and editors to have ensured that these misprints were not in the Kindle edition! Unless, of course, a pre-publication transcript, which still contained errors was used for the Kindle edition! That will be unconscionable!

Funny thing is, I contacted Zondervan about this and I was told that the Kindle ebook does not yet support  a Greek font. However, I have my Kindle edition in front of me as I write this, and it is using a Greek font! Apart from this, Zondervan did confirm that σεβομαι must replace ευσεβεω and that my reasoning was correct concerning the wording at location 2917. The 2nd προσκυνεω must be replaced with γονυπετεω!

I find things like this very annoying, making me wonder if editors even care about their jobs anymore. And it is not just this book. It is almost every book that I read that has spelling mistakes in, or duplicate words.

But, besides all this, I will still recommend this book!

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