I follow a number of blogs, and this one in particular, from over at Logos Bible Software’s blog caught me as both humorous and worthy of sharing here.
Titled, What Do Lying Shrimp Have to Do With New Testament Exegesis?, by Mark Ward, PhD, points out some of the simple errors that we, as exegetes, can fall into in dealing with the Scriptures.
Mark begins telling us of a car trip that brought this issue to his mind,
One fine South Carolina day my little family was driving down the road listening to the radio, and on came “Rudy Mancke’s Nature Notes,” a delightful little minute-long feature by a local naturalist who talks about flora and fauna in the Palmetto State. And I got a lesson for New Testament exegesis out of it. And you can, too.
A Nature Notes listener had written in for information on the Latin name for a dead shrimp found “lying against some of the pluff mud” on the Charleston coast. Our two-year-old immediately piped up from her carseat, informing us all with deep conviction, “Lying is bad!”
Lying shrimp are bad, of course. My little cutie was right—makes me so mad at Red Lobster when those little crustaceans boast about being “jumbo” but are more, well, “shrimpy.”
If you laughed, I did too, but the insight that he gained from that moment is convicting,
I know the solution to this problem: teach your kids one and only one sense for every word, and insist that no other meanings exist. For “lying,” simply choose whether you and your family are going to mean “telling an untruth” or “reclining.” Then start a Facebook group to promote your chosen meaning. People will listen.
And thankfully, English has plenty of alternative words to choose from. My suggestion: make “lie” refer to reclining, and use “prevaricate” for telling an untruth. Your kids will love singing out, “Prevaricator, prevaricator, pants ignited!” (“Ignited” because “fire” means to relieve someone of his job. But then we can’t say that a dog “pants” . . . We’ll have to say he “lolls,” but then people won’t be able to “LOL” in text messages . . . Okay, this is going to take a while . . . )
It does seem simple, but then other problems begin to creep in and this is the problem that he focuses in upon,
“Love” provides just as good an example in Greek as it does in English.
In 1 Corinthians 13, love is the highest of the Christian virtues. The Greek word used in that context happens to be ἀγάπη (agape—a word I’ve discussed before). And when Bible interpreters get to this fact, they sometimes get excited. Now’s their linguistic chance! It is commonly believed among American Christians that this word has a special meaning, a richly theological meaning from which it never deviates. It means, we frequently hear, “self-sacrifice for the benefit of some other person who is one’s enemy and naturally unlovable” (Kenneth Wuest,“Four Greek Words for Love.” Bibliotheca Sacra116:463 [Jul- Sep 1959], 244–245).
The entire article is both humorous and insightful, and addresses the common error of New Testament exegesis: that we forget that the vocabulary that the New Testament authors are drawing from, namely the Septuagint.
Swing by Logos Bible Software, download an appropriate app, get a free subscription to their blog, the insights are worth picking up.