πλανάω — Is There More Wisdom?

Semantic Range, Lexicography, and other approaches to word meaning - in general, or for particular words.
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AKMA
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Joined: May 31st, 2011, 10:28 am

πλανάω — Is There More Wisdom?

Post by AKMA » July 20th, 2011, 5:39 am

First of all, I have to thank Jonathan and the others (when I left, I would have said "Carl and Carlton", I think, though the leadership may have changed over the past decade) who have kept this light burning for so many years. May this be reckoned to you as righteousness!

In working through the Epistle of James, I've hit a few places where I'd have expected to find fuller, more satisfactory resources, about which I'll be posting here. One of the topics on which I haven't seen as much rich, sound writing as I'd have expected concerns the word πλανάω and its various forms (and here I'm concerned with the usage in general, not just in James 1:16 and 5:19, nor even only in the NT). On the surface, there's no great issue in the Greek. It's pretty easy to tell what's going on from the forms and contexts, though the aorist forms touch on the issue of middle and passive (but in the version of Carl's essay that I have on hand, πλανάω doesn't come up, I think).

There's a difficulty in communicating succinctly in English the ways that the Greek oscillates and resonates in sense between its geographical ("wander") and cognitive ("mislead") and active and m/p usages. Of course, that's a problem relative to English, not to the Greek, but since it's my job as a teacher to be able to give as clear an account of such things, I'd like to be able to draw on more expansive wisdom than my own. Is anyone on-list aware of a good, thorough treatment of πλανάω apart from the usual, obvious sources (BDAG, LSJG, L&N, TDNT, EDNT, works on James, etc.)?

Thanks for your work in sustaining B-Greek, and for your kindness in offering counsel!

AKMA

A K M Adam
Lecturer in New Testament / Clerk to Trinity College Senate
School of Critical Studies
University of Glasgow

University Web <http://www.gla.ac.uk/departments/theology/staff/dradam/>
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cwconrad
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Re: πλανάω — Is There More Wisdom?

Post by cwconrad » July 20th, 2011, 7:07 am

AKMA wrote:First of all, I have to thank Jonathan and the others (when I left, I would have said "Carl and Carlton", I think, though the leadership may have changed over the past decade) who have kept this light burning for so many years. May this be reckoned to you as righteousness!

In working through the Epistle of James, I've hit a few places where I'd have expected to find fuller, more satisfactory resources, about which I'll be posting here. One of the topics on which I haven't seen as much rich, sound writing as I'd have expected concerns the word πλανάω and its various forms (and here I'm concerned with the usage in general, not just in James 1:16 and 5:19, nor even only in the NT). On the surface, there's no great issue in the Greek. It's pretty easy to tell what's going on from the forms and contexts, though the aorist forms touch on the issue of middle and passive (but in the version of Carl's essay that I have on hand, πλανάω doesn't come up, I think).

There's a difficulty in communicating succinctly in English the ways that the Greek oscillates and resonates in sense between its geographical ("wander") and cognitive ("mislead") and active and m/p usages. Of course, that's a problem relative to English, not to the Greek, but since it's my job as a teacher to be able to give as clear an account of such things, I'd like to be able to draw on more expansive wisdom than my own. Is anyone on-list aware of a good, thorough treatment of πλανάω apart from the usual, obvious sources (BDAG, LSJG, L&N, TDNT, EDNT, works on James, etc.)?
I'm still here, AKMA, but I have become aged and irresponsible, that is to say, I have left the administrative work to others and just chime in when there's something of significance. I suppose that makes me a sort of "wandering star" -- or πλανήτης -- myself, roaming about, although evidently in a pretty-much predictable orbit.

You mentioned L&N, which seems to me to offer about all that you could really want to know about this verb and its usage. I see three relevant entries in Louw & Nida:
15.24 πλανάομαιa: to move about, without definite destination or particular purpose — ‘to wander about.’ ἐπὶ ἐρημίαις πλανώμενοι καὶ ὄρεσιν ‘they wandered in the deserts and hills’ He 11:38.
31.8 πλανάω; πλάνηa, ης f: (figurative extensions of meaning of πλανάω ‘to cause to wander off the path,’ not occurring in the NT) to cause someone to hold a wrong view and thus be mistaken — ‘to mislead, to deceive, deception, to cause to be mistaken.’2
πλανάω: βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς πλανήσῃ ‘watch out, and do not let anyone deceive you’ Mt 24:4; πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι ‘deceiving others and being deceived themselves’ 2Tm 3:13.
πλάνηa: ἐκ τούτου γινώσκομεν τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πλάνης ‘this is the way we know the difference between the Spirit which leads to truth and the spirit that misleads us’ or ‘… causes us to hold a wrong view’ or ‘… causes us to be mistaken’ 1Jn 4:6.
To mislead people as to proper views which they should have may often be expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘to twist people’s thoughts,’ ‘to cause what is false to seem like what is true,’ ‘to make a lie appear true,’ ‘to dig away the truth,’ or ‘to cover the eyes with lies.’
31.67 πλανάομαιb; ἀποπλανάομαι: to no longer believe what is true, but to start believing what is false — ‘to stray from the truth, to wander from the truth, to go astray from.’9
πλανάομαιb: ἐάν τις ἐν ὑμῖν πλανηθῇ ἀπὸ τῆς ἀληθείας ‘if anyone among you should stray from the truth’ Jas 5:19.
ἀποπλανάομαι: ἀπεπλανήθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως ‘they have wandered from the faith’ 1Tm 6:10.
Though in some languages one can preserve the figurative meaning of ‘to wander’ or ‘to go astray’ in connection with truth, it is not possible to do so in many languages, and therefore it may be necessary to spell out in some detail precisely what is involved, for example, ‘to stop believing what is true and to start believing what is false.’
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There's more in §§31.9-11 on πλάνος, πλάνη, and ἀποπλανάω.

With regard to the voice of the common usage πλανῶμαι, this is clearly and obviously a subject-affected form, and this is one of those verbs that can be found in both active and middle forms about which I am very much inclined to think that the lemma ought to be the middle as a standard intransitive verb and the active ought rather to be seen as the secondary form -- transitive and causative. (Incidentally, AKMA, you may not have seen my most recent formulation about ancient Greek voice that I wrote for the AGNT Project Report: see my page at http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/GrkVc.html).

Forms based on the root ΠΛΑΝ seem to be standard in Hellenistic Greek, but there's what may be a cognate root ΠΛΑΓ seen in verbs πλήγνυμι, -πλήττ/πλήσσ- meaning "smite" or "knock off course." and there's a cognate of this in πλάζω/πλάζομαι that is very common in Homer and later verse, meaning "go astray." It's already found in the second line of the Odyssey:

ἄνδρα μοι ἕννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ
πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε ...

where many take πλάγχθη to be a passive, something like "was buffeted" but it might just as well be a middle in the sense "wandered all around" -- the poor guy was away from home for 20 years! To put it in language that even a linguist can understand, Odysseus was very much both an agent and a patient.

Wisdom you want? "Vee grow too soon old ... " Errare humanum est, says the old saw. It seems almost the exception in human affairs that one should go straight very long. I continue to think that L&N tells you about as much about this verb as you really need to know. Jonathan Swift can tell you about Gulliver, and perhaps the most amusing raconteur of the picaresque adventure in antiquity is Lucian of Samosata in the Ἀληθῶν Διηγημάτων Α and B.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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