Context and Exegesis

Questions and discussion about B-Greek policies or the B-Greek forum.
Barry Hofstetter
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Context and Exegesis

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 27th, 2016, 1:20 pm

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:
RE: instrument as agent τῷ πνεύματι

A. T. Robertson p.820 g, In the N. T. , as in ancient Greek (Gildersleeve Syntax, p. 72), the instrument is sometimes personified and treated as an agent.




RE: context free syntax analysis

The analysis of disembodied (context free) clauses and phrases is common enough in generative grammar. Furthermore, analysis of the context is exegesis which is banned as off topic in this forum.
Good to know that those of us who hold to the personal nature of the Spirit don't have to sacrifice our theology to grammar...

To clarify our policy (hey, I am a moderator), contextual analysis and exegesis are okay as long as they serve the purpose of illuminating the Greek. I don't personally see anything out of bounds for this thread, though it could get that way, and perhaps another moderator might see it differently.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
Χαίρετε ἐν κυρίῳ πάντοτε· πάλιν ἐρῶ, χαίρετε

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 27th, 2016, 1:25 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:To clarify our policy (hey, I am a moderator), contextual analysis and exegesis are okay as long as they serve the purpose of illuminating the Greek. I don't personally see anything out of bounds for this thread, though it could get that way, and perhaps another moderator might see it differently.
Yes, that's how I understand it. We really do try to understand what the text means.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » January 27th, 2016, 1:46 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:To clarify our policy (hey, I am a moderator), contextual analysis and exegesis are okay as long as they serve the purpose of illuminating the Greek. I don't personally see anything out of bounds for this thread, though it could get that way, and perhaps another moderator might see it differently.
Yes, that's how I understand it. We really do try to understand what the text means.
I have long ago given up trying to understand what is on topic here. It seems that only moderators know what is on topic and they seem to go off topic as often as anyone else.
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

Jonathan Robie
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 27th, 2016, 2:11 pm

Carl Conrad wrote:
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:I have long ago given up trying to understand what is on topic here. It seems that only moderators know what is on topic and they seem to go off topic as often as anyone else.
... and sometimes I suspect the moderators ...
... sed quis custodiet ipsos
custodes?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 27th, 2016, 2:13 pm

OK, let's discuss. In this thread, let's discuss what is out of scope when it comes to context and exegesis.

I think Barry has it right: we can discuss the context and content of a passage. We don't do systematic theology here, and we don't do theological debates, but discussing what a text means is an important part of what we do.

What questions do you have about that? If moderators are not on the same page, we need to get there if it is affecting discussion here.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Stephen Carlson » January 27th, 2016, 4:46 pm

The idea that exegesis is off topic is news to me.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » January 27th, 2016, 5:56 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:The idea that exegesis is off topic is news to me.
Is eisegesis off topic?

Seriously speaking... as far as exegesis means understanding the text in its original historical and linguistic context we can't avoid it. Understanding the language and texts in their original form is part of exegesis. But it's more difficult (impossible) to say where the line between language and culture goes. Spatial and temporal historical context, the original context of the writers, is necessary part of understanding their language. Not so much for grammar/syntax, but one can't understand words and certain phrases without the surrounding culture. For example understanding the concepts, ideas and values related to family and other social relationships is necessary background for understanding words like father, mother, son, brother etc. But we don't go into detailed discussions about 1st century social world here.

What really should be understood by all readers of the Bible is the difference between our theological context and the 1st century context. The language and texts by 1st century writers must be understood using their own context, not our systematic theological context. Few people realize that υιος θεου didn't mean "the second person of the trinity". It meant a divine king or other divine person or someone who had a special relationship with (a) god. υιος ανθροπου has a special background in the OT but meant generally just "a man", a human being. A divine king, chosen and adopted by God, is the idea behind the Son of God, is exegetical background for the phrase υιος θεου. So is the OT idea of Israel as the Son of God. But the idea of the Holy Trinity is not.

All NT texts have theological background which has to be understood to understand the texts. But it's not the systematic 21st century theological context, it's the 1st century Jewish (and Hellenistic) context. One recurring problem with many first-time posters here is that it's easy to tell from the posts how they haven't realized how they try to fit the text (and language) of the NT to their own modern Christian presuppositions. Of course we are all guilty of that to some degree, but hopefully we are learning.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 27th, 2016, 6:45 pm

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
Stephen Carlson wrote:The idea that exegesis is off topic is news to me.
Is eisegesis off topic?
Not officially, our official policies are in the policies forum.

There are some kinds of discussion that we have always discouraged. We don't want interpretation to be based on theology: we want to avoid having our discussion be driven by implicit theological assumptions, and we want to avoid having people use B-Greek to prop up their favorite proof texts. In general, we strongly encourage letting the text drive the discussion.

And B-Greek isn't the place that we discuss how best to apply the text to our lives or how we put what we are learning together to create a systematic theology. We focus on what a text can reasonably be understood to mean. Many of us then take that into our personal lives, in different ways, and some of us exchange emails on a more personal and spiritual level. But that's not what B-Greek is for.

The moderators are discussing this same question in the back room, so feedback here is helpful for us to know what to consider. We may decide to create an official policy, if we can come up with a clear one that is likely to work. Anything that involves telling people what kind of interpretation is in scope is going to have fuzzy edges. So we have to figure out what is best done by policy, by teaching, by building a culture, or by other means.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 28th, 2016, 3:01 am

I would like to see encyclopedia-like-impartial discussions of different theological view points. Let's say that if the antipostdispensationalmilenarians use a particular Greek word or minutiae of Greek grammar to construct their ideas from a passage, it might be useful to approach the Greek knowing other things besides the grammar - to know what their thinking was. I wouldn't want a full exposition of antipostdispensationalmilenarism, and would hate to see a triad of abuse and pious flaming between them and the postdispensationalmilenarians, but to at least know that there are things at stake would make me a little less naive about what was being discussed.

In my case, and let me speak for myself when I say, I have a B.Th major in systematic theology, and that was a sequence of 5 courses in theology proper, without using Biblical passages being quoted in support of a position or understanding. I am quite unfamiliar with the practice of getting together a quota of quotes to prove a point, in a process, which I think some here refer to as "proof-texting". During the thousand year ascendancy of universal orthodoxy, from perhaps the 4th to 14th century, we could have assumed that the same texts (or words in the text) were understood by all who were reading the text, except of course those who were undergoing coercise reeducation or being burnt alive at the stake, who were undergoing a process of purification from heresy and being aided in achieving conformity. Before or after those periods - such as now and at the time the New Testament was penned - there are (and were) a number of ways of reading the text. Discussing some of the ancient (original) things would suit some of the reasons that people learn Greek, to understand the world of the New Testament (to more deeply understand the text as it was written) AND/OR to better communicate their understanding (to more convincingly support their positions or interpretations).

It would be useful to know something like that the postdispensationalmilenarians interpret such and so a dative as a dative of advantage, while the antipostdispensationalmilenarians see it as a dative of disadvantage and extreme poverty, without of course having the conversation move beyond the impartial into the argumentative. The fact that the postdispensationalmilenarians developed a whole ethos of victory and triumphal empowerment from their dative of advantage, or that the antipostdispensationalmilenarians developed a social services from their dative of disadvantage interpretation is perhaps a bit far from the Greek, and may belong in Church History. But, I think, the role of Greek in the life of the Church and its effects on faith and life are integral rather than external to the experience of grappling with the language that we spend our time in.

One of the usual ways of appearing impartial - for those who personally hold a view - is to be required to present their opponents' (real or imaginary) point of view too. That is academic practice for the most part. I think that in the majority of cases, we assume that other people have the same meaning as we would have when we speak, and that they read the same meaning as we do when we read. That is a basic human empathy that allows communication to take place to a certain degree. Beyond that, we need to discuss what we mean and what we understand. With a text like the New Testament, the meanings we ascribe and the understanding that we adduce can differ quite markedly. The majority (if not all) the regular participants would have no problem with impartial discussion of Roman religions, because to a greater or lesser degree we are detached from them. While doing a Master's level course in Gnosticism, we couldn't have gotten very far without seeing the radical meanings that were ascribed to words like ἄρχων, γνῶσις, δημιουργός, πίστις, πλήρωμα, σοφία or even θεός, within their dualistic cosmology and particular theology. Arianism, it could be said understood θεός something like the pagan ideas of a deified hero. Without discussion and sharing understandings, real communication is impeded. Then there is a question of which meaning we mean when we say that we understand. Some of that understanding is based in theological issues, and if they could at least be described that could help communication. Mutual toleration would be key to the success of expressing ideas openly.

To some degree at least (depending on the individuals concerned), B-Greek is a soap-box. People who share their ideas generally believe they are worth sharing and one reason that people have for believing they are worth sharing, is that they seem better than the ideas of others. Most participants believe that their way of acquiring knowledge, way of knowing, what they know, or the skills that they possess to handle the knowledge would benefit others, so they share. For the most part the ideas are shared free of the jeering of hecklers. But that is not always the case. B-Greek as a social dynamic has reached an ambiance of "acceptability" - in fact a number of ambiances - based on that those left standing in the discussion hold similar values and similar view-points. I think that that has the effect of progressively diminishing the number of people who participate. Even if that is not the case and equilibrium has been reached, I think it would be better if all ideas were accepted independent of where they belong in the discourse. Somebody with a Polish / German / South African heritage may feel anything from an awareness of their roots, right up to having lived in the country with a highly functional knowledge of what it is to be a Pole in Poland, etc. For New Testament Greek, some people just have a respect for the language, while most regular participants on B-Greek have a well-developed ability to handle the language in the various ways that they have put in the effort to develop.

Take cricket for example. While we enjoy watching first-class matches and the one day matches, they are not the only type of cricket. The sport could not be so great or so popular unless there were kids playing cricket throughout the commonwealth and former commonwealth countries, in their backyards, on dusty streets, in clubs on the weekend. Now while those are things take place at different times and in different places, there is a little tension here on B-Greek because the first class players have been asked to share the pitch with those whose skill is still developing, and even with those who have no personal skill or first-hand knowledge of the game, but are able to make some comment about it. Neither the professionals who have to tone things down, or the beginners who for some of them must be left bamboozled at what arises after their what-are-the-marks-over-the-letters level questions, are left quite satisfied. A narrowing of focus thins the ranks of those who do not have skills or patience to participate at a certain level. To continue the cricket analogy, I would say that my favourite spot is the practice nets, where I can experiment with different shots and techniques, and love to introduce new situations and opportunities onto the field. We have a few who like to be commentators and not a few who have embraced their roles as referees. There are a few superstars and others who are waiting to be recognised. There are those in the out-out field who pick up the ball when it comes their way, and quickly send it back into play. We are not all playing by the same rules, which is something very creative and also a little confronting.

I think there is some scope for discussion of theology to facilitate communication.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Context and Exegesis

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 28th, 2016, 11:02 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:I would like to see encyclopedia-like-impartial discussions of different theological view points. Let's say that if the antipostdispensationalmilenarians use a particular Greek word or minutiae of Greek grammar to construct their ideas from a passage, it might be useful to approach the Greek knowing other things besides the grammar - to know what their thinking was.
I really think our goal should be to try to understand the text per se, as it might reasonably have been understood by people back when the texts were written, long before terms like antipostdispensationalmillenarians were coined. If the Greek text contains the word antipostdispensationalmillenarians then it is in scope, but if this is a modern term associated with a modern concept, it is definitely not in scope. I think this is important in order to (1) keep the focus on the Greek text and Greek language, (2) avoid having the forum get swamped in debates about antipostdispensationalmillenarianism, which are easier and require less expertise than Greek, and (3) put us more in the mindset of the people who originally wrote or read these texts.

On the other hand, I think discussing various ways in which a Greek text could be understood is very much in scope, along the lines of what you see in commentaries like Meyer, ICC, Expositor's Greek, etc. who all read each other's interpretations and reasoned from them. These are the building blocks that people can go off and construct their theologies - just not here on B-Greek.
Stephen Hughes wrote:It would be useful to know something like that the postdispensationalmilenarians interpret such and so a dative as a dative of advantage, while the antipostdispensationalmilenarians see it as a dative of disadvantage and extreme poverty, without of course having the conversation move beyond the impartial into the argumentative.
Why do we need to talk postdispensationalmillenarians, isn't it enough to consider whether a text can be interpreted as a dative of advantage versus a different kind of dative? I think that's what is appropriate on B-Greek.
Stephen Hughes wrote:But, I think, the role of Greek in the life of the Church and its effects on faith and life are integral rather than external to the experience of grappling with the language that we spend our time in.
Sure. For most of us, that's why the text is interesting and useful. And B-Greek is very much intended to aid those who grapple with these things. But I think a certain separation of concerns is helpful. B-Greek is a good place to arrive at an understanding of the text. It is not a church or a spiritual fellowship. I hope that people have that, but I don't think that an online forum does that well, and not everyone on B-Greek even wants that.
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