Etymological Follies: Three Recent Lexicons of the New Testament

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Jonathan Robie
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Etymological Follies: Three Recent Lexicons of the New Testament

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 22nd, 2017, 10:45 am

John Lee's Etymological Follies: Three Recent Lexicons of the New Testament discusses problems in three lexicons: Trenchard, Newman, and Danker's concise lexicon.

He is quite harsh on both Trenchard and Newman's approaches to etymology, and critical of their lexicons in general. He is critical of the etymology in Danker:
Danker’s foray into etymology is not a disaster, as are those of Trenchard and Newman, but it is ill-advised. The main problem, apart from inaccuracies, is the randomness of the information given. Danker simply chooses something, without any consistent system. One can see the difficulty that he faced: to summarise in a few words a complex and highly variable body of data on each word. But one could wish he had defined his system and objective more clearly, for himself as much as for us. Part of doing so would have been to decide what purpose the etymological information serves and how it would impact on the user.
A few excerpts from his conclusion:
It looks as if there is a trend under way to reintroduce “etymologies” into NT lexicons. The idea has already caught on and gained momentum in less than ten years. It is likely to continue and grow in strength. There is also the likelihood, or rather certainty, that etymological material, from these three lexicons or others yet to come, will make its way into electronic resources. All this will be accompanied by the usual copying of material, of whatever quality, and without scrutiny, from one source to another, as we see already in Trenchard and Newman. Mistakes, once in the tradition, will be extremely hard to dislodge.
There is good in these lexicons, but the mistakes in them vitiate the good. If some of the etymologies cannot be trusted, then all of them must be treated with caution. The beginner simply does not have the experience to sort them out. There is however a positive suggestion with which to end. The massive etymological reference works mentioned throughout this discussion are difficult even for the experienced scholar. What we need, and have long needed, is a concise etymological dictionary of Greek, one that summarises the information in a targeted, efficient way for the non-expert. It could cover even basic derivations within Greek, as is already done in the big works, as well as the difficult questions of ultimate origin. If this challenge could be met, NT lexicographers could refer to or draw on this work and be relieved of the burden of dealing with something outside their competence.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Etymological Follies: Three Recent Lexicons of the New Testament

Post by Barry Hofstetter » December 22nd, 2017, 7:45 pm

I tend to ignore etymological notes in lexicons because, while they might be interesting, they are rarely relevant.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Etymological Follies: Three Recent Lexicons of the New Testament

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 23rd, 2017, 10:56 pm

I enjoy etymological notes in lexica, because I'm one of those people whom those notes help in making connections and associations, which is one way of learning and retaining vocabulary. That said, not everyone benefits from them. In fact, some might be tempted to commit the etymological fallacy.
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