Better Bibles Blog has moved. Read our last post, below, and then
click here if you are not redirected to our new location within 60 seconds.
Please Bookmark our new location and update blogrolls.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Tim. 2:15: Orthotomeo III

To continue my discussion of ορθοτομεω, here is the full entry in BAGD,

    ορθοτομεω found elsewh. independently of the NT only Pr. 3:6, 11:5. where it is used w. οδους and plainly means 'cut a path in a straight direction' or ‘cut a road across country (that is forested or otherwise difficult to pass through) in a straight direction’. So that the traveler may go directly to his destination (cf. Thu. 2, 100, 2 οδους ευθειας ετεμνε; [and other references which I have ommitted, sorry.]
    Then ορθοτεμνειν τον λογον της αληθειας would perh. mean 'guide the word of truth along a straight path (like a road that goes straight to its goal) without being turned aside by wordy debates or impious talk', 2 Tim. 2:15. For such other mngs. as teach the word aright, expound it soundly, shape rightly and preach fearlessly, s. M-M.
From this is seems evident that BAGD does not agree with M-M's definitions of ορθοτομεω. (M-M stands for The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament by Moulton and Milligan. I do not have access to this.) However, I would like to review the early translations of ορθοτομεω.

    'preaches straightforwardly the word of truth' Peshitta Lamsa Translation 2nd century

    'raihtaba raidjandan' (richtig darbeiten - rightly present or perform)' Gothic circa 4th century

    'recte tractantem verbum veritatis' (rightly treat/handle) Latin Vulgate 5th century
Once again, BAGD does not seem to recommend this meaning for ορθοτομεω. I would certainly welcome any comments on this. Oddly, I cannot find any English Bible translation that uses the meaning preferred by BAGD, 1979, other than Nyland's, 2005. Darby's 'cut in a straight line' is similar but not identical in meaning.

It appears to me at this point, that the problem for most translators is that the BAGD meaning 'cut a path in a straight direction' requires the addition of the word 'road' or 'path' to the text in English. However, we have seen that for Romans 12:19 that even a literal version will add a word when necessary. Here the words 'of God' do not occur in the Greek, but are added to contribute what is considered part of the 'implied meaning' of the original text.

    Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Rom. 12:19 ESV
So, I think we have to seriously consider the BAGD meaning, even though it is not used in the better known translations.

I would like to add this additional endorsement of the BAGD, by Poythress in his article, 2001, on Greek Lexicography,

    What do we conclude? Louw-Nida may help the translator who is wrestling with conveying metaphors effectively. It will not help the exegete who needs exact information about distinct meanings, uncluttered with an artificial multiplication of senses generated by metaphorical uses.

    Thus Bauer is the main and indispensable lexicon to use for serious exegesis of the New Testament. But the exegete must also have an eye on Liddell-Scott-Jones, so as not to miss possible senses that Bauer does not list. And Liddell-Scott-Jones is itself subject to refinement because of the mass of material now available in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae.

    Louw-Nida, though profoundly stimulating in various respects, was not really designed for use in careful exegesis, and is likely to be misused by those who try to use it for this purpose. The translator who has finished his exegesis, and who is dealing with a knotty problem with a new language and culture, may look to Louw-Nida for help in conveying the meaning into the new cultural situation.

It is clear from the introduction to this article that Poythress gained most of his experience with lexicons in the process of working on the ESV, and not before. He says,

    "In my own experience working on the English Standard Version, a conservative revision of the Revised Standard Version, I encountered considerable complexities in using the lexicons."

To be continued. 'Orthotomeo' in either Proverbs or Thucydides, as the spirit moves.


At Tue Mar 28, 12:50:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Actually Poythress is specifically commenting on BDAG, the 2000 3rd edition, not on BAGD, the 1979 edition from which you quote. But in fact there is far more in this article, mostly critical, about Louw and Nida than there is about BDAG.

I would like to repeat my point made elsewhere that BDAG has a serious limitation in that its "definitions" are very often little more than a collection of the glosses used in various well established English translations. As a result they are open to the charge that they are merely perpetuating translational tradition rather than informing exegetes of the meaning of the Greek. There is also a lack of attention to non-biblical Greek usage: the authors write "As for the influence of the LXX, every page of this lexicon shows that it outweighs all other influences on our literature", but could this be telling is more about their method than about NT Greek? As a result I don't find BAGD or BDAG very helpful for my exegetical and translational work, for I can learn little from them that I can't find out more easily by looking at English translations of the word in question - something which is easy with Bible software.

I accept also that Louw and Nida is far from perfect, but I do consider it generally better than BAGD, and presumably than BDAG although I have not used the latter much.

At Tue Mar 28, 01:21:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

This is an interesting series; I confess I haven't read it or the comments closely! Mea culpa! But this thought occurs to me: we only use dictionaries when we don't know what a word means. We know what words mean by experience of a language. Dictionaries help to make up for lack of experience, but they cannot replace it.

Can I take as given the semantic principle that words have meaning in context?

When dictionary-consulting is divorced from language-experience, one ends up hearing the unhelpful question "Can it mean x?" When I have heard this question, it inevitably means the nether regions of lexical entries have been plundered, and the purloined gloss has then been pried, pushed, or poked into some entirely novel translation.

The better question is, of course, "What does it mean?".

Lexica ought to be regarded as a starting point for gaining experience of the language -- words in contexts. I think William Carey knew this.

I got my first glimmer of this when I asked one of my teachers for advice on word lists/vocab acquisition when I realized I needed a broader base. His reply: just learn them when you read them. (Thanks, Al!)

The answer to the "Can it mean..." question is usually (I would think invariably), "Well, it could, but that's not what it means here!". And only language experience can get you that, not the dictionaries. Which is why I would advocate reading more widely in Greek literature (or even literatures cognate to Hebrew, though that is a different case) than simply the sacred texts, even if (or perhaps especially if) it is the sacred literature that is the main point.

Sorry if this is a bit choppy! I'm not sure I've said what I want to say all that well....

At Tue Mar 28, 04:29:00 AM, Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

Here's the M-M entry:

The meaning of the NT hAP. EIR. (2 Tim 2:15: cf Prov 3:6, 11:5) is by no means clear, but on the analogy of the similarly formed KAINOTOMEW, "make a new or strange assertion," it seeems best to lay the main stress on the adj. and to understand by ORQOTOMEW TON LOGON, "teach the word aright." Sophocles (Lex. s.v.) renders "expound soundly": cf the use of ORQOTOMIA = "orthodoxy" in eccles. writers. Parry (ad 2 Tim l.c.) adopts the suggestion that the metaphor may be derived not from road making (TEMNEIN hODON), but from the mason's cutting stones fair and straight to fit into their places in a building, and compares the use of their simplex subst. in Syl 587:17 (B.C.329-8) MISQWTEI THS TOMHS TWN LIQWN, and 22 TOMH KAI KOMIDH KAI QESIS TOU LIQOU. A different turn is given to the verb by Paspati, who translates "preach fearlessly" on the ground that in MGr ORQA KOPTA is used to denote "clearly and fearlessly": see Exp III. i. p. 238.

At Tue Mar 28, 04:55:00 AM, Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

I think Paul's flow of argument is helpful here. Note in 2 Tim. 2:9: EN hWi KAKOPAQW MECRI DESMWN hWS KAKOURGOS, ALLA hO LOGOS TOU QEOU OU DEDETAI. Paul is saying his gospel has landed him in prison for being a bad person (wrongfully, of course). That is, the pathway of obedience to the gospel brought him straight to being chained. Then he proceeds to charge Timothy with living rightly so that his message would convict bad people. In other words, there's this irony going on between the truth and the result of that truth. In Paul's case, he is (wrongfully) accused of being bad. In Timothy's case, he is to live in a way that (rightfully) accuses those who are bad since this is what the truth says.

I'm not being very clear here, but it appears to me that Paul is trying very hard to make sure Timothy understands that orthopraxis and orthodoxy are bound very tightly together and, in fact, feed into each other. I wonder if that tight link is seen clearly in Paul's use of the word ORTHOTOMEW.

There's also 2:18 and the use of the word ASTOCEW which sounds to me that it fits in the same script (linguistic term). In other words, "cutting a straight pathway" and "straying away from the goal" appear to be in the same semantic domain.

At Tue Mar 28, 10:18:00 AM, Blogger Brian said...

The ALT and NET seem ok, the note on the NET helps.

(ALT) Be eager [or, diligent] to present yourself approved to God [as] a worker with no need to be ashamed, cutting straight [fig., teaching accurately; or, interpreting correctly] the word of truth.

(HCSB) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.

(ISV) Do your best to present yourself to God as an approved worker who has nothing to be ashamed of, handling the word of truth with precision.

(NET.) Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately.

2Ti 2:15 -

28 sn Accurately is a figure of speech that literally means something like "cutting a straight road." In regard to the message of truth, it means "correctly handling" or "imparting it without deviation."


At Tue Mar 28, 11:13:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


As a result they are open to the charge that they are merely perpetuating translational tradition rather than informing exegetes of the meaning of the Greek. Your point is well taken. I also find that the BAGD may be more dependent on LXX than I would like here.


Actually I am using the word 'orthotomeo' to learn more about the dictionaries, rather than vice versa. I will get into some texts next. This is partly to spin my wheels until Rich Rhodes gets back. But once again, your point is well taken.


Thanks for M-M. I also like your point that this is about both right teaching and walking the right path. I don't know if that association can be maintained in the English vocabulary here.


Thanks for those additional translations. 'Imparting without deviation' is an excellent note.

I appreciate all the contributions here.

At Tue Mar 28, 11:26:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I want to apologize for bringing up the same old boring controversy at the end. I shall try to let it go.

At Tue Mar 28, 11:30:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

Since commenting :) I read a few more of the entries. I see what you're after, Suzanne; the study is a good one on several levels. It shows the need for a critical (i.e., discerning, testing) handling of reference works. It also shows (with a word not at the "Top of the Pops" of frequency charts!) why dictionaries are necessary tools to grapple with literary (I mean non-living) languages.

At Tue Mar 28, 01:00:00 PM, Blogger lingamish said...

I admire Mike's attempt to look at wider context to try to figure out what this word means here. In fact, even with a rather narrow contextual scope I think you can get a pretty good idea of what Paul had in mind in this verse.

Remove the "offending" word, ORTHOTOMEO, and try to fill in the blank in the most logical way possible:

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman, ____________ the message of truth. But avoid profane, empty utterances for they will lead to ungodliness..."

It appears to me that there is a clear contrast made between what the unashamed workman is doing with the message of truth and the "empty utterances" of others. Granted this doesn't give us a specific explanation of what this word ought to mean, but it at least shows a generally range of meaning that we should be shooting for.

I'd be interested to see more analysis of this term based on the context.

At Tue Mar 28, 06:06:00 PM, Blogger Mike Sangrey said...

Lingamish wrote (and I've reformated):
 A. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, an unashamed workman,
    B  ____________ the message of truth.
    B'  But avoid profane, empty utterances
A' for they will lead to ungodliness..."

So, what does BEBHLOUS KENOFWNIAS mean? How might it be associated with ORQOTOMEW? What I think I would do here first, is to nail down how these words differ from other words in the same semantic domain.

At Tue May 29, 01:04:00 AM, Blogger brendan gosling said...

Rightly"cut a straight path" through word of truth, or, Rightly "divide" the the word of truth. see Bullinger or Welch. It's the basis for dispensational teaching.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home