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God, Language and Scripture av Moises Silva
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God, Language and Scripture (utgåvan 1991)

av Moises Silva (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1291168,631 (4.5)5
The primary aim of God, Language and Scripture is to provide guidance in the use of biblical languages. Secondarily this volume initiates the reader to the wonders and workings of language and points out how language is often misused, especially in regard to the Bible. This volume, however, in no way anticipates all the ways of mishandling language. Silva's emphasis is on "global" rather than detailed concerns (though selected specific examples are used) of how language is misused. The book includes an account of the birth and growth of modern linguistics, an appreciation of its interdisciplinary character, particularly its ties with literary criticism, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and science. It surveys all levels of language description, but emphasizes the semantic and stylistic aspects of grammar and syntax, vocabulary, and discourse. In addition, it considers the transmission of the Bible (textual criticism and translation) as a mode of linguistic communication and interpretive process.… (mer)
Medlem:BrockLarson
Titel:God, Language and Scripture
Författare:Moises Silva (Författare)
Info:Zondervan Academic (1991), 160 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek
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God, Language and Scripture av Moisés Silva

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I discovered Silva's work via a recommendations in the backs of [[Joel Hoffman]]'s books. Like Hoffman, Silva is a linguist, but unlike Hoffman he is a Christian whose interest extends to both Testaments. Silva, an evangelical scholar, provides an overview of both linguistics in general and that of Biblical Hebrew and Greek in particular.

Silva begins with a look at how language is portrayed in the Bible. Language is a double-edged sword: it is both how God created the universe and how humans are divided in their multitude of Babels. In the New Testament, Jesus is the Incarnate Word, the Logos of God, but words of insult and scandal also divide early Christian communities, as shown in the epistles. Silva points out that language, as part of humanity's image of God, is a religious act. Using language well is a development of one of humanity's greatest potentials. Language is a Christian act. A bit cheesy, and a bit brief, but then again he's not a theologian.

Linguistics, for Silva, is a synchronic descriptive discipline. That is, it is not historical, and it is not prescriptive. Languages are often studied under the humanities, but linguistics is mainly a behavioral science. Despite historical change of languages not being the main focus of linguistics, it is useful to know that Greek comes from the Indo-European or Indo-Aryan language family. It is cousins with the Romantic and Germanic languages, and even related to Sanskrit. But Hebrew is from the Semitic family, closely related to Canaanite and Aramaic and more distantly to Arabic. While we often think that Jews spoke and used Hebrew at all times in the ancient world, in fact many Jews spoke Aramaic, which has similar sounds and many cognates with Hebrew. Hebrew likely developed as a dialect of Canaanite, and was restricted to Jews, whereas Aramaic was a lingua franca of the ancient Near East.

Unlike Hebrew, we know many ancient dialects of Greek. But the varieties of Aeolic, Doric, Ionic, and Attic Greek were subsumed by the latter when Alexander the Great established his empire in the fourth century BCE. Attic Greek's becoming a koine, or common, language required much simplification, which intellectuals decried in their effort to keep it pure and literary. Their campaign to make a "high culture" Koine never made it to the New Testament, which even in its most eloquent writings does not display the "high Attic" style. Knowing that the Greek language was undergoing drastic change during the time of the New Testament makes me wonder how visible that is in its writings. Is the Greek of the early Pauline letters (50s CE) that different from that of Revelation (early 100s CE)? How much is that due to the indivudual authors' differences? How could a translator capture those nuances, replicating how the NT's style of Greek would have sounded to a Greek in the first century? Ironically, what English KJV readers think of as high, archaic language - "the King's Speech" - was actually colloquial and common Greek.

Silva's information on the many varieties of Greee contrasts with the scant evidence of the history of Hebrew in Hoffman's [In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language]. There could have been many different dialects of Hebrew spoken by ancient Jews, many different forms of both high and low Hebrew. But we have a plethora of ancient Greek writing samples compared to Hebrew. Since our manuscripts of the Masoretic text only date to c. 1000 CE, we can't know how many different regional writing styles or dialects were standardized by a milennium or more of scribal copying. All we have from the ancient world are the Dead Sea Scrolls and a handful of inscriptions. It's tantalizing to think what we have lost and may never find.

The meat of Silva's book is in his descriptions of the grammar of Greek and Hebrew. Some points:
-- The main difficulty in learning these languages is that unlike English, they are highly inflected. Even more in Greek than in Hebrew, grammar is expressed by changing words, adding prefixes and suffixes, in Hebrew's case also by changing vowels. English is more word order-based. While nouns inflect in Greek by grammatical function (five cases!), in Hebrew they only do so by gender and number.
-- Greek, like German, easily makes new words by combining nouns. This makes Greek etymology often very transparent, even though finding the meaning of a word through etymology is usually very risky.
-- Hebrew's perfect-imperfect system often leaves novice learners mystified. After all, if Hebrew can't express the present tense, doesn't this have some deep mystical impact on the way ancient Israel ontologized the world? But in fact, it is only a grammatical convention, and Hebrew can use participles or context to express the present tense quite easily.

I did encounter something new in Silva's section on discourse analysis. What is a sentence? How do we know something is a paragraph? This seems abstract, but remember that often the verse and paragraph distinctions in both Old and New Testament are arbitrary and not in the original manuscripts. How can the meaning of a text change if the paragraphs are restructured? Silva also describes the debates between dyanmic and formal translation proponents. (Another reason to learn the original.)

Like Hoffman, Silva stresses that context is really the only way one can find out what a word means. Textbook definitions such as "levav = heart" fail to capture the nuances of how context can change the meaning of a word. This is especially true of prepositions, which can have over a dozen meanings. Even verb forms have this problem, as a student may have only learned the 1-2 major meanings of a verb form, leaving them confused when a more obscure meaning is intended. Overall, the map is not the territory, and the simplistic definitions and grammatical explanations required to teach these languages must eventually be discarded.

Silva's book was a bit of a let-down after reading Alter. But I will also give Silva the benefit of the doubt, as this was not intended to be an original scholarly work like Alter's but more of a layperson's overview. Silva has a more technical work, [Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics], that I hope to get to someday. But alas, I first must learn Greek. Overall, Silva's is a useful, if not always clear and pointed, introduction to some highly technical issues for the average churchgoer who has no need to wade through linguistics textbooks. But for this reader, it was just too facile. ( )
1 rösta JDHomrighausen | Jul 23, 2012 |
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The primary aim of God, Language and Scripture is to provide guidance in the use of biblical languages. Secondarily this volume initiates the reader to the wonders and workings of language and points out how language is often misused, especially in regard to the Bible. This volume, however, in no way anticipates all the ways of mishandling language. Silva's emphasis is on "global" rather than detailed concerns (though selected specific examples are used) of how language is misused. The book includes an account of the birth and growth of modern linguistics, an appreciation of its interdisciplinary character, particularly its ties with literary criticism, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and science. It surveys all levels of language description, but emphasizes the semantic and stylistic aspects of grammar and syntax, vocabulary, and discourse. In addition, it considers the transmission of the Bible (textual criticism and translation) as a mode of linguistic communication and interpretive process.

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