Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Is there a corpus fallacy?

This forms the backdrop for an email exchange that Alan and I had last night:

Here's what I said:

i) No doubt we're not stuck with Pauline usage or even NT usage when it comes to Koine Greek lexicography. I have no problem with casting a wider net.

However, I think it's a question of concentric priorities. It's best to start with a writer's own usage. Especially in theology, not to mention a deep, original thinker like Paul, the usage may be specialized. His theological idiolect. 

Now, in some cases, the occurrences of a word in Scripture are so few that we have no choice but to look elsewhere. And in some cases–especially in Hebrew–it may be a hapax legomenon, which forces us to ransack cognate languages. However, that's not an ideal procedure. 

ii) Likewise, as you know, LXX usage is often quite germane to NT usage. So, again, it's not as if I'm forbidding usage outside the NT. 

iii) Sure, Paul likely used that word in speech and writing more often than our sampling of his extant correspondence. But as Jacob Neusner is wont to say, what you can't show you don't know. 

And, of course, how he used it on other occasions would depend on the context of his speaking or writing on those undocumented occasions–which we can't assess. 

iv) I haven't taken the position that Paul must be using naos figuratively in 2 Thes 2 because he uses it figuratively elsewhere. Rather, given the fact that he uses it figuratively elsewhere, it's valid to consider that when we come to 2 Thes 2. Of course, in cases where a word has multiple meanings or connotations, context selects for or narrows the range of operative meanings or connotations. 

v) I, for one, never suggested that Paul is unaware of a more common or most common meaning. 

vi) Appealing to Paul's wider, undocumented usage cuts both ways. For by that logic, Paul might well have occasion to use naos in a figurative sense more often than the few documented examples in the extant Pauline corpus. 

vii) If we consider the totality of Greek usage, including undocumented usage–since most Greeks were pagans, it would most commonly denote a pagan shrine. But that would favor Green's identification. 

viii) On a related note, some words have a default meaning. For instance, the default meaning of Paris is Paris, France–not Paris, Texas. An exception would be a resident of Paris TX talking to a fellow resident of Paris TX about their town.

In terms of Paul's undocumented usage, what are the situations in which he most likely had occasion to use that word? Well, when debating Jews or indoctrinating Jewish converts to Christianity, I assume it would most often denote the Second Temple/Herodian Temple. But in that case your appeal would favor preterism.

Likewise, he might well have some occasion to discuss the Solomonic temple.

In both cases, the word would have a more specific connotation than "physical temple." 

ix) We could, of course, distinguish between sense and reference, but I'm not sure how that would aid your argument. 

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