Everyone needs a sabbatical once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from Koinonia blog until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some of our favorite and most popular posts for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.
A few years ago Bill Mounce received several requests for help with understanding the definition and grammar of ἀπόλλυμι, “destroy.”
Apparently someone asked about the precise meaning of the word, prompting a fascinating, elucidating lesson on how words have meanings.
As Mounce explains, “A word does not have ‘a’ meaning. A word has a bundle of meanings.” And its our job as exegetes to pick the right meaning out of the bundle.
In the post below Mounce performs a helpful service by explaining what can tend to be a tricky endeavor, picking “the right stick out of the bundle.” Consider the excerpt below and then read the rest of the post.
Different people use different metaphors, but I like the image of a bundle. The technical term for this is "semantic range." Words are like bundles full of many sticks. Some words have a few sticks; some have many sticks. But every word has a bundle or meanings. This is true in any language. Perhaps you are able to think of a word that has only one meaning, but that is rare.
When your mind is looking for just the right word to say, it is analyzing bundles of meanings, looking for just the right stick for that particular context, and then selects the word. There are many factors that go into the selection process, factors of nuance, emphasis, precision, etc. Is it okay to say "go," or is the emphatic "run" more appropriate, or perhaps the more specific "enter." But whatever be the specifics, it is the context that determines which word is used and what stick is intended.
From the point of view of the reader, then, the process is the reverse. We see a word, recognize its bundle of meanings, and choose the stick that best fits the context. As always, let context be your guide. No word has exactly the same meaning in every context except perhaps very technical terms...
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.