Extended Definitions In The Third Edition Of Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon -- By: Vern Sheridan Poythress

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:1 (Mar 2002)
Article: Extended Definitions In The Third Edition Of Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon
Author: Vern Sheridan Poythress


Extended Definitions In The Third Edition
Of Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon

Vern Sheridan Poythress*

* Vern Poythress is professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 27009, Philadelphia, PA 19118.

The third English edition of Bauer’s lexicon (BDAG)1 introduces for the first time a concerted use of “extended definitions.” These have a significant positive value, but also show some pitfalls, of which users should be aware.2

The earlier English editions (BAG and BAGD)3 gave information about meaning primarily through glosses, that is, italicized expressions in English that provide meaning-equivalents of the Greek. Bauer’s sixth German edition, on which the third English edition is based, mostly uses boldface type in a manner roughly corresponding to the italics of the English editions (but sometimes items in italics in German correspond to italics in English). On occasion, for greater precision and clarity, the German and English editions also offer further explanations in ordinary roman type (the German also uses italics for some of this information).

The third English edition differs from all these earlier editions by providing “extended definitions” in boldface nonitalic type, in addition to the glosses, which are now in boldface italics. For example, consider the entry under σοφία. The earlier BAGD has simply the gloss wisdom (in italics) to indicate the primary meaning of σοφία. The newer BDAG gives us the following: the capacity to understand and function accordingly, wisdom. The added words “the capacity to understand and function accordingly” (in bold) constitute the extended definition, clarifying the meaning of the gloss wisdom (in bold italics).

These extended definitions in BDAG can help significantly in clarifying meaning. Glosses, though useful, are sometimes imprecise. Words in English, as well as any other language, may have multiple senses, so that it may not always be clear which sense of an English word is intended. When several English glosses are provided, they help mutually to define one another, but they may not be completely synonymous, and the meaning may still be too narrow or too broad to match exactly the meaning of the Greek. For this very reason, the Louw-Nida lexicon (LN) consistently provides extended definitions as well as glosses, and indicates in its preface why this practice is to be regarded as ...

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