How Have Inclusiveness and Tolerance Affected the Bauer-Danker Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG)? -- By: Vern Sheridan Poythress

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 46:4 (Dec 2003)
Article: How Have Inclusiveness and Tolerance Affected the Bauer-Danker Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG)?
Author: Vern Sheridan Poythress


How Have Inclusiveness and Tolerance Affected the Bauer-Danker Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG)?

Vern Sheridan Poythress

[Vern Poythress is professor of New Testament interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 27099, Philadelphia, PA 19118.]

Certain changes in the third English edition (2000) of Bauer’s Greek lexicon1 raise questions about political influence on lexical description. Have modern concerns for “inclusiveness and tolerance” affected the lexical entries?2 I regret to say that I have found such effects. Effects on Bauer’s lexicon become all the more significant because it has become a major standard for research on the Greek of the New Testament.

I. Different Editions

How does the third English edition (BDAG) relate to previous editions? The third edition carries the same title as the two previous English editions: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. The title page describes it as “revised and edited by Frederick William Danker based on Walter Bauer’s” 6th German edition3 and the previous English editions (BAG 1957 and BAGD 1979).

In the “Foreword” to the new edition Danker indicates a concern for “inclusiveness and tolerance,” but also adds a reservation concerning their role in lexicography:

Also of concern are respect for inclusiveness and tolerance. But a scientific work dare not become a reservoir for ideological pleading, and culture-bound expressions must be given their due lest history be denied its day in court. It is an undeniable fact that God is primarily viewed patriarchally in the Bible, but translation must avoid exaggeration of the datum. “Brother” is a legitimate rendering of many instances of the term ἀδελψός, but when it appears that the term in the plural includes women (as in a letter to a congregation) some functional equivalent, such as “brothers and sisters,” is required.4

At first glance, this language may appear to be fairly balanced. Danker is aware, as we all are, of modern concerns for “inclusiveness and tolerance.” But he also expresses a significant reservation by saying that “a scientific work dare not become a reservoir for ideological pleading.” The lines that follow this expression of warning nevertheless raise some concerns. He says, “A translation must avoid exaggeration of the datum [of God as ...

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