Some Doubts About Doubt: The New Testament Use Of ΔΙΑΚΡΙΝΩ -- By: David Degraaf

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 48:4 (Dec 2005)
Article: Some Doubts About Doubt: The New Testament Use Of ΔΙΑΚΡΙΝΩ
Author: David Degraaf


Some Doubts About Doubt:
The New Testament Use Of ΔΙΑΚΡΙΝΩ

David Degraaf

David DeGraaf resides at 1322 SE La Mesa Ave., Gresham, OR 97080.

The verb διακρίνω appears nineteen times in the Greek NT. In most translations, nine of these instances (Matt 21:21; Mark 11:23; Acts 10:20; 11:12; Rom 4:20; 14:23; Jas 1:6; Jude 22) are rendered with words that express uncertainty, such as "doubt," "hesitate," or "waver." The argument set forth in this article is that "uncertainty" is not the meaning that the biblical authors intended to convey in these nine cases, and that they should instead be rendered with words that express divided loyalty or disunity.1

All nineteen occurrences of διακρίνω are listed in Figure 1, where they are grouped according to voice.2 Also shown are the verb's mood and tense and the translation of each from the nasb and the niv. Note that when it occurs in the active voice, διακρίνω is usually translated into English with such words as "discern," "distinguish," "make distinctions," "judge," or "pass judgment." When it occurs in the passive or middle voice, it is sometimes translated as "dispute," "contend," "discriminate," or "create divisions," but other times as "hesitate," "waver," or "doubt."

I. Context And Tradition

Before beginning a discussion of the passages, it may be a good idea to review how we decide what a given word in the Greek NT means in the first place. In general, there are two categories of guidance which help us determine the meaning of a given instance of a given word: context and tradition. Context here refers to a whole range of things associated with the instance of the word in question. These include the text in which the instance occurs, other texts associated with that text, and other instances of the same or related words as they are used in texts unrelated to the instance in question.

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