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Biblical Words and Their Meaning Paperback – January 3, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan; Rev Exp edition (January 3, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310479819
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310479819
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,043 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

When first published in 1983, Biblical Words and Their Meaning broke new ground by introducing to students of the Bible the principles of linguistics, in particular, on lexical semantics -- that branch that focuses on the meaning of individual words. Silva's structural approach provides the interpreter with an important lexical tool for more responsible understanding of the biblical text and more effective use of standard exegetical resources. This revised edition includes a bibliographical essay by Silva, "Recent Developments in Semantics," and an appendix by Karen H. Jobes, "Distinguishing the Meaning of Greek Verbs in the Semantic Domain for Worship," that provides the reader with a substantive example of lexical study.

About the Author

Moisés Silva taught biblical studies at Westmont College, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Seminary. He is the author or coauthor of eight books and the revising editor of the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.

More About the Author

Moisés Silva taught biblical studies at Westmont College, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Seminary. He is the author or coauthor of eight books, and the revising editor of the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible.

Customer Reviews

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This book is a great reference to understanding the language of the Bible.
David L. Cairns
It's also a one-time read-through reference book that you would read to get some idea about how biblical translation is done, and the task of biblical linguists.
Chris Lee
There's an awful lot of technical material packed into few pages, making the book quite dense.
J. T. King

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By J. T. King on October 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
Word studies are some of the most abused pursuits in biblical hermeneutics. When we enter the realm of ancient tongues, too often we forget common sense. We create rules of language that we ourselves never follow in our own day-to-day speech. We overload words with deep meanings, whether or not the author intended it. We analyze the life out of scripture, obscuring the text itself.
Partially, this tendency is enabled by the rich arsenal of word-study tools at our disposal. Lexicons and concordances make it easy to look up every definition and instance of any word and its cognates. Computerized tools make this process painless even for the amateur scholar.
But this arsenal is full of double-edged swords. In this compact introduction to lexical semantics, Moises Silva presents to the exegete the knowledge to make use of these tools without drawing questionable conclusions. In particular, he highlights five common pitfalls:
1. reading into a word inapplicable meanings from related words (abuse of etymology)
2. reading into a word more than the word actually says (illegitimate totality transfer)
3. misunderstanding the role of context (neglect of syntagmatic considerations)
4. misunderstanding the role of synonyms (neglect of paradigmatic considerations)
5. confusing language and reality (confounding symbol, sense, and referent)
This is not an easy read. There's an awful lot of technical material packed into few pages, making the book quite dense. It is, however, an invaluable resource for the biblical exegete. One will want to give it several reads through, as well as refer to it from time to time as he cracks open his copy of BAGD or Louw and Nida.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Virgil Brown VINE VOICE on April 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
It was my good fortune to have first encountered the study of semantics in an undergraduate level class. The text was James Barr's _Semantics of the Biblical Language_ which by coincidence is the takeoff point of this book by Moises Silva. What Barr does is to criticize the _Theological Dictionary of the New Testament_ for confusing word meaning with a history of ideas. Silva's goal in this book is the "relatively modest goal" of establishing principals and methods for "determining the most accurate English equivalents to biblical words."
I cannot help but smile at Silva's depiction of his enterprise as "relatively modest." Already in the first chapter Silva wants to maintain a distinction between etymology and semantic change. The former refers to origins; the latter refers to developments of a word. One might easily guess that Silva prefers the synchronic meaning of a term, how it is used in its present context.
This leads Silva to consider semantic change in the Septuagint and within the New Testament. Then it is on to a discussion of Saussure's terms langue (the linguistic system) and parole (actual speech). Many readers will begin to see here that determining what constitutes an accurate translation is surely the subject of critical thinking. What is the relationship of words such as walk and run? At this point Silva prefers three basic categories for synonyms: objective, emotive, and sociological.
In chapter 6, called "Determining Meanings," Silva outlines a method for understanding any text "remote from us in time" in order to reassemble a world around the text. Look at the immediate text. Look at the chapters which record the discussion of the term at hand. Look at the writer's teaching in general.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Chris Lee on December 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was used for an Interpretation of New Testament class (2nd year Master's level) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
You'd probably want to read the book to get more of a sense of biblical linguistics and overview of philology.
Moises Silva writes a pretty good book on biblical semantics (meaning, word choices, orders, placement, word studies, and so on) in the New Testament biblical text, as well as discussing linguistics and semantic domains of words (e.g., the background of Homeric Greek, Classical Greek, Contemporaneous Greek in comparison to biblical Greek). Silva also discusses some idioms and linguistics and hermeneutics (which seems to be his specialty) -- for instance, he discusses how different words interact differently in different semantic domains (e.g., the word "run" can be used in a number of different senses whether it's a verb, to run, as in a running animal, or a noun in baseball, e.g., home-run, or how a machine runs).
This is not an easy read though, even though it's a thin-looking paperback; it's rather technical and dense. It's also a one-time read-through reference book that you would read to get some idea about how biblical translation is done, and the task of biblical linguists.
It's definitely a good book for the advanced readers, in complement to other books on exegesis (e.g., Fee's NT Exegesis), hermenutics and interpretation (e.g., Fee/Stuart), and so on.
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Format: Paperback
I first encountered Silva's book over twenty years ago. As much as anything else I've read in the field of biblical studies, this work has led me to a better understanding of how to interpret the words of the Bible.

In short, what this book says is that individual words do not have an "essential" or "basic" or "real" meaning. Words mean what they mean only in their specific contexts. Therefore, it is the context of the occurrence of a particular word that must be regarded as the definitive clue for understanding the meaning of that occurrence of that word. Any other approach to the interpretation of single words (biblical or otherwise) is misguided, and will therefore render poor results. A few quotes from the book itself will give you a feel for what it says:

"Lexical semantics is that branch of modern linguistics that focuses on the meaning of individual words" (10).

This book "seeks to synthesize the results of contemporary lexical semantics insofar as they touch more or less directly on the concerns of biblical scholars" (22).

"[L]inguists . . . assign a determinative function to context; that is, the context does not merely help us understand meaning--it virtually makes meaning" (139).

No, Biblical Words and Their Meaning is not a book you take to the beach. It's not easy reading. When I first worked my way through it, I had a dictionary nearby and used it fairly regularly. I read some sections more than once, made notes, and struggled through. It was worth the effort.

Every serious student of the Bible would do well to read this book. Ingesting what it says would save Bible teachers from those quick and easy (and sometimes silly) assertions about what a word means. Knowing what this book teaches will go a long way in helping you to understand what the Bible teaches. Although not easy, it really is that simple.
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