Friday, April 4, 2008

Here's The Thing

On that last post, I could have mentioned that Aristotle defined females and women very very carefully by his science.

What he forgot to do is to define his main terms. When we just transliterate them into English, we think we're being as technical with his words as he was with females and women. Newsflash: we're not.

Here are terms we use for the very central, absolutely undefined, terms of Aristotle's treatises:
  • enthymeme -- a good word for rhetoricians to fight over, probably the most theorized word in rhetoric.
  • rhetoric -- yep. Aristotle never defined it except metaphorically.
  • dialectic -- the antistrophe of rhetoric
  • topic -- a good word for composition specialists to prescribe: "you must use a topic sentence in each paragraph.
  • paragraph -- another concept Aristotle uses with absolutely no definition.
  • pistis -- now we're getting both rhetoricians and New Testament religionists arguing, against one another and within their own groups.
So let's pick on the Koine people:
  • baptism -- My Southern Baptist preacher father-in-law preached on this "doctrine" a few Sundays back, telling what the Baptists see in the New Testament that the Catholics and Presbyterians and Methodists don't. He didn't say Jesus baptised bread in wine at the last supper or anything about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit controversies.
  • exegesis / isogesis -- If only these twin babies meant what theological Paul originally meant by them.
  • eschatological -- Just say it in English, and you're well on your way to writing a money-making book.
  • Christ -- Another undefined Greek place holder for a rather complex Hebrew concept; and now an English cuss word too although still something we want to put back into X-mas.
  • Jesus -- the weirdest name unless you speak Spanish. Also, the technical name for a very weirdly studied human being / God being.
  • agape -- the kind of love that God is and Eros is not, except when the Jews translate their Hebrew story about a brother's rape of his sister into Greek. But technically we're throwing out II Sammuel 13 because it's a narrative written before our lexicons had been bound and bought by seminarians.
But doctors and lawyers use Greeky English too for their very abstract terms to fight about. Hepatoblastoma is the name of a particularly awful childhood cancer (so why not name it awfully?) Embryo is one of the reasons lawyers and doctors and academic ethicists argue (and academy and ethics). Too bad Aristotle didn't define these either.

(PS He did coin economics from oikos, nomos, and icky. These were the defined rules for women in the household. Because it sounded so technical, it was the first word in the Greek encyclopedia and legal books, and in Good Housekeeping.)


Richard A. Rhodes said...

Just a quickie. I've argued for some time that Messiah is the proper English translation for χριστος. Our understanding of this Hebrew loan is far closer to the original understanding than Christ ever was.

Gotta run.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for the good comment, Rich, and for stopping by. I can't wait for someone to challenge "isogesis" as "incorrect." Would that be incorrect English or Greek? Or just my eisegesis?

J. K. Gayle said...

What's the proper English translation for "Messiah"?