Clayboy and the preacher’s fallacy

[…] A good, and frequently used homiletic example is where the Greek word proskyneō (προσκυνἐω) is translated worship. At this point the preacher will say something like:

What this word literally means is ‘I come toward to kiss’ and it reminds us how wonderful a relationship we are meant to have with our Father in heaven: when we worship him it is an act of love.

This is, unfortunately, almost entirely untrue in every way that matters. First, by the time we get to New Testament times it may simply mean worship, or pay homage. Alternatively it may mean, “kneel before, prostrate oneself before.” […]

I recommend Clayboy’s post on how not to use Greek exegesis in preaching. His analysis applies equally to Bible translation.

Read more: Clayboy: The preacher’s fallacy or, no, the Greeks didn’t have a word for it

4 thoughts on “Clayboy and the preacher’s fallacy

  1. Wayne Leman says:

    Good post, David, and good link, WoundedEgo. I followed the link and thanked Bill Mounce also. This problem of the etymological fallacy is quite widespread, especially among those who have just enough exposure to the biblical languages to be inoculated but not to get the full disease 🙂

  2. Mike Sangrey says:

    “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing;
    Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
    There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
    And drinking largely sobers us again.”
    — Alexander Pope in 1711 in his “Essay on Criticism.”

  3. Dru says:

    I think that’s a very important point. English too is full of words and expressions which have at their roots long and very dead metaphors, so dead that we aren’t aware of them. ‘He’s got guts’ does not refer to a person’s stomach.

    What though is also worth considering, and is a different question altogether, is what a firs century first or second language speaker actually did understand προσκυνἐω to mean. It might not have been all that like how we usually worship.

    Was ‘prostration’ at that date an inherent part of the word’s meaning, or was that by then also a dead derivation?

    I have very little doubt that the reformers saw the life and practice of the primitive church through the spectacles of their own time and assumptions, what they’d have liked the church in Rome or Corinth to have looked like rather than how it was. We can now see that, but have we the historical imagination to see through the preconceptions that we ourselves suffer from.

    It’s odd also that as far as I can see, it does not seem to exist in scripture as an an abstract noun. It seems to be something one does, rather than talks about or thinks about.

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