Danker Festschrift

dankerBiblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker, ed. B. Taylor, J. Lee, R. Burton, and R. Whitaker (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).

This should not be considered a formal review of the new Danker Festschrift, just a few notes now that I’ve finished reading it. Overall this is a very substantive volume that is well worth it’s price. The individual chapters are diverse; some are broader in scope, others are very narrowly focused and quite technical. In most (not all) cases it is obvious why the individual chapters were selected for inclusion. (Unfortunately, chapters are not numbered, making reference a bit clumsier than necessary.)

The brief bio (xviii-xxi) provides a helpful glimpse into Danker’s life. Those who are in the throes of doctoral work might be encouraged to note that it took Danker 20 years to finish his Ph.D.! He began work in classical Greek at the Univ. of Chicago in 1943, but did not graduate until 1963! About 10 years of this time was spent in pastoral ministry (at least 1946-54, perhaps longer).

Probably the most valuable chapter in the entire volume is the major essay by Danker himself, “Lexical Evolution and Linguistic Hazard” (1-31), which was the paper that he read at SBL in 1999 to introduce BDAG. This contains much historical perspective on the lexicon as well as providing an intimate glimpse into the process of lexicography. A few of my favorite quotes from Danker’s pen:

“Lexicographers have … responsibility to protect the poetic power of a word within a phrase from obliteration by bland prose” (22).

“A lexicon also should not be party to ideological distortion. Liturgical committees frequently bowdlerize otherwise clearly defined areas of scriptural text” (23).

“Refuge in sanctified vagueness, despite the patina of centuries of usage, is not a lexical gesture devoutly to be greeted. Indeed, such a practice may invite liability to the charge of linguistic incest” (24).

Most directly related to BDAG is the careful evaluation of the definitions and glosses in the review by Terry Roberts (53-65; formerly published in RBL). His comments make it obvious even to lexical neophytes just how complex a task it is to define words–esp. in the context of a bilingual dictionary.

One of the broad articles is that by John Lee, “The Present State of Lexicography of Ancient Greek” (66-74; Lee is one of the co-editors [with G. Horsley] of the current project to replace Moulton & Milligan’s lexicon of the papyri). This helpful survey provides a interesting peek into the task of lexicography, including the confession that “the concise, seemingly authoritative statement of meaning can, and often does, conceal many sins–indecision, compromise, imperfect knowledge, guesswork, and, above all, dependence on predecessors” (66).

William Johnson discusses “Greek Electronic Resources and the Lexicographical Function” (75-84), particularly from the perspective of a classicist involved with the TLG project. Just exactly what should a lexicon be and do? The answer is much broader than providing translation glosses.

Another well-known lexicographer, Takamitsu Muraoka, writes a brief article on LXX lexicography (85-90). The challenges of a lexicon of the LXX are involved, of course, with the relationship to the Hebrew text.

This is followed with a brief article by Barclay Newman (91-93) recounting the history and process of his slender dictionary. Interesting, but not earth-shaking.

Richard Whitaker then tackles the related topic of Greek concordances, demonstrating that the very arrangement and contents of a concordance often overlaps the concerns of the lexicographer (94-107).

The next four chapters are specialized studies related to Septuagintal lexicography. Katrin Hauspie (the ‘H’ of the LEH LXX lexicon) evaluates the LXX entries in the last two supplements to Liddell-Scott (108-25), and then, with Erik Eynikel (the ‘E’ of LEH), provides a careful and complete discussion of the word DRAKWN in the LXX (126-35). The third LXX article is Bernard Taylor’s semantic study of SPEUDW. He traces the complexities of Greek-Hebrew semantics and the “interlinear” paradigm assumed by the NETS translation project (of which he is the translator for 1 Reigns (= 1 Sam). Cameron Boyd-Taylor then applies the concept of register from systemic linguistics to matters of the lexicon in the LXX, asking when LXX usage may be considered evidentiary for the meaning of a Greek word (i.e., and not due to interlinear Hebrew). This is one of the longer and more technical articles (149-66).

Then follow four chapters addressing the relationship of grammar and lexicon. Bernard Taylor’s second chapter in the volume is titled “Deponency and Greek Lexicography” (167-76). Aspect, the topic of three chapters, is addressed by Randall Buth, “Verbs Perception and Aspect: Greek Lexicography and Grammar” (177-98–and yes, the title should, I think, have had a comma added); Trevor Evans, “Future Directions for Aspect Studies in Ancient Greek” (199-206); and Stanley Porter, “Aspect Theory and Lexicography” (207-22, perhaps one of the most technical articles). These four do not agree on everything related to aspect, but they surely surface some key questions and suggest direction for what needs to have further work. (Any PhD students looking for a diss. topic related to grammar will find at least a half dozen ideas in these three chapters.) Overall, it is interesting to see just how much agreement there is on aspect theory here. Although the differences might too easily be magnified out of proportion, Buth, Evans, and Porter are essentially agreed on what aspect is and that it is one of the key elements of the Greek verbal system. But I must be careful not to begin writing another article on these three chapters! 🙂

The last chapter, written by James Voelz, addresses semantics, in particular, entailment: “External Entailment as a Category of Linguistic Analysis” (223-30). Verbal nouns and adjectives are the primary focus as Voelz considers how the verbal element of such words affects our definition of the Greek word as well as other elements of meaning that are inherent in their use in a particular context.

Following a selected bibliography of Danker’s works, there are nearly 30 pages of indexes (reference, Greek, Hebrew, subject) that will be a valuable tool to access these essays.

There is only one major wart to be found in this otherwise significant book. One chapter has been omitted from the above summary–one that baffles me as to why the editors would allow it to be published. It does not make much positive contribution to the discussion (other than a few personal glimpses into Danker’s work). It is rather an uncharitable rant against the UBS/NA text and Kurt and Barbara Aland in particular. It not only lacks coherence and relevance, but it is in extremely poor taste for a Festschrift, which ought to contribute to the honoree, not interject personal vendettas against others–especially when those others are the editors of the current German edition of Bauer’s lexicon–one of whom is now dead and cannot defend himself. Were I associated with this volume as editor, publisher, or recipient, I would be embarrassed to have this chapter included. Regardless of the circumstances which precipitated its writing, an apology would seem appropriate.

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