Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Lexical Issues and Context of the Neighbor

  • Some comments left on McGrath's blog show us the problem in discussing the evidence from good scholarship. I want to address these because they display common misunderstandings.

  • Yes, obviously the best way to illustrate that we're only supposed to minister to those inside the covenant is to use a Samaritan.
  • Actually, in Luke's argument, it is. That's the whole point. The best way to argue that this is an unbeliever who does not worship YHWH, someone who is not a descendant of Abraham, and a pagan is to use an unbelieving Gentile that has no affection for followers of YHWH, but Luke didn't use that. He, instead, took who the lawyer would have considered the most prestigious among those who follow YHWH and those who were the most impure and marginalized among them. It's the perfect person to make the point. This comment can only stem from a historical ignorance of who the Samaritans are religiously.

  • I just read the article. It's basically an extended fallacy that is somewhat reminiscent of the YEC arguments about "yom."
    I think my favorite part was when he pointed out that pleison has both meanings in the LXX, but that has only "confused people." Yes, it's annoying that people don't realize the word can only mean one thing in the situations where you declare it to.
    But, basically, by providing scenarios where pleison -does- mean the covenant community, the argument is that this should be the default, which the parable itself clearly contradicts.
I can only assume that this person thinks that YEC arguments create a fallacy with יום  because he thinks they argue that it is used everywhere else one way so it must be in this text too. That is not what they argue. I am not YEC, but it seems this person likes to caricature positions a lot. That is also not what I have argued. I did not argue that because πλησίον is used everywhere else in the New Testament one way, it must be here too. I have argued that this text does not define the term, but that it is clear within the parable itself that not everyone is one, and it is clear within the theology and ethics of Luke how Luke is using the term, i.e., as consistent with the original command in Leviticus, which Luke even quotes, and the rest of the New Testament that never uses the term to refer to unbelievers. The parable does nothing of the sort to negate that, and instead, establishes it in context.

I also think it is rather humorous that he thinks I said people are confused by other uses of the term. What I actually said is that the term was used in a variety of ways in the Hebrew Bible, but that the particular way it is used in the levitical command is the way the New Testament is using it. In other words, the New Testament, born out of studying its use, adopts only that particular use of  πλησίον that uses  πλησίον to refer to one's fellow believer/covenant community member. So what I actually was saying is that the broader uses of the term in the OT are being confused/conflated, and what the New Testament is actually doing with the term is, therefore, ignored. This reader has simply misunderstood the argument.

  • What makes his argument more stupid is that (at least according to the Lexicon) pleison is simply an adverb meaning "nearby" , so the question "Who is my neighbour?" reads literally simply "Who is near me?" and "Who was neighbour to the man?" as "Who was near to the man?" Trying to squeeze this into "who was in a covenant relationship with the man?" is nonsense.
    Edited to add daftest example: John 4:5: Then he came to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, in a covenant relationship (pleison) with the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
  • Now, clearly this comment is from a layman. I'm pleased to say that McGrath somewhat corrects him, even though he doesn't seem to get the correction. However, let me address this briefly.
This man is actually creating an etymological fallacy, which McGrath himself points out. My post was about use, not etymology. My point is that the New Testament applies the term only to covenant members because it is applying the command in Leviticus to the covenant community, and that command both in the original text and in the New Testament is never expanded to unbelievers, as so many in the social gospel mindset do. 

From the TDNT entry on plesion:
"We are not to ask whom to love, for to love is to be a child of God, to love generously and spontaneously. . . . The real point is not to define the neighbor but to be a neighbor."

First, TDNT is one of the worst works to use if you want to know what a word means. It is heavily theological and commits the fallacy of importing tons of theology into a single word, despite its context. I have done the opposite of this by looking at each text in its context. The statement, however, expresses, not the meaning of the word neighbor, nor the teaching of the parable, but the opinion of that author. It may sound like a good opinion to this commentator, but it doesn't hold any weight as for what Luke is necessarily doing.

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