Monday, September 15, 2008

Making too much of a word

As we were translating more of Philostratus' Life of Apollonius I came across this sentence:

παρ' ων υπαρχει μαθειν, ως υποθειζων την φιλοσοφιαν εγενετο.

Which is:

From which it is possible to learn how divinely inspired a philosopher he was.

I asked my Greek professor why Philostratus used εγενετο when he could've just used ην (I apologize for the lack of accents/breathing marks/etc - I haven't figured out how to do them yet), and if his choosing εγενετο was to indicate that Apollonius was born a divinely inspired philosopher, not just that he was one. My professor said that, unfortunately, εγενετο is simply one of those words that one has to make a judgment on nearly every time they come across it and that he wouldn't build too much of an argument for anything based on a single word. I said that's because he's not a New Testament scholar. Oh, kidding.


Esteban Vázquez said...

Yes, rumor has it that under γί(γ)νομαι in most Greek lexica, the meaning is usually listed as "Er... whatever." ;-)

As for you last sentence, as Homer Simpson once put it, it's funny 'cause it's true!

Anonymous said...

hi, sorry for a question that doesn't relate specifically to this post. I am studying a class on New Testament Christian Origins and Backgrounds this year, can you recommend any good books? Please bear in mind however, I am only going into the 2nd year of a 3 Year Bachelor of Divinity degree....?

You can contact me by email on


Levi said...

similarly on the "reading a little too much into the language" front, I became rather annoyed recently when hearing a speaker say that ta panta was the most imaginative way of saying every part of creation. As if this were some untapped resource and no one had ever used this phrase before.