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Test #2: Seeing how the “more” functionality works….

Posted by Robert C. on January 5, 2007

Perhaps it’s because we as Latter-day Saints have been writing apologetics longer than we have been writing anything else, but it sometimes seems to me that we are all too apologetic a people in our teaching, our writing, and even our thinking (”apologetics” is, for those unacquainted with the term, a name for efforts to defend the Church or its teachings against detractors). Even our thinking: is there any particular reason that we feel like we haven’t “done anything” with a lesson, like reading, researching, or studying isn’t “with purpose,” if we don’t leave the activity with our “testimony strengthened”? I think we all know what I’m referring to here: why is it that a lesson (or study) that is filled with textual insight, with theological engagement, or with joy in the word, must somehow confirm (or even “prove”) that Joseph was a prophet, or some such thing? Why, that is, are we always focused on a question we would think should be a presupposition, rather than a conclusion?

So why are we so taken up with apologetics? Why are spending all of this time asking over and over again whether Joseph was a prophet, whether Jesus is the Christ, whether God really answers prayers, etc., etc., etc.? Why do we have testimony meetings over and over and over? And so on.

I myself had become rather frustrated with this aspect of our collective approach to teaching and studying, until I read a wonderful article by Jean-Luc Marion. Writing as a Catholic, he tries (the article is a chapter in his ) to think the role of apologetics in religion. True to form, he changed my thinking about apologetics drastically. Whereas I had always understood the purpose of apologetics to be to prove the truth of a particular Mormon claim, he comes to the conclusion that apologetics is rather an attempt to delineate questions about the truth of a particular claim so clearly that the reader/listener will recognize that there is no proof, one way or the other. In other words, the point of doing apologetics is not to provide positive evidence for a religious claim, but–because the claim cannot be proven true or false–to make it clear that adherence to or repudiation of the claim amounts to a declaration of fidelity/infidelity to whomever (or Whomever) is implicated in the claim, a manifestation of loyalty/disloyalty to whatever community professes to believe the claim.

In short, apologetics is essentially the discourse that defines the borders of a community.

In light of this, it seems to me that apologetics has an important place in study and teaching: we are constantly affirming our place in the community, or confirming exactly where we feel the boundaries of the community lie. Though we certainly might presuppose the community so that we can encounter (within the community) the God of our community, perhaps it is perfectly in order that after that encounter, we take a few minutes to show how that encounter reaffirms the boundaries of the community that grounded it. A dialectic, then: community and the divine encounter, apologetics giving way to dialogic theologizing giving way to apologetics.

So, I think I’ll feel less like I’m selling out next time I feel like pointing out “Hey, the complexity of that textual structure really seems to suggest the truth/historicity/what have you of the Book of Mormon!”

KJV John 1:11 reads as follows:

He came unto his own,
and his own received him not.

In both lines of the verse, “his own” is a translation of the Greek adjective idios, the basic meaning of which is “pertaining to, belonging to or being related to oneself; one’s own.” You will recognize this root in such English derivatives as idiot, idiom and idiosyncrasy.

Although the word is an adjective, in its two uses in John 1:11 you will notice that it is not modifying anything else, as adjectives usually do, but is standing on its own as if it were a noun. We call this a substantive.

What is particularly interesting about this passage is that the word is presented in different genders in its two occurrences in the verse. In v. 11a it is ta idia, which is neuter plural, “his own things.” But in v. 11b it is hoi idioi, which is masculine plural, “his own people.” This subtle distinction of course is completely lost in English, which does not reflect the Greek gender. (The ta and the hoi are simply the Greek definite article, which in this case is not separately represented in English.)  So he came unto his own things, but it was his own people that rejected him.  The expression “his own” is being used in different senses in the two parts of the verse.  This parallels the preceding verse, which reads:

He was in the world,
and the world was made by him,
and the world knew him not.

The first two occurrences of “world” are talking about the physical world that he created, but the third occurrence stands for people who knew him not. (Thus, the final conjunction would be more clearly rendered as adversative, “but the world knew him not.”)

So what exactly were “his own [things]” in 1:11a? Given the emphasis on creation in the hymn, such as in v. 3 and the world of v. 10, it may simply be a reference to his creation. Alternatively, when used as a substantive idios often has the connotation of one’s home, so the allusion may be more specific than that, as Raymond Brown in the Anchor Bible suggests: the heritage of Israel, the Promised Land, Jerusalem.

And who exactly were “his own [people]” in 1:11b who rejected him? The answer may depend on whether we take the general or more specific view of “his own things” in the first half of the verse. If by that we understant the heritage of Israel and so forth, then “his own people” would seem to be the Jews. Conversely, if by “his own things” we understand all of his creation, then perhaps “his own people” has a broader and more cosmic reference to all of those who have failed to receive him throughout time–perhaps including even us.

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2 Responses to “Test #2: Seeing how the “more” functionality works….”

  1. Robert C. said

    reply #1 here–a short reply

  2. Robert C. said

    This isalonger response.

    What is particularly interesting about this passage is that the word is presented in different genders in its two occurrences in the verse. In v. 11a it is ta idia, which is neuter plural, “his own things.” But in v. 11b it is hoi idioi, which is masculine plural, “his own people.” This subtle distinction of course is completely lost in English, which does not reflect the Greek gender. (The ta and the hoi are simply the Greek definite article, which in this case is not separately represented in English.) So he came unto his own things, but it was his own people that rejected him. The expression “his own” is being used in different senses in the two parts of the verse. This parallels the preceding verse, which reads:

    He was in the world,
    and the world was made by him,
    and the world knew him not.

    The first two occurrences of “world” are talking about the physical world that he created, but the third occurrence stands for people who knew him not. (Thus, the final conjunction would be more clearly rendered as adversative, “but the world knew him not.”)

    So what exactly were “his own [things]” in 1:11a? Given the emphasis on creation in the hymn, such as in v. 3 and the world of v. 10, it may simply be a reference to his creation. Alternatively, when used as a substantive idios often has the connotation of one’s home, so the allusion may be more specific than that, as Raymond Brown in the Anchor Bible suggests: the heritage of Israel, the Promised Land, Jerusalem.

    And who exactly were “his own [people]” in 1:11b who rejected him? The answer may depend on whether we take the general or more specific view of “his own things” in the first half of the verse. If by that we understant the heritage of Israel and so forth, then “his own people” would seem to be the Jews. Conversely, if by “his own things” we understand all of his creation, then perhaps “his own people” has a broader and more cosmic reference to all of those who have failed to receive him throughout time–perhaps including even us.

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