The idea that words have a semantic staticity plays a key role in misunderstanding basic communication. Extreme caution needs to be taken when examining words.A linguistic phenomenon, known as polysemy, indicates that words have the capacity to contain more than one meaning. These words however cannot convey all shades of meaning at one time. The attempt to do such, according to Dr. Barr, a leading linguist, is illegitimate totality transfer. When examining a word, it must not necessarily be assumed, that exhausting the meanings will give full access to the concept of which the examined word is a part. In other words, exhausting “lego” (I speak) does not fully convey the entire concept of verbal communication; it is but a part of the whole.
Also denotations and connotations must be noted. One must exhaust the entire semantic range—all words dealing with speaking—in order to understand a concept. Even then, the word study is not a means to an end. Examining Dikaios, dikaiosune, agathos, aphesis, etc., May clarify the concept of justification and forgiveness, but not as much as studying the epistle of Romans or Galatians—noting their usages with other integral words, sentences, and paragraphs.
The denotative meaning of adelphos to the average Greek would simply convey the concept of physical siblinghood. Whereas, used by the Christian, it most definitely refers to spiritual siblinghood with reference to begetting by the gospel.Theos simply meant divine nature and could refer to any god or deity. The Christian primarily means for it to refer to the heavenly Father. Similarly, paidiarefers to a child from 3-17, when employed by John it refers to children of God with no reference to age.
It must be remember that a word is a minimal unit of speech. They convey little on their own. No part of speech’s true mean is derived in isolation. For example, the noun hot conveys numerous ideas. Hot is literally and generally defined—a high degree of heat or high temperature. Even this basic definition cannot be applied statically. Though hot can describe baked cookies and the scathing rays of the sun; it can hardly be entertained that hot is used exactly the same in both cases—there are degrees of heat. This is not to say that both illustrations don’t follow under the concept of heat. They both just don’t contain the same degree of heat. Figuratively, hot, can refer to passion, lust, a stolen item, or a sickness. Each definition finds it particular usage based on the connotation of the speaker or writer.
Even words used in sentences need to be closely examined. A man coming into a freezing apartment may sarcastically exclaim to his wife, “why, it sure is hot in here!” In reality he means the exact opposite. A wife may ask her husband, “are you hot,” he might respond, “hot, are you kidding me?” The reply can be understood two ways. “Of course it is hot,” or “it is freezing in here.” Of course it all depends on what the wife was connoting in her question. It may be that she was suggesting that he turn the heat down, or turn the heat up. More evidence would be needed to draw a fair conclusion. Suppose the wife was prone to make suggestions in the form of questions, was warm natured, saw her husband wearing a sweater, and prefaced the question by, “Honey, it is burning up outside, is there any more lemonade . . . are you hot?” The idea conveyed is, it is hot outside; I need something to cool down, aren’t you hot with that sweater on—you are making me hot! Could you please turn on the air conditioning?
The employment of stress must be considered. What if he responded, “hot, are you kidding, me” or “ hot, are you kidding me.” Once again more information would be needed. Following the description given of the man above, and assuming that he is sarcastic, more than likely he mean, “me, you know I am always cold, that is why I always wear sweaters.” In the case of the latter phrase, he would be showing aggravation. Without going into too much detail—imagine the same question asked in reference to sexual relations, or state of sickness. The same word and sentence is employed, the same response is given, but the meanings are on diametric poles, in concept and in connotation. The statements that precede and follow phrases establish the context of the statements themselves. The meaning of a word is determined by the author’s usage in the context of his writing. As arbitrary as language is there are not very many occasions a person can say a word “always” or “never” means such and such. Even words such as baptizo and psallo must be defined in context. Let these thoughts be a cautionary note to those who are currently beginning or have a minimal knowledge of language (which includes myself!) Word studies have their use and they can be rich and fulfilling. Contrariwise they can also be dangerously counter-contextual, if word studies take precedence, to the overall schema of a passage and the theme of the bible