Confession time—for you too


I often enjoy looking back on my first days of learning the Biblical Languages. Even though I'm no language-Jedi, I've thankfully come a long way since those times (there's probably a tinge of self-delusion in there). I can now stumble through the Hebrew Bible at a pace I'm ok with, and slide—or rather sludge—through the Greek New Testament at a pace I'm not happy with but am working on. I can critically engage secondary sources when they consult primary ones. And more importantly, I feel that I'm able to somewhat jive with the linguistic aspect of the Languages. Now with that said, I still feel like a big kid when it comes to entangling myself with this old school script, but it's still a ton of fun and I don't feel as much like a toddler as I used to. I know I've got a lot of stupid questions out of my system, so now I'm ready to ask more.


One of the biggest hangups for me though, and I think my friends who I began this journey with back in 05, was how difficult it was to use a lexicon. It wasn't the looking up the lexeme that was so hard as much as deciding on what English word to use. I always loved it when I only had a couple bolded glosses to choose from, but man, even then, how do I know which one is right?

This is at least how I thought. I saw a translation given in the lexicon and thought, "Wa-la. Here it is: the meaning of the Hebrew word." I've let Barr explain elsewhere why this isn't a good way of thinking so I won't get into that here. Suffice it to say, using Biblical Language lexica was a major hangup for me in my undergrad. I just didn't know how to interact with them, and I always had questions that they didn't answer (e.g. Why'd you pick that gloss? Where did you get that idea from? Is this meaning different from the other—it's in the same section? How come there are multiple sections with the same gloss? How do I know which one to pick?).

Well, that's my story. I like to think it ended happy. I went on to do a master's thesis on how to do a better job of figuring out what a word means, and how traditional lexicons have some major methodological flaws (that can be addressed, given current advances in linguistics). And now I feel a lot more comfortable exploring the semantic potential of a given lexeme, though I still find myself cherry-picking from a number of resources to complete this endeavor. I'm still waiting for that golden egg that'll solve all my problems (fiction, I know).   

Anyways, what's your story? In particular, what were your first days with a lexicon like? Or, are you still in those beginner days? If so, what success have you had with a lexicon? Any delights? Any frustrations? Feel free to compose horror stories, if it means you'll help me not feel like a lonely tree.