RE: [GTh] Special Jargon
>>Seriously, can someone enlighten me as to why German is the preferred language for special terms in Biblical studies?<<That was where the first really serious (that is, non apologetic) historical-critical scholarship began to flourish in the late 18th through the early 20th centuries. There were scholars in England, France, USA, and Russia too, but they tended to be arguing for and against the merits of the protestant revolution or the case for or against the key ideas of the followers of Calvin & Zwingli versus the Lutherans.
Not that a good chunk of these new critics weren't Lutherans, but many were pretty liberal for their day and some paid the price with lost jobs. I'm not sure what his religious affiliation was, but even "critic of the critics" Albert Schweitzer was considered so liberal that he had a heck of a time finding a missionary organization willing to sponsor his medical practice in Africa.
Cleveland, Ohio USA
- Hi Judy-
Thanks to you and Dave Hindley for your remarks. Not knowing German and not
being a professional biblical scholar, the usage of special German terms has
bothered me, as perhaps indicating that one is writing primarily for an
academic audience. If the terms are explained, however, it's a different
matter. And then thinking about my own field of logic, I have to admit that
we use a significant number of foreign special terms - Latin, in our case.
('modus ponens', 'modus tollens', 'reductio ad absurdum', and all that.)
It's not entirely the same thing, I think (since Logic is used in all fields
of study), but what seems to be the same is that if one uses the terms
without explaining them, one is probably writing primarily for an audience
highly learned in that area (given that an editor would presumably correct
unintended obfuscation.) There's English special jargon, too, of course
(witness 'X criticism') - especially in what was my own career field of data
processing. My personal preference in writing and discussing has always been
to keep special terms to a minimum - even when the audience is one's
professional colleagues (in my case, the computer programmers I've worked
with.) When one uses special jargon unnecessarily, I tend to assume that
either the speaker is oblivious to the audience, or is trying to impress
them - which has the opposite effect on me.
Mt. Clemens, MI
I think that Biblical Studies in particular suffers from a tendency to
assume that everyone who is reading what is written is a specialist in the
field because until relatively recently the only people who actually read
anything written in the area *were* specialists or at least had a bachelors
level training in the area - ie most of them were clergy. It disturbs me
greatly that a significant proportion of people who have been sitting in
church pews for firfty or more years have never heard even the basics of
Biblical scholarship. The Religious Right would not flourish the way it
does if Christians in pews understood how the Bible came into being, but
most ministers for many decades have felt that sharing that kind of
information with people would just destroy their faith. The reaction you
usually get from people who are reasonably well educated in another field
when they hear about it is "This is *so* exciting - is it new? Why haven't
I heard about it before?"
Like you, I try to use limited amounts of jargon and to explain any I use,
but when you use it every day, you sometimes forget that it isn't part of
the vocabulary of the average person (so, your oblivious of the audience).
I agree that some people use it in an attempt to impress - often these
people feel very insecure. (My pet hates are people who use 'praxis'
instead of 'practice' and 'qua' instead of 'as'.) I think sometimes people
also use it because they don't understand the concept it represents well
enough to explain it in more usual words. It's a bit like the difference
between being able to read something written in another language and
understand it compared with being able to translate it into good English. I
can (often) read a passage in German and understand the gist what it is
trying to convey, but if I have to produce a translation, I have to grab a
dictionary and sometimes also a grammar text in order to be able to provide
an accurate rendering of what the author is trying to say.
And sometimes they use it because they don't want a long messy English
paragraph in the table of contents of their book! :-)
"Politics is the work we do to keep the world safe for our spirituality" -
Rev Judy Redman
Uniting Church Chaplain
University of New England
ph: +61 2 6773 3739
fax: +61 2 6773 3749