Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

How Can Time Mean “Delay”? (Rev 10:6)

I found a great example of semantic range, and why it is so important to always check the full entry in BDAG. In Rev 10:6 the angel takes an oath saying, “There will be no more delay (χρόνος)!” How can χρόνος mean “delay”?

χρόνος certainly does mean “time.” In Luke 8:27 we read the demoniac had for a long time (χρόνῳ ἱκανῷ) had not worn clothes or lived in a house. This is the normal gloss for χρόνος.

χρόνος also has a more specialized use meaning “occasion.” BDAG gives the meaning as “a point of time consisting of an occasion for some event or activity.” Matt 2:7 says, “Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them exactly what time (χρόνον) the star had appeared.”

These are the two normal definitions given for χρόνος in a typical first year grammar. In my grammar I simply list “time.” But all grammar writers are aware of the possibility that students will memorize just the gloss(es) and never look at the full range of meaning a word has.

What is the difference between a “gloss” and a “definition” (or a “range of meaning”)? A gloss is simply an general approximation of what a word mean. No one intends a student to stop with the gloss. It is general enough for the first year, but quickly into second year the fuller range should be learned. Otherwise, you go through your Greek career with a limited view of a word’s meaning and can get stuck with a passage like Rev 10:6. Of course, the gloss is necessary in first year; first year is hard enough as it is.

So at least when you get to second year you should be working with a full dictionary and learning the full range of a word’s meaning. BDAG has a third use of χρόνος. “3. a period during which someth. is delayed, respite, delay, citing Rev 2:21 and 10:6.

So the moral of the story is, when translating and a word appears in an unexpected context, read all of BDAG.