Polysemy is a word that has semantic ambiguity, that is, depending on the word’s context, it can mean something in one context, and something else in another context.
Franfort Intenational School’s website, http://www.fis.edu estimates that 40% of English words are polysemous.
Again this means that it can have more than one meaning. A word like ‘run’ can have as many as thirty different meanings depending on the context where it is used.
Here are a few examples:
Arms are usually connected to shoulders and hands.
The United States has many sophisticated arms.
The solution to the problem can be found in the answer book.
The solution proved harmful when digested.
Since we realize that polysemous words exist, how can we guard that we don’t confuse the meanings of words in our biblical studies?
Discovering the Central Idea of a Biblical Passage …
A. To discover the central idea of the passage, the following statements need to be kept in mind:
- If the passage begins or ends the unit of thought, then only that which precedes or follows the passage can be explored.
- Remember this skill, like any other skill, takes time to develop. Stay motivated because it will pay rich dividends in your personal study as well as when the time comes to share your treasure later.
B. The following steps should guide you in uncovering the central idea of the passage:
- Read the passage or paragraph before your passage until you identify the central idea of that passage or paragraph.
- Write one topic sentence using your own words. This sentence should be precise and concise.
- Seek to keep the sentence brief.
- Strive to make the sentence memorable to yourself at least.
- Repeat steps one to four as needed for the immediate passage preceding your passage of study as well as the following passage.
C. Below is a list of possible central ideas the reader may encounter. This list is suggestive and not exhaustive.
- Curses and blessings
- Disciples, discipleship
- Doctrine /Heresy
- Evil /Good
- Faith / Unbelief
- Forgiveness / Hatred
- Freedom /Slavery
- Holy Spirit
- Plan of God
- Prophet / prophecy
- Truth /False Teachers /Teaching