Shibli Zaman on Etymology [Revisited]

The Bluster Buster
"Pride goes before destruction,
  a haughty spirit before a fall."
      Proverbs 16:18

On July 18, 2003, I published the article ‘Shibli Zaman and the Abuse of Etymology: Competing for the "Worst Etymological Fallacy" Award?’ discussing some of Shibli Zaman's many linguistic blunders, particularly various arguments based on etymological fallacies. Zaman didn't take that critique very well and published a reaction to it that was, in my opinion, rather emotional and off-base. The following is my reply to his claims and accusations.

Suggestion to the reader: Make the interaction between Zaman's article and my response below a test case for evaluating your own ability of critical thinking. Despite my negative comment above, his article is actually a masterpiece of polemical rhetoric. Before you proceed with reading my answer, read Zaman's article first — without being influenced by my comments — so that you can appreciate the full force of his arguments. While you read ask yourself these questions: Has Zaman made a good case? Is your main impression positive or negative? Why? What elements or arguments in particular did you find convincing? Why? Is his case conclusive or what is still lacking? What elements were distractive, insufficient, bad ... ? Why? Can you find any arguments countering his claims? Write down your thoughts. Actually, the best training effect would probably be achieved by reading in this sequence: (1) Zaman's article with the above questions, (2) my original article that he responded to, (3) Zaman's article again, asking yourself now the additional question: Has he actually rebutted my article? Which arguments did he respond to, which arguments did he ignore? How does this effect your evaluation of his response?

(4) While reading my answer given in this paper, you should be fair and consistent and ask the same questions listed above also about my article. Compare your evaluation with mine. Which of my observations and arguments did you find on your own? Have you made different or additional observations? What is your conclusion after you have read my response? Has my answer changed your view of Zaman's article in any way? Let me know whether this was a worthwhile exercise for you. In fact, to add a little incentive, for every further error of fact or error of logic in Zaman's article that is not yet covered in this rebuttal, the first one to report it will get a free Answering Islam CD. The same offer holds for those who find substantial errors of fact or logic (i.e., not mere typos) in my response. [Let me know about typos as well, please, but I can't afford to send out prizes for them.]

Looking at the length of my response some may wonder about the reason why I am dropping something like an atomic bomb to kill a fly (i.e., why I am "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut" to employ a proper English idiom) since Zaman's actual argument could easily be refuted in just a page or two. To answer within the word picture: Zaman had also a whole host of other bugs in his case and I wanted to get rid of all the pests once and for all. As you proceed you will come to understand the various related issues I have taken up in my rebuttal. This article is mainly about recognizing and exposing manipulative polemics, not just about answering an odd etymological argument.

Zaman's manifold errors together with his excessive bluster and silly diversions have necessitated a rather long response, which I have structured in the following way:

Part I   — On bluster, insults and fallacies

Part II   — Examining the evidence

Part III   — Mopping up the leftovers

Part I   — On bluster, insults and fallacies


Zaman started his article with these words:


"They can do no harm, but a trifling annoyance; And if they engage you, they will turn and flee. Then afterwards nothing will avail them."
[The Holy Qur'ân 3:111]

Jochen Katz Wins "Worst Etymological Fallacy Award"
Trying to make sense of one missionary's venemous ad hominem satire

I will do my best to prove the above quotation from the Qur'an to be a false prophecy. There will be no turning and fleeing. Whether my arguments are indeed strong and able to withstand the scrutiny of Muslim apologists, or whether they are really no more than a trifling annoyance is a decision that I will confidently leave to the judgment of the readers. Answering Islam has engaged Muslim propagandists for many years, and I do not recount ever having been put to flight, although many have announced that they will utterly defeat, humilate or even destroy us.

Because I am so fully convinced that Zaman is a highly intelligent man, I am baffled all the more to find that Zaman apparently failed in his attempt to understand my article. Hardly as much as a trace of comprehending my main argument is to be found in his response, although he clearly states in the subtitle that he was trying to make sense of it. Is it my inability to formulate clearly, his inability to understand plain English language, or was uncontrolled anger darkening Zaman's mind for ten whole days from the date of publication of my article to the date (7/28/2003) when he published his response?

The comprehension problems start already in the title that Zaman chose for his response.

  • The etymological fallacy
  • In my original article I explained the nature of an "etymological fallacy", gave plenty of examples for illustration, and then discussed several instances of this fallacy as committed by Zaman in his publications.

    Admittedly, the title of my article was chosen provocatively, although appropriately in my view since I was responding to an argument that was not only fallacious but a deliberate ridicule of the Christian faith. His argument was bad, and I called him to account for it, expecting that a man like Shibli Zaman who has been moving in the arena of Muslim-Christian debating for nearly ten years and who does not spare his opponents with sharp attacks and scathing rhetoric, should be able to receive as well as he gives and be a good sport about it. Oh well, ...

    I have discussed and given evidence for several actual etymolgocal fallacies found in Zaman's publications. Thus, Zaman qualified to enter a competition about who committed the worst such fallacy. I had a factual basis to pose this question in the title of my article: Competing for the "Worst Etymological Fallacy" Award?   Answering this question was left to the readers since it is preposterous for a debator to declare himself the winner. In any debate, the decision who made the better argument rests with the audience.

    Zaman seemingly didn't feel comfortable to leave that decision to the readership of my article and his response, so he usurped the position of the judge and unilaterally decided to give the undesirable award to me. I am sure not many readers will appreciate being told what to think instead of being invited to ponder the arguments and then decide themselves who made the more convincing case.

    However, in his rashness, and so desperately seeking to get rid of the trophy, he overlooked that he cannot pass on the award to just anyone. Only those people who have entered the competition can also win the award. I searched in vain through all of Zaman's article but I could not find even one place where he showed that I committed an etymological fallacy. The etymological fallacy is a clearly defined logical error, it is not just any error made regarding the etymology of a word. I had stated that the Greek word kuneo is not related to kuon, and in his response, Zaman argues that I am wrong, and that kuon is indeed the etymon of kuneo. If Zaman's response turns out to be correct, then I committed an error of fact, but not an etymological fallacy. Even after such a detailed discussion of the issue, Zaman has apparently still not understood what an etymological fallacy actually is. This conclusion is not only based on his formulation of the title but is finally proven by the way he presents his main argument (cf. Zaman's use and abuse of Strong's). Zaman certainly needs to go back to the drawing board on this one.

    His choice of the title for his "rebuttal" was nonsense on a factual level, lacking creativity from a rhetorical viewpoint, and otherwise merely petty and vindictive; and his choice of the subtitle again confirms that last point.

    Which part of Zaman's response was correct and which of his claims are not true will be discussed below. If I made a mistake in this article or in other articles (despite my best efforts to speak and write only what I am convinced to be true), then I will own up to it, apologize and correct my errors. I do not consider myself infallible. My highest priority is knowing and speaking the truth, not defending my pride.

    Although it should already have been unambiguously clear after I had discussed the etymological fallacy in several places in my paper on Zaman's abuse of etymology, and additionally given further examples in my response to Zaman's article Talking Ants in the Qur'an?, he has seemingly still not understood the issue. Therefore, we have to revisit the question: What is an etymological fallacy? In the following I will supply several more quotations with definitions and examples, hoping that one of these will eventually be understood. [Those who grasped the concept the first time, are welcome to skip directly to the next point.]


    This is the name of a much-practiced folly that insists that what a word “really means” is whatever it once meant long ago, perhaps even in another language. A classic example is the argument that the adjective dilapidated should be applied only to deteriorating structures made of stone, because its ultimate source was the Latin lapis, meaning “stone.” Actually, the Latin dilapidare meant “to throw away, to scatter, as if scattering stones,” and the infinitive lapidare meant “to throw stones.” And in any case dilapidated no longer has anything to do with stones in American English; today it means “broken down, fallen into decay or disrepair,” and it can be applied to any object, garment, or structure, whatever it is made of. (Kenneth G. Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, Columbia University Press, 1993; online source; bold emphasis mine)

    decimate (v.)

    Today, decimate means “to destroy or kill or otherwise wipe out a lot of any group or thing”: Disease and hunger have decimated the population of the Horn of Africa. When we first acquired this word from Latin, its meaning was “to execute one of every ten”; it was the way the Romans punished mutiny in the ranks. Some commentators have insisted on that as the only allowable meaning, but in fact it has long been obsolete, and the extended sense meaning “to take away or destroy a tenth part of anything” is at least archaic and perhaps obsolescent. Even if you use decimate intending it to mean “to destroy one tenth,” your audience will not understand it that way. See ETYMOLOGICAL FALLACY. (Op. cit.)

    etymological fallacy. n. The mistaken notion that the true meaning of a term lies in its primitive meaning (*etymology), that the earliest historical occurrence of a term yields the correct definition. It is a fallacy because the meanings of words evolve over time so that some words are quite detached from their origins. Also called root fallacy. See also illegitimate totality transfer.
    etymology. n. The study of the derivation of words, both their forms and meanings. Also used of the product of such a study. See also etymological fallacy. (Source: M. S. DeMoss, Pocket dictionary for the study of New Testament Greek, InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, Ill., 2001, p. 53)

    The etymological fallacy occurs whenever someone falsely assumes that the meaning of a word can be discovered from its etymology or origins. Example: The word "vise" comes from the Latin "that which winds", so it means anything that winds. Since a hurricane winds around its own eye, it is a vise. (Fallacies [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]; bold emphasis mine)

    Some philosophers have the vice (bad habit) to be complicated and use obscure examples. I certainly did not know what a "vise" was when I found the above quotation. A vise is a "clamping device, usually consisting of two jaws closed or opened by a screw or lever, used in carpentry or metalworking to hold a piece in position (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language).

    The final and longer quotation about the false use of etymology is taken from a language discussion forum:

    It seems to me that in the past, the etymology of a word was erroneously believed to have some bearing on its 'correct' usage. Perhaps this belief has been stronger in the English-speaking world than elsewhere. Perhaps we Anglo-Saxons are haunted by a word's history more than we should be.

    When Samuel Johnson was compiling his Dictionary of the English Language (1775), I believe he was often swayed by the history of a word when making one of his silly, arbitrary decisions on its spelling (yes, you can all blame him:)). So he decided to stick a b in 'doubt' because the Latin word had a b in it, even though nobody else had ever pronounced or written a b in the English word until he came along.

    Even nowadays, reference to a word's earlier meaning can often influence the way an argument proceeds. In a recent TV debate on the way history should be taught in schools - whether the focus should be on 'facts' or 'methods' - a supporter of the latter position referred to the 'real' meaning of history as 'investigation' or 'learning by enquiry', as this was what was meant by Greek historia, from which the modern term derives. Several people were swayed by the point, and referred to it throughout the debate.

    This view that an earlier meaning of a lexeme, or its original meaning, is its 'true' or 'correct' one is called the etymological fallacy. The fallacy is evident when it is realised that most common lexemes have experienced several changes in meaning during their history. 'Nice', for example, earlier meant 'fastidious', and before that 'foolish' or 'simple', and if we trace it back to the equivalent Latin form, 'nescius', the meaning is 'ignorant'. (Source: Posting on CzechList; bold emphasis mine)

    [In the archives of "Merriam-Webster OnLine" one can find an etymological argument about the meaning of a couple, and so I am providing a couple of further interesting and/or educational links: Sites about Etymology, Words Mean Things, Reasons for Language Change, The influence of the Greek language in English, An etymologist on Chauvinism, Semantic Anachronism. The collection of links in this paragraph is somewhat random (one can find hundreds of pages on the topic), but nearly all of these are providing comments about, or examples of etymological fallacies.]

    Dr. Campbell's book The Qur'an and the Bible in the Light of History and Science has a detailed discussion on The Etymological Fallacy (since Zaman's articles are not the only Islamic publications containing these errors). My recommendation would be to read not only that section but the whole chapter titled Basic Assumptions About Words to gain a deeper understanding.

    Sadly, the displayed lack of understanding in regard to certain logical fallacies did not end here. The second comprehension problem is found in the very next line, i.e. Zaman's chosen subtitle, "Trying to make sense of one missionary's venemous ad hominem satire." Thus, the next concept we have to discuss is ...

  • The ad hominem fallacy
  • It is a favorite move by Zaman to accuse those who dare to critique and oppose his theories of ad hominem attacks on his person. However, just as Zaman has seemingly not understood what an etymological fallacy actually is, he also appears to be ignorant of what constitutes an ad hominem, and what doesn't. Others have also commented on the abuse of calling everything an ad hominem.

    Let me present two claims to illustrate the issue:

    1. Zaman's argument is wrong, because he is not a recognized scholar of linguistics.
    2. Because Zaman's linguistic arguments are frequently wrong, therefore he is not a scholar of linguistics.

    Zaman may feel much more attacked by the second statement than by the first one, but only the first one is an ad hominem. Regarding its structure, the second statement is a valid inductive argument.

    The truth of an argument or claim is independent of the age, religion, academic achievement, character or manners of the person who makes the argument. Thus, pointing to some (negative) characteristic of the person who makes an argument in order to undermine the argument is committing an ad hominem fallacy (which is the structure of claim A.). There are many sites that discuss logical fallacies. Some of the best, most thorough and most comprehensive are listed in the general references section on our Logical Fallacies page. All of these have good explanations of what constitutes an ad hominem argument. There is no need to repeat that here as well. For this particular fallacy, my favorite explanation among all those is this detailed discussion. It may, however, be worth pointing out that ad hominem does not mean "against the man" as it is all too regularly rendered, even on a number of websites that discuss logical fallacies. Zaman seems to think similarly since twice in his response he called my article an "ad hominem attack against me". Most of the Latin names of these fallacies have the preposition "ad" in them. Some examples: argumentum ad misericordiam is the appeal to pity, argumentum ad ignorantiam is the appeal to ignorance, i.e. an argument based on ignorance, not an argument against ignorance, ad baculum denotes "scare tactics", i.e. it is the appeal to emotion (fear). [The Latin word for "against" would be "contra" (cf. pro and contra) or "adversus" (cf. adversary).] Most clearly perhaps: argumentum ad verecundiam, the appeal to authority, is not an argument against authority, but denotes the fallacy of appealing to an alleged authority (that may not even be an authority) instead of arguing the case with the relevant facts. Similarly, ad hominem denotes arguing in regard to the man, i.e. pointing to some element in the character or circumstances of the person. It is not an argument against the person who makes it, but against the claims made by that person on the basis of some unrelated personal characteristics. For the next paragraph, I am going to assume that he will make himself thoroughly familiar with the concept before answering this ...

    Challenge to Mr. Zaman: Show me even one instance of an ad hominem argument in my first article discussing your fallacious etymological arguments since you labeled it an ad hominem attack on your person several times in your response. In fact, show me where I use an ad hominem argument against your claims and theories anywhere in the several articles that I have written in response to your publications.

    On the contrary, it is Zaman who used a large number of ad hominem elements in his presently discussed response in order to weaken the impact of the arguments presented in my original article. This begins already in the subtitle, "Trying to make sense of one missionary's venemous ad hominem satire", containing several such elements:

    missionary: The meaning of words is determined by their context. For Christians the word "missionary" is a positive term. In the largely secular and pluralistic western society the word carries today mainly negative connotations. For Muslims it is an extremely negative word, one of the worst insults, completely discrediting the person such labelled. In the general Muslim understanding missionaries are people who actively fight against the truth of God (Islam), and who seek to poison the minds of Muslims with their falsehood (the Gospel). Whether my arguments about general linguistic principles and the facts regarding the etymology of a particular word are correct, has nothing whatsoever to do with the question whether I am a missionary or not. Zaman's claims were not written for me, but for the public. My original article discussing Zaman's etymological errors was not primarily written for Zaman either, but for the same public audience, and that is mostly a Muslim readership. The term "missionary" was only introduced into the discussion in order to create a highly emotionally charged, negative attitude towards me and my arguments in the Muslim audience addressed by Zaman. As such, it is the classical ad hominem argument.

    True, Zaman does not state explicitly that my arguments are wrong, or that I should not be taken serious BECAUSE I am a missionary, but if that effect was not his intention, why did he introduce the term at all?

    venemous: Whether a certain argument is presented in a venemous way, or driven by a motivation for hurting somebody, may indeed be important to determine in some circumstances. But again, whether an argument is venemous or not, that has nothing to do with the issue whether it is TRUE or not. [There are venemous arguments that are true, and there are arguments made calmly or even out of love which are nevertheless wrong. Manner is also important, but manner and motivation do not determine truth.] Venemous is without doubt a negative term and we do not like people who are venemous. By using this word, Zaman is again seeking to turn the opinion of the reader against me in an emotional way BEFORE he even begins to discuss the content of my arguments. This the second ad hominem element of Zaman's subtitle. Note: Zaman does not actually give any evidence that my article was venemous. He only accused me of it. This is very poor style.

    ad hominem: Everyone these days knows that using an "ad hominem" is a bad thing, even though many do not know exactly what it is. But it is something like "being against somebody", and this accusation communicates that the other person is not rational (after all, it is a fallacy). Zaman obviously felt attacked by me, so he just accuses me of arguing "ad hominem". Like the word "venemous" this accusation has only the purpose to make me look bad. Zaman repeats this charge twice in the article, but he does not establish an actual incident of an ad hominem on my part.

    These three expressions are the main elements, but there are a couple of minor ones as well: "Trying to make sense of ..." communicates that my article was incoherent (again without proof). Finally, the word "satire" seeks to disqualify the article from being a serious discussion, but being instead something that was merely seeking to make fun of him. I readily admit that there were some satirical elements in it. But taken in its entirety, the article was a serious discussion of linguistic principles and etymological errors, and not a satire. It is sad enough that I had to explain the concepts of an etymological and an ad hominem fallacy. I am not going to define and discuss also the literary genre of "satire" for Zaman. If he wants to know more about satire, he should go back to school and ask his highschool teacher of English Literature about it. [Yes, that last sentence was sarcastic.]

    Zaman has peppered his whole article with such ad hominem attacks, insults and unproven accusations against me and/or the style of my article. Though most of them are not formally ad hominem arguments, they serve the same purpose in the context of the article, and will therefore be treated the same way. Apart from a few particularly bad examples, I will not discuss these any further since they do not contribute anything to determining the truth in the matter of our disagreement. From now on, I will mark them in bright red color in the quoted parts of Zaman's article to make the reader aware how ubiquitous they are.

  • Some thoughts on scholarship
  • I need to come back to the second form of the claims mentioned above:

    1. Because Zaman's linguistic arguments are frequently wrong, therefore he is not a scholar of linguistics.

    This one really seems to be Zaman's problem with my articles, although it is not ad hominem. This is indeed the approach I am taking and it is a valid inductive argument drawing conclusions from observed data. When discussing Zaman's individual arguments — whether linguistic, historical, or theological arguments — I have never appealed to Zaman's lack of academic qualifications in order to establish that his argument is wrong. When I disagree with Zaman's claims, then I carefully discuss the facts, the sources, and the implications of the observed data. I explain where I disagree with his argument, why I think he is wrong, and what I propose as an alternative and more appropriate understanding. That is, after all, the whole purpose of academic discourse. Bring the competing theories to the table and seek to make the best possible case for the understanding that you are personally convinced of, ... and this process includes pointing out the errors and shortcomings of the other proposed theories.

    Zaman, however, does not only make linguistic or theological arguments. If there would only be a certain academic argument about language, history or theology, then we could discuss the truth of it on that factual level and be done with it. But that is not the way Zaman operates. In his articles published on the web and in his contributions to discussion boards he makes many explicit and implicit claims about his superior knowledge and scholarship (see also the discussion about the name of his website). These claims are an integral part of his arguments, and therefore these personal claims become a legitimate topic of discussion. They are subject to evaluation just as all the other claims. My critique of his personal claims may feel to him like a personal attack (thus his false charge of ad hominem attacks), but since Zaman constantly questions others regarding their qualifications and denigrates his opponents for their supposed lack of knowledge, it is only fair that his own alleged qualifications become the subject of evaluation and critique.

    The above stated claim B is thus a two-fold argument since I first need to establish that his arguments are indeed wrong, i.e. the structure is:

    1. Showing which of Zaman's arguments are wrong and why they are wrong.
    2. Because his arguments are so frequently wrong, therefore Zaman cannot legitimately be considered a scholar of linguistics.

    This is an inductive argument that is both appropriate and valid. There is nothing ad hominem about it.

    Everyone makes mistakes, even scholars, both accidental mistakes (i.e. he really knew better) and genuine ones (i.e. he was wrong about this detail despite his conviction to the contrary, and his otherwise unquestionably vast knowledge in the field). Making an occasional mistake does not mean that a man is therefore not a scholar.

    Getting a first degree (BA or BS) in a certain field usually means that the person has learned the basics and foundations and should have a thorough understanding of the main issues in the field. With that, a person may call himself a professional, but earning such a first degree in a field is not the same as achieving the status of a scholar.

    The scholarship of a person in a particular field of studies is established on the basis of his comprehensive knowledge together with genuine and original contributions to this field which are recognized by his peers. Usually these contributions are made in the form of peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals and/or the publication of books in academic publishing houses.

    If, however, a person claims extensive knowledge or even scholarship in a certain field but constantly makes substantial mistakes in the area of his alleged expertise, particulary very elementary mistakes that not even an undergraduate in the field would make, then this is solid evidence that his claim to scholarship is vacuous, and the person is either deluded (sincerely believing to be something that he objectively is not), or he is an imposter (claiming to be something while knowing very well that he isn't).

    Then there are the amateurs, those who love a certain subject, who have done some, or even much reading in the field, and they spend much of their leisure time on this hobby. They are people who are dabbling in the subject more or less extensively, but who have never received a solid education in the field. Even though they know quite a bit — and due to their passion for it they may even know more about certain aspects than many professionals — they often lack a thorough knowledge of and training in the foundational methods in this field and are therefore prone to make elementary mistakes. Particularly amateurs may easily become over-confident and delude themselves regarding their status as "experts", i.e. thinking that they know more about the field than they actually do.

    What about linguistic scholarship? For the English language it is clear to most native speakers that being able to speak the language fluently does not yet make one an English language scholar. This is no different in any other language, whether be they "current languages", i.e. contemporary French, German, Arabic, or Hebrew, or "ancient languages" like Classical Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Quranic Arabic, Latin, Sanskrit, etc. Learning the alphabet and thus being able to decipher the entries of a dictionary does not make one a scholar. Learning a language up to reading proficiency does not make one a scholar, and even learning a language to the degree that one can speak it fluently and nearly error-free may bring a person up to the level of a native speaker, but does still not automatically make one a scholar of that language.

    One more important aspect of true scholarship needs to be highlighted. Scholars know that many of their theories are tentative, and they welcome critique because it helps them to sharpen their thinking, deepen their understanding, and will lead the whole community of scholars to come closer to the truth. Seeking the critical review of other scholars is the foundation of progress in scholarship.

    Zaman, on the contrary, is propagating certain convictions as the established and absolute truth. If anyone dares to critique his claims, he gets horribly offended, and will then defend his errors tooth and nail. This behavior alone is evidence that he does not move in the community of scholars and has not understood how (western) scholarship works. [Islamic ‘scholarship’ may operate under a completely different paradigm.]

    Coming back to the issue of ad hominem, it is somewhat ironical that an ad hominem argument is exactly the opposite of what Zaman thinks it is. Ad hominem would be a critique and dismissal of Zaman's arguments based on his lack of academic qualification / scholarship (without evaluating the argument itself). On the contrary, after giving proof that his arguments are wrong, I am then criticizing his claims to scholarship based on his bad arguments. Zaman is then offended and therefore accuses me that this is an ad hominem attack on his person. It is not.

    Usually it is silly to debate a title or headline of an article. Titles have to be short and therefore can only give a very limited clue of what the article is about. The serious interaction needs to be with the body of an article and the arguments presented there. In this case, however, the choice of his title already revealed so much about Zaman's lack of understanding that this discussion was justified. The founder / president / director of the "Near Eastern and Semitic Studies Institute of America" is throwing around a lot of big words that he does not even understand.

    This said, let us move on to the body of the article.

    Going from bad to worse   (Examining a cacophony of bluster, insults and the like)

    Zaman warms up with:

    I. Introduction

    Jochen Katz is definitely a master of illusions. At "Answering-(Attacking)-Islam" they employ a number diversionary tactics to supplement their lack of knowledge or evidence. One such tactic is that if there is no quality to the argument, they employ a whole lot of quantity.

    As indicated above, both insults and ad hominem arguments will from now on be in red, though it will not always be explicitly discussed why they are ad hominem. The rest of the quotations from Zaman's article will be in green.

    To some people it is given to formulate very concisely. Others are more wordy. I have never claimed that my writings have a high literary quality. I am concerned about truth. I agree, my articles tend to be long, but the reason is my urge to be thorough, comprehensive, and to cover all my bases. The quantity of words has, however, nothing to do with their truth. There exist long books which are true, and there are very concise but wrong statements. [Thus this is another (circumstantial) ad hominem.] Zaman uses again a long list of big words, but it has no other purpose than to poison the well. Ironically, paragraphs like these — and there are plenty of them — only make Zaman's articles longer without contributing anything to the substance of the discussion.

    Had Zaman first carefully discussed my article, had he been able to show that it actually lacks quality, and then concluded that it seems I am using quantity to substitute for quality, that would have been the proper approach. However, he ignored most of the article — including various very relevant sections that are actually refuting his current arguments and which will therefore be requoted in this paper. Instead he complained about the length of my paper several times during this article as if length itself speaks against quality. Taking this "argument from quantity" to its ridiculous conclusion, then Surah 2 of the Qur'an would be less trustworthy or of lesser quality in some respect than Surah 96 because it is so much longer, and finally Zaman's own website will automatically become less accurate the more material he adds.

    For this paper I could just have quoted the scholarly standard reference on the etymology of Greek words and said: This settles the case, and all arguments constructed by Zaman in support of his claim are merely linguistic nonsense since there is (today) not one scholar who holds to Zaman's etymological hypothesis. However, Zaman could then have accused me of the fallacy of appeal to authority and would definitely have charged me to be unable to deal with his arguments. Therefore, I am going to discuss each of Zaman's arguments in detail, and will explain why I consider them wrong. An explanation of what is wrong and why it is wrong is nearly always much longer than the false claim itself. Moreover, since most readers do not know much about Classical Greek, I need to give sufficient background to enable them to follow the arguments about Greek grammar that are involved in this issue. (Don't worry, this article will not be boring.) I hope this sufficiently explains the length of the last as well as the current article.

    Finally, let's have a quick look at the epithet "master of illusions". Apart from the fact that most of Zaman's current article will turn out to be one big illusion, this is really "the pot calling the kettle black" (although Zaman fails to show that the kettle is actually black). Just have a look at my observations and questions in the shorter article Who or What is NESSIA really? to see what I mean.

    Zaman continues:

    Apparently, these guys have no shortage of spare time. Often they bawl out pages upon pages of rhetoric which could be summarily stated in just a few sentences. Any visitor of their site can see this lucidly. The point is to overwhelm their victim with an insuperable barrage of messy rhetoric in hopes that he simply won't bother responding. After all, we did not receive a grant $500,000 dollars from the Bush administration. We have jobs to tend to. This leaves us little time to address an overflowing multipaged septic tank from "Answering-(Attacking)-Islam".

    I will ignore all the other insults that are merely silly, but this particular circumstantial ad hominem is one of Zaman's favorites. In another one of his articles, REBUTTAL: Fire Under the Sea - Part 2, Zaman wrote:

    Bushism par excellence – "Lexicographical Inexactitude"

    First, with all due respect to Mr. Austin, I couldn't help but laugh at the very start of this "rebuttal" and I knew I was in for a whole torrent of lexical and logical bungles a la good ole G. Dubbya who is funding THEM with an initial grant of half a million dollars of American tax-payers' money. Birds of a feather flock together. (underline and capital emphasis mine)

    Even though in this case, Mr. Austin did indeed use the wrong word, Zaman's claim of us having received money has nothing to do with the truth or error of Mr. Austin's arguments in his article, or the truth of my arguments in the etymology article. Maybe I have to spell it out for Zaman by way of an illustration he can understand? Imagine a rich Muslim discussing with a poor Christian about the true faith, and another discussion between a rich Christian and a poor Muslim. What is the relation of truth to money? None.

    Furthermore, since Zaman does not give any evidence of us having received such money, it is slander and false testimony. In fact, Answering Islam has never received even one cent out of US government funds, let alone from Mr. Bush's personal funds. On the other hand, it is well known that the Saudi government alone spends billions of dollars every year on spreading Islam worldwide, and they are not the only government of the Islamic world that invests in this cause. This fact is not an argument against the alleged truth of Islam, but it is exposing the duplicity in such arguments. [For plenty of logical bungles you only need to go back to the beginning, for lexical bungles, see below and also on this page.]

    Actually, this same paragraph exhibits yet another fallacy:

    Apparently, these guys have no shortage of spare time. Often they bawl out pages upon pages of rhetoric which could be summarily stated in just a few sentences. ... The point is to overwhelm their victim ... in hopes that he simply won't bother responding. After all, we did not receive a grant $500,000 dollars from the Bush administration. We have jobs to tend to. This leaves us little time to address an overflowing multipaged septic tank from "Answering-(Attacking)-Islam". (bold emphasis mine)

    The first fallacy was that this alleged wealth is somehow subtracting from the truth of our argument (perhaps even tainting our moral standing and character). In reverse, this is also an example of argumentum ad misericordiam (appeal to pity). Basically it says: please accept my arguments because of my unfortunate situation compared to my opponent who has a lot of money.

    Zaman continues with these words:

    In this manner, Jochen Katz launched a scathing 15-page ad hominem attack against me, personally, in which he tried to discredit my ability in Semitic linguistics. Laughably, he chose to do this by arguing over a side comment I had made in "Stung From the Same Hole Twice" which contained a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Greek word in the Gospels (Greek is an Indo-European language and not Semitic).

    The word is pros-kunew (προσκυνεω) which I stated has its etymons in pros (προς) being of association and kuwn (κυων) being a dog. Thus, this particular Greek word for "worship" has an etymological ancestry in "groveling like a dog".

    First, I know the difference between Indo-European and Semitic languages quite well. I have certificates from accredited institutions in both Classical Greek and Biblical Hebrew. The difference between Zaman and myself is that I never felt the need to brag about my ‘linguistic scholarship’. I am not at all trying to discredit Zaman's ability. That is definitely the wrong choice of words. In order to discredit an ability one has to assume there is an ability to discredit in the first place. On the contrary, I am exposing Zaman's inability.

    Second, I never questioned Zaman's knowledge of Semitic language on the basis of his ignorance of the Greek language. This is another unproven claim by Zaman. In my first article about Zaman's Abuse of Etymology I discussed etymological fallacies committed by Zaman in two languages, Greek and Arabic. The fact that the meaning of a word is not determined by its etymology is a general principle that holds for all human languages. I pointed out that Zaman is violating this basic linguistic principle over and over again in his arguments made about different languages. I am well aware that Zaman's knowledge of Semitic languages is vastly greater than his nearly non-existent knowledge of Greek. However, this greater knowledge does not hinder him from committing the same basic linguistic errors even in Semitic languages.

    So far we have collected the expressions etymological fallacy, ad hominem and satire as unclear terms in Zaman's English vocabulary. Those are admittedly more complex concepts. The above paragraph seems to introduce another problematic expression. Could it really be that Zaman does not even know the meaning of tongue-in-cheek? Let me present some dictionary definitions:

    Ironically: "The critic’s remarks of praise were uttered strictly tongue-in-cheek." (The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. 2002.)

    Speaking insincerely; jokingly. ... not being serious. "He cried 'superb! magnifique!' (with his tongue in his cheek)." (Source)

    if you say something tongue in cheek, what you have said is a joke, although it might seem to be serious
    'And we all know what a passionate love life I have!,' he said, tongue in cheek. (Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms)

    Meant or expressed ironically or facetiously. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000)

    characterized by insincerity, irony, or whimsical exaggeration (Merriam-Webster OnLine)

    joking: spoken with gentle irony and meant as a joke (Encarta® World English Dictionary)

    ... indicates that someone just told a joke or isn't being serious! ... (KidsHealth)

    Did Zaman really intend to say in the above that he was not being serious in his original article and his argument was only a joke? If he meant indeed tongue-in-cheek, then this is a cheap cop-out because his argument was definitely not meant jokingly. Anyone reading his original article can see that. If it had just been a joke, and Zaman knew that this interpretation was not really true, then he should now have admitted to it, apologized that the joke was in bad taste and moved on. Is that what we see? Not at all. It was not a "side comment" but an integral part of his case, and there is absolutely no indication in the article that it was written jokingly. Zaman was dead-serious about it. That is why he wrote this current response the way he did, making such an elaborate effort for the defense of his original argument, and he is still claiming that he was right. It is really very simple: If it was tongue-in-cheek, then it was not true, but since Zaman makes great efforts in this article to prove it was true, he is himself providing the evidence that it was not tongue-in-cheek.

    Zaman is trying every trick in the book to avoid taking the responsibility for his errors. Defend every error to the utmost; and should that finally fail, claim it was meant as a joke, so that it is still not an error on his side, but a lack of discernment on my side for not realizing that it was a joke. Stop playing games, Mr. Zaman! You will only hurt your own credibility because I will not let you get away with this kind of manipulative rhetoric.

    We continue with Zaman's text:

    My article which he cited had absolutely nothing to do with the Bible or etymology. It had to do with the Muslims of America coalescing into a voters' bloc against the Bush administration in the upcoming presidential elections. However, as Jochen in his understandably limited abilities had trouble finding something to attack here on the NESSIA website, he blindly shot in the dark. As we shall see he repeatedly shot himself in the foot while doing so.

    II. Slamming the door shut before it even opens

    Looking at Zaman's discussion of the Bible story and its application, i.e. from the subtitle "The crumbs that fall ..." up to the conclusion "sadly it has worked well", one finds that this section takes up 462 of 2751 words or 18% of the body of his article (i.e. without header and footnotes), an article that supposedly "had absolutely nothing to do with the Bible." Even when looking at this merely quantitatively, eighteen percent of the text of his article was precisely to do with the Bible — it formed a fairly large tangent from his original article.

    Furthermore, Zaman indirectly confirms the comment that I had made in my original article: "Taking a stab at the Bible in this context appears to point to an insatiable desire to attack the Christian faith even when talking about issues that are completely unrelated to Christianity." Interestingly, Zaman avoided to explain in his response why he introduced this issue in the first place.

    Does Zaman really think I have trouble finding something to disagree with on the NESSIA website? Certainly not. It is only another one of his rhetorical tricks, since on the same day that I published the article on Zaman's Abuse of Etymology, I also published two other articles: Reflections on Muhammad's saying "The believer is not stung from the same hole twice" (so far completely ignored by Zaman), and my rebuttal to his Talking Ants in the Qur'an? In the meantime, several more articles have been added which can all be found in the Zaman Rebuttal Section.

    Instead of trying to play down his claim as a "side comment" or even as being "tongue-in-cheek" on the one hand, and then nevertheless defending it as true on the other, Zaman would have done much better to admit his mistake, apologize and move on. Given the course he has chosen for himself, we will soon see who is aimlessly shooting in the dark and whose foot will end up being full of holes.

    His second subsection heading, "Slamming the door shut BEFORE it even opens" is another ‘masterpiece’ from our virtual language scholar. [Note for Zaman: this last sentence was tongue-in-cheek.] This incoherent word picture is actually endearing in its emotionality. Just imagine it for a few seconds, how Zaman is trying hard to SLAM a closed door without first opening it!

    This first part of my response, i.e. everything up to this place, has been designed with the express purpose of exposing Zaman's polemical approach, his bad methodology, and his empty rhetoric which is wholly unbefitting for anyone who wants to be considered a scholar. As far as the public evidence goes, Zaman is hardly interested in genuine scholary interaction but is mainly an Islamic apologist and polemicist.

    Everything stated so far is not part of my argument against Zaman's etymological claims. My evaluation of his alleged evidence connecting the Greek words for "worship" and for "dog" is completely independent of it, and will now be presented in the second part of my rebuttal.

    Part II   — Examining the evidence

    What's at stake?

    Let me first remind everyone what actually is the topic of discussion. Despite Zaman's complaint that the length of my article completely overwhelmed him, my main argument was stated so early in the paper that there is no valid excuse for Zaman to have missed it. I wrote:

    The first lesson any linguist or serious language student has to learn is that the meaning of a word is determined by usage not by etymology (let alone false etymology as in this case).

    I substantiated the validity of this principle with many examples as well as quotations from recognized linguists and showed how Zaman repeatedly violated this foundational principle. What was his response? He completely ignored the main argument of my article and focused solely on the side remark that is found in parentheses in the above quotation. He aggressively sought to defend that his etymology was actually correct, although even a correct etymology would still leave him with having violated this basic principle and having committed the etymological fallacy. After deriving what I considered to be the correct etymology of the word proskuneo, I then explicitly stated:

    Still, proskuneo doesn't mean ‘kiss towards’ but prostrate, make obeisance, worship. In this case and in most cases, even if you get the etymology right, this still doesn't get the meaning right. To investigate the meaning of a word, look at how it is used. Its history is amusing and might educate us in interesting ways, but is not a reliable source of evidence on its present meaning.

    The sole question for the exegete is this: when a first century author deployed the lexeme proskuneo what referent did he intend? The topic of my article was the meaning of proskuneo not the etymology of the word, even though I also discussed its etymology. Zaman attacked an absolutely minor point in the overall argument and made a huge brouhaha about it. Even if everything Zaman wrote in his response were to be correct, he still lost the case because the meaning of a word is not contingent upon what it may have meant a thousand years ago since words change their meanings over time. The issue is what it means in the context it is used.

    Apparently, Zaman has still not understood this. I provided more than a hundred references to Greek texts in which proskuneo without doubt means "worship", while Zaman has — despite digging around in various dictionaries — not been able to present even one reference to a Greek text that would support the hypothesis that "groveling like a dog" is even a possible meaning, let alone being the real or main meaning of the word, which was Zaman's original claim.

    Let me compare what is going on here with a game of chess. During one particular game, Player A made a very bad move, and this silly oversight cost him one of his pawns without anything in return. Player Z took that pawn from the chess board with a triumphant look on his face. In the end, however, it was player A who won the game.

    For months after this game, player Z goes around deriding player A for being a really bad chess player because he made such a stupid move ... How impressive would that be? An admirable display of sportsmanship by player Z by any standard! What does really count? The game or the pawn?

    Be a man, Zaman, and face up to the fact that you lost this one, and that it is insubstantial whether I lost a pawn on the way or not. A public admission by Zaman of having lost an argument is, however, a very rare collectors item indeed. For others Zaman always has some good advice:

    To those who compromised their objectivity in a bid to save their personal religious beliefs we say: If archaeology scores a point against you today, you might score one against it tomorrow, but objectivity must never go up for sale. (Shibli Zaman, BREAKING NEWS: James Brother of Jesus Ossuary a Fake, 18 June 2003)

    Does that good advice only hold for issues in archaeology or does it also hold for linguistic arguments? Is that the proper behavior only for others or also for Zaman? At least we can say this: Zaman is consistent in being inconsistent. When a sportsman of honor loses a game, be it a game of chess or a tennis match, he will publicly approach the winner, shake hands and congratulate him. Zaman does not deny that my main argument is true. He completely ignores it. Instead he rails on and on about how bad I am because I lost that pawn. I am not impressed.

    Anyway, let's move on. In order to determine whether I even lost that pawn, let me turn to the evidence that Zaman presented to support his original claim.

    Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

  • Zaman's use of Strong's
  • We now reach the section where Zaman played his ‘trump card’:

    II. Slamming the door shut before it even opens

    Jochen states about my etymological analysis:

    "Zaman should have researched his claims better instead of just assuming that the results of his armchair etymology are an established fact."

    In spite of Jochen's harangue being 15-pages long, this will relatively be one of the shortest rebuttals in history. For starters, to the above comment allow me to produce the following:

    [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong, LL.D., S.T.D, 4352, p.61 of Greek-English Dictionary; actual scan]

    That’s it. The end.

    So even if Jochen wa [sic] absolutely right that the word pros-kunew (προσκυνεω) has no etymological relationship to kuwn (κυων) for "dog" (which he is most definitely not), then this is not my "etymological fallacy" but it is James Strong's. Thus, the entire 15-page tirade which was based upon this point is rendered absolutely useless. Sorry, Jochen, but "dirty tricks get ya in the sticks".

    That's it???  Not at all!  As explained in the last section above, this was the pawn, and NOT the game.

    Zaman claims regarding my first article that "the entire 15-page tirade which was based upon this point is rendered absolutely useless." That is completely wrong. The part in which I discussed the etymology of proskuneo makes up merely 5.2% of my article (374 of 7232 words in the body of the article). I elaborated on the etymology only after I had already established the true meaning of the word, and after I had proven that Zaman had committed the etymological fallacy. The etymology discussion was an afterthought in the whole argument. In other words, 94.8% of my article was not about the etymology of proskuneo but about about its contemporary meaning, and about various general and foundational linguistic principles related to and violated by Zaman's etymologial fallacies. This constitutes a rather low reading comprehension by any standard.

    This is also further evidence that Zaman writes "rebuttals" without making the effort to understand the argument that he attempts to respond to. I had made that already very clear in my article answering to his Talking Ants in the Qur'an?, exposing several of Zaman's straw men arguments. But seemingly he has not learned the lesson yet. Let me state it explicitly: I will not let Zaman (or anyone else) get away with misrepresenting my arguments. If you care to respond to my articles, then deal with the actual arguments presented in them, and don't even think of building your case on knocking down a straw man. It will inevitably be exposed. "Dirty tricks get ya in the sticks"? Exactly!

    [Question: Would Zaman care to clarify where he thinks I used a "dirty trick"? Or was that just another one of his many empty accusations that he cannot back up with any evidence?]

    Apart from the obvious fact that Zaman is majoring on the minors and blowing this issue completely out of proportion, there are several further observations to be made about his above argument.

    First, despite his confident conclusion, "That's it", Zaman has not presented any proof. On the contrary, he only exposed that he has no clue what actually constitutes evidence in the field of etymology. He calls himself an etymologist, but is completely ignorant of the established methodology and accepted working standards in this field, and I am not talking about some deep aspect in the science of etymology that is only known to specialists. Actually, I do not know of ANY field of studies where finding another person who shares your opinion constitutes proof that your opinion is correct.

    From a scholarly point of view, it is not good enough to base your argument on ‘scholar X says Y’ (which would be the fallacy of appeal to authority). Rather you need to show why Y is true, and then use scholar X to back that up. A correct approach would have been to thoroughly show how the words are related (providing examples from Greek texts to show this, e.g. tracking historical usages) and then one could have observed (say in a footnote) that Strong also makes the connection. But to start one’s argument from a reference to Strong's opinion is simply weak.

    Second, we note that just as with his earlier introduction of the term tongue-in-cheek Zaman tries again to avoid taking personal responsibility for his errors. He does not admit to any error, but just in case it should eventually turn out to be an error, then it is still not his error, but the error of James Strong.

    Shifting the blame for an error to the higher authority of a textbook from which he copied it may perhaps be considered an acceptable excuse for a 7th grade highschool student. Zaman, however, insists to be treated as a scholar of linguistics in his own right, and among scholars the attempt to defend a wrong argument with "but he said so" is impossible, not to say infantile. Zaman disqualifies himself through such behavior. [Furthermore, doing so is yet another logical fallacy, known as the fallacy of appeal to authority. As if Zaman hasn't already committed enough logical fallacies in this article alone.]

    With the above attempt to shift responsibility Zaman has effectively ranked himself as being in a position way below Strong's in regard to linguistic authority. [Just how much of a linguistic authority Strong's is, will be discussed below.]

    Let me give another illustration. For several years I taught undergraduate mathematics classes at university level. Even top students sometimes make mistakes and I had to give them a lesser grade on their homework or exam papers than they usually got. Moreover, there are the not so good students who copy the work of good students and, in order not to be caught cheating, introduce slight variations in the formulation of their answers. Sometimes these variations make correct statements wrong, or slightly wrong statements become completely wrong because they did not really understand what they were copying. The good student gets a "B" because of some mistake, the not so good student gets a "C" because he made that mistake even worse. He does not understand why his grade is less and thus he comes complaining and argues that he should get the same grade as the good student because he copied his work. Well, the result of such complaints can only be that the grade of Mr. not so good student drops from "C" to "F" for cheating. [If Zaman had been my student, he would probably have argued that he should get an "A", since this was not HIS mistake, but it was the mistake of the person he copied from! Frankly, I have heard too many silly excuses in my life. Sorry to disappoint you, but this approach won't work with me.]

    I leave it to Zaman to decide whether he thinks that his above argument was more appropriately compared to the behavior of the textbook copying 7th grader in the first illustration, or better illustrated by the second one of the bad undergraduate student. In any case, I have made my point. I will not let Zaman off the hook: As long as he poses as the "Near Eastern and Semitic Studies Institute of America" and makes public claims about his linguistic scholarship I will hold him personally responsible for all his linguistic mistakes.

    Finally, while doing the research for my original article on Zaman's etymological errors, I discovered that Strong's Concordance indeed makes the connection between kuneo and kuon. I was 95% sure that Strong's was the source of Zaman's claim. Being convinced that Strong is wrong regarding this conjecture, I had two options. Either, I could quote Strong's entry on proskuneo, state why I thought that it was the source of Zaman's claim, and then proceed to explain why Strong is wrong in order to give Zaman no way of coming back on this issue (i.e., "slamming the door shut before it even opens", in Zamanian phraseology). This would, however, have robbed Zaman of the opportunity to sling all these wonderful insults at me which we can now admire in his rebuttal, and it would have prevented him from displaying more of his deep linguistic knowledge — or rather the lack of it — as he has then done in manifold ways.

    Four weeks before publishing my article, I discussed the ‘problem’ of Strong's entry with two people. There were two reasons why I finally decided not to comment on Strong's in my first article. Strong's entry is merely an opinion without proof, it does not constitute evidence. Why should I make a long article even longer by discussing something irrelevant? Zaman had not appealed to Strong's (yet), so there was no need to refute it. On the contrary, Zaman could then have accused me of a straw man argument, i.e. refuting what he never claimed. Moreover, after knowing my reasons to reject Strong's, Zaman would probably just have denied that this was indeed the source of his claims. If I wanted him to reveal his source, then I had to make sure not to mention that I already knew it. [Chess is not the only discipline in which it is advantageous to think ahead a couple of moves.] Gladly, Zaman reacted just as expected on this one.

  • Zaman's abuse of Strong's
  • Let's have a closer look at what Strong's actually wrote and compare it with the conclusions that Zaman drew from this dictionary entry.

    James Strong: 4352. προσκυνεω proskuneo pros-koo-neh'-o 
from 4314 and a probable derivative of 2965 
(meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand); 
to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) 
prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):--worship.
    Shibli Zaman: It is interesting to note that in the Greek text the word for "worshipped" here is "proskuneo" which is a contraction of "pros" meaning to "be in the manner of" and "kuneo" (root "kuon") which is basically a dog.   How the Biblical translators understood groveling like a dog to be "worshipping" is dogmatically baffling to say the least. (Orig. article)
      So even if Jochen wa absolutely right that the word pros-kunew (προσκυνεω) has no etymological relationship to kuwn (κυων) for "dog" (which he is most definitely not), then this is not my "etymological fallacy" but it is James Strong's. (His second article in defense of the first; added bold emphasis mine)

    First, Strong only conjectured that the word kuneo is "a probable derivative of kuon". Zaman, however, simply skips the probability part and argues that this is definitely and unquestionably so. There is no expression of caution to be found in Zaman's statements. This is the first element of dictionary abuse on Zaman's part.

    What is the evidence that led Strong to the conjecture that kuneo is derived from kuon? None is provided. Strong only stated a guess. What is Zaman's additional evidence that allows him to argue this etymological connection not only as a conjecture but even with certainty? Zaman did not provide any evidence at all.

    Second, Zaman's methodology of selecting several unrelated elements from a dictionary entry and then combining them into a new "meaning" (not found in the dictionary) is simply atrocious. Let us first understand how Strong put together his dictionary entry before we examine how Zaman misused it. Strong clearly states that kuneo means to kiss, but since he feels (for unknown reasons) that kuneo is derived from kuon (dog), he then tries to connect the meaning "to kiss" with the word "dog" and comes up with "like a dog licking his master's hand". After closing his parenthesis of etymological speculation, he does not mention the word "dog" again. Just as Strong knows that the meaning of kuneo is to kiss, so he knows also that the meaning of proskuneo is to "prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore)" and it is usually and correctly translated in the KJV as "worship". However, Strong's fondness of his conjectured root word kuon has seemingly led him to seek a couple of words that can be used of both dogs and humans, and so he inserted into his list of meanings also "to fawn or crouch to" (as connecting elements between root and meaning?) before providing the real meaning of proskuneo after "i.e. (literally or figuratively) ...". [This is part of the reason why the little dictionary of Strong's Concordance is not considered a scholarly resource. It was not put together in a scholarly manner but contains much unfounded speculation.] Nevertheless, Strong is careful not to mention dogs explicitly in his given list of meanings. His dictionary entry does not state that proskuneo means and should be translated as "to crouch like a dog" or anything of that sort. He was apparently aware that there is no basis for this, not knowing of any text in which this word is used in such a meaning. [More about this in the section about the proper methods of how an etymology is established.]

    Such caution is, however, foreign to Zaman. He has no hesitation to select one part from Strong's parenthesis of conjectural etymology (i.e., "like a dog") and to combine it with one of the meanings. Since in English one does not usually say that dogs "prostrate", he searched for a word which would convey the same idea of prostrating, yet a term more appropriately used for dogs, namely "groveling". Therefore, according to Zaman, proskuneo now means "groveling like a dog".

    [ Note: My above attempt of reconstructing Zaman's ‘thought process’ is obviously guesswork. Actually, this scenario is still giving him some benefit of the doubt. When taking his statements at face-value then his steps for arriving at "groveling like a dog" seem to be even worse: He is turning prepositions into verbs, verbs into nouns etc., see my analysis in the first article. The meaning that Zaman claims for ‘pros’ does not even have a basis in the Greek Dictionary of Strong's Concordance (No. 4314) but is completely off the wall. ]

    Yet, this is not all. By stating, ‘How the Biblical translators understood groveling like a dog to be "worshipping" is dogmatically baffling to say the least’, Zaman actually denies that "worship" is at least one meaning and correct translation of proskuneo. With this step Zaman went not only way beyond Strong's but lost the support of each and every dictionary of the Greek language. This is the second element in Zaman's abuse of Strong's dictionary.

    Third, Zaman's above statement confirms again that he has no idea what the ‘etymological fallacy’ is, despite posing as a scholar and researcher of etymology. The concept of an etymological fallacy was explained and discussed at great length in the first part, and is now assumed as understood.

    James Strong simply stated his conjecture that kuneo (κυνεω) is probably a derivative of kuon (κυων). This may be a wrong etymology (and thus an error of fact) but it is not the etymological fallacy. The etymological fallacy is assuming that the root meaning of a word is to be used in exegesis — despite the fact that the so called ‘root meaning’ was not in the mind of the user (writer or speaker) of the word. James Strong did not say that we should bring dogs into understanding the NT use of proskuneo. Even though James Strong's dictionary entry is hardly an example of careful and responsible scholarship, he was still able to distinguish between the real or conjectured etymology of a word and its actual meaning. It was Shibli Zaman alone, who explicitly imported the alleged etymon kuon (dog) into the current meaning of the word and claimed that proskuneo means "groveling like a dog" (and that this alone is its real meaning). Therefore Zaman alone is guilty of the etymological fallacy (not Strong) and, worse, he does not even know what said fallacy actually is. This bears repeating since it is so essential: Zaman alone has committed the etymological fallacy while Strong has simply made an error in his supposed etymology. These are two entirely different errors since even if Strong was right, Zaman would still be in error.

    The above statement about Strong is actually unfair because it does not take into account the historical context. Let me therefore reformulate: By modern standards, Strong's dictionary seems not to be an example of careful and responsible scholarship. However, James Strong did not have the benefit of all we now know about linguistics. Zaman, on the other hand, does have the benefit of the discipline of modern linguistics and, furthermore, claims to be a skilled practitioner. There is no excuse for him on these grounds.

  • Is Strong's a scholarly resource?
  • On the very same day that Zaman appealed to Strong's Concordance as proof for his claim regarding the etymology of proskuneo he also published a second rebuttal article in which he dismissed Sam Shamoun's quoted sources with this reasoning:

    II. Scholarly vs. proletarian evidence

    Mr. Shamoun proceeds:

    "According to Greek Grammarian William D. Mounce: 'There is ...' (Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, MI 1993], p. 302; ...)"

    It is unfortunate for Mr. Shamoun who appealed to it, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar is a very novice textbook. With all due respect to its author, it is not an exhaustive reference for Greek grammar by any stretch. (Shibli Zaman, Forgive Them, For They Know Not Greek, 28 July 2003; bold emphasis mine)

    Although Shibli Zaman has apparently great problems in distinguishing what is a scholarly resource, and what not, and in selecting the appropriate scholarly reference for those linguistic questions he chooses to discuss, the question whether a certain reference is scholarly and trustworthy is certainly important. This section is, therefore, devoted to determine whether Strong's is generally considered a scholarly resource or not.

    First, one needs to take seriously the full title of Strong's, i.e. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Even though this book also has an appendix with a small Hebrew-English and Greek-English dictionary, Strong's is first of all a concordance of one particular English translation of the Bible, the King James Version. It was never designed to be a serious Greek or Hebrew dictionary. It is not a lexicon and it is no real guide to etymology or morphology. At the time of its publication in 1890 this concordance was a momentous achievement and it is still very useful as a concordance. But if one needs to consult a dictionary one should look elsewhere.

    For background information on the problem of "etymology in old dictionaries" let me begin with this quotation:

    ETYMOLOGY is word history. The etymology of a word is its history from its beginnings, including its forms and its meanings as far back as these can be documented and its record of being borrowed and adapted into other languages. As etymologists bring the record forward or trace it backward, they try where they can to explain whatever linguistic and semantic change they encounter. Although science is a necessary part of it, etymology is finally as much art as science, and many of today’s dictionaries have been obliged to substitute the more accurate comment “origin unknown” for what were once thought to be good guesses at the etymology of many words. Likely possibilities are simply not the same as proofs. (Kenneth G. Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, Columbia University Press, 1993; online source; bold emphasis mine)

    We have already seen that Strong injected much speculation and guesswork in his entry on proskuneo. This is a serious problem throughout his little dictionary and has led to many abuses ever since its publication. There is not only the problem of people who abuse it for polemical reasons like Zaman, but also many honest and devoted Bible students without linguistic training have been led astray by taking up Strong's etymological speculations and pushing them into their exegesis, thus committing the etymological fallacy over and over again.

    In 2001 Zondervan Publishing House issued an updated and revised Strong's Concordance under the title The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible. The promotional for this edition makes the following statement:

    Strong's dictionary methodologies are flawed by what has come to be called "root fallacy." He assumed that biblical words could be defined by the sum of their parts. But we know that a pineapple is not an apple that grows on pine trees, nor is a butterfly a fly that lives in butter. Our dictionaries are based on the latest lexicons and word studies, reflecting the significant advances in biblical scholarship of the past half century. And The Strongest Strong's is the only edition to contain up-to-date Greek and Hebrew dictionaries. (bold and underline emphasis mine, this paragraph as scanned image, original source [1 MB file size!])

    A similar statement is also found under the heading "Improvements in the Strongest Strong's", in the Introduction of this edition. Since Zaman has such a bad track record regarding understanding things the first time around, ... let me quote this slightly different formulation as well:

    Fourth, Strong's dictionaries are flawed by a methodology of the nineteenth century that has come to be called the "root fallacy." He assumed that biblical words could be defined by the sum of their parts. But just as we do not think that a pineapple is an apple that grows on a pine tree or that a butterfly is a fly that likes butter, so we should not use this methodology to define biblical words as was so common in the nineteenth and even the twentieth centuries. Our dictionaries are based on the latest dictionaries, lexicons, and word study books, reflecting great advances in biblical scholarship. (Source: The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, 21st Century Edition, by James Strong, LL.D., S.T.D., fully revised & corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson, Zondervan, 2001, p. x; bold and underline emphasis mine, actual scanned image)

    The following is the dictionary entry on proskuneo from this new edition:

    [Op. cit., Greek Dictionary-Index to the New Testament, p. 1528]

    The word definitions are present but none of Strong's unfounded etymological speculations. The entry states now exactly what is found also in the scholarly dictionaries LSJ and BDAG. No mention of dogs is found in this corrected edition.

    Since Zaman did not even accept my quotations and arguments based on the scholarly dictionaries that I had cited in my original article, he is unlikely to accept the entry from a revised Strong's Concordance as the final word. After all, this new dictionary is still a laymen's tool and not an exhaustive scholarly resource although it is much more accurate than Strong's original version. The next section will therefore provide a quotation from the standard reference on the etymology of Greek words.


    What about those books advocated by Zaman himself? After dismissing Mounce's book as "proletarian", Zaman recommended the Greek grammar books by Herbert Weir Smyth and William Watson Goodwin as the two standard references. Let's see what they say about kuneo:

    [William Watson Goodwin, Greek Grammar, p. 382]

    Herbert Weir Smyth's original 1920 edition of A Greek Grammar for Colleges that Zaman quoted from has an "Appendix: List of Verbs" and states in the section "Verbs beginning with kappa":

    ku-ne-ô (ku-) kiss: kunêsomai (?), ekusa. Poetic. pros-kuneô render homage to: pros-kunêsô, pros-ekunêsa (pros-ekusa poetic). (IV.) (Attic)
    [Online Edition made available in the Perseus Project of Tufts University]

    And the revised edition of this book says still the same:

    [Herbert Weir Smyth and Gordon M. Messing, Greek Grammar, rev. ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972, p. 704]

    None of the books recommended by Zaman as being authoritative standard references make any connection between kuneo (kiss) and kuon (dog). On the contrary, both books give (κυ-) and not (κυν-) as the stem or root of the verb, i.e. without the letter nu (ν) which would have been necessary if the word were derived from kuon (genitive case: kun-os). The way that Smyth hyphenates the word ku-ne-o in order to clearly display the various elements of it, shows that -νε- is an infix and not part of the root. The reason that Goodwin and Smyth only give (κυ-) instead of (κυσ) as root may be that σ, the final letter of the root, is not visible but contracted away in the present tense. One can even find that Goodwin explicitly discusses the construction of present tense of the verb kuneo (κυνεω) in the text of his book:

    [William Watson Goodwin, Greek Grammar, p. 156]

    Thus, according to Goodwin, the syllable νε in the middle of the verb κυνεω is an infix inserted for the purpose of strengthening the verb stem in the present tense. But it is not part of the root of the verb. More details will be provided about this in the next section. If Zaman had been able to understand the books that he refers to, he could have avoided this error and saved himself much embarrassment.

    Serious dictionaries are made for people who have learned the principles and rules of a particular language, who may still need to look up the precise meaning of a word but who know what to do with the information provided by the dictionary. Scholarly dictionaries of Greek neither transliterate words nor do they give a pronunciation guide for each entry because they assume that the user can read the Greek entries (i.e. knows the Greek alphabet) and has learned how to pronounce Greek words. Let's look again at just the first line of Strong's entry on προσκυνεω:

    Strong's is a ‘dictionary’ for people who do "Greek by numbers" because they know nothing about the language, not even the most elementary basics like the alphabet (thus the need for the transliteration proskuneo) or the pronunciation rules (thus the pronunciation help pros-koo-neh'-o). The very fact that Zaman uses and appeals to Strong's is another indication that that he most likely never attended even a beginners' class of Greek, let alone being a qualified scholar.

    James Strong was a good theologian and has published a number of valuable books. His concordance of the KJV was a monumental achievement in its time (1890), but the Hebrew and Greek dictionary appendix shows that linguistics was not his strongest point. In college and university level courses for learning either Classical Greek or Biblical Greek, (the dictionary appendix of) Strong's Concordance will usually not even be mentioned as a possible dictionary; it is simply not admissible. I dare say, Zaman will most likely not be able to find even one Greek language course at an accredited institution for which the bibliography of course books recommends Strong's Concordance as a dictionary. It is certainly not listed on these resource pages: INTER LIBROS: Gateway for Classics and Medieval Studies Research at Harvard; it is neither listed under Greek and Roman Materials: Secondary Sources of the Perseus project at Tufts University, nor in this graded list of Online Greek Dictionaries and Lexica at a Belgian university (not even with a zero stars rating), even though Strong's dictionary is readily available online.

    On the contrary, since the use of Strong's is so widespread among Christians who have not learned the biblical languages, seminary instructors even warn their students about the problems associated with using Strong's:

    Word Study Fallacies

    A number of very commonly used tools for NT study repeatedly fall into this fallacy. The meanings given for Greek and Hebrew words in the back of Strong's concordance are full of root fallacies. Some standard older works fall into the same problem. The works of Wuest, Thayer and Vine need to be used with much caution. It is not that all that they say is wrong. However, they are so frequently guilty of this fallacy and the first one that I do not consider them reliable guides. The best guides to word meanings are found in the standard dictionaries. For the OT that is the one by Brown, Driver and Briggs and for the NT it is the lexicon by Baur, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker.

    (Source: Article on Word Study by Steven C. Ibbotson, Prairie Bible Institute)

    This does not mean that everything in the dictionary appendix of Strong's Concordance is wrong, but this work is not only outdated, it is seriously flawed. If anyone derives an idea from some statement found in Strong's, but cannot substantiate it through reference to a scholarly resource, he would be better off not making public claims about it at all.

    In Zaman's choice of words, Strong's Greek Dictionary is definitely proletarian evidence:

    II. Scholarly vs. proletarian evidence

    ... It is unfortunate for Mr. Shamoun who appealed to it, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar is a very novice textbook. With all due respect to its author, it is not an exhaustive reference for Greek grammar by any stretch.

    Zaman dismissed a respectable textbook because it was written for the beginning student. His appeal to Strong's Concordance as proof for his wrong etymology and the way he abused this dictionary are, however, strong evidence that he is not even a beginner himself. If Zaman had learned only as much Greek as is taught in Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar he would not have made many of the errors we now have to deal with in this discussion.

    Actually, the issue is not whether a source is proletarian or scholarly, but whether the statement it makes constitutes evidence. Dismissing an argument as proletarian is the ad hominem fallacy all over again, and doing so is not scholarly behavior but merely arrogance. Cited evidence needs to be evaluated regarding its truth, although sometimes origin does determine credibility. If Strong's had provided actual evidence for Zaman's claim, then I would have taken it seriously despite the generally non-scholarly character of this dictionary. However, as already noted, for the issue under discussion Strong's provided only speculation and no evidence at all.

    The essential question now is: What does constitute evidence for a claim regarding the etymology of a word or expression? This is the topic of the next section.


  • Establishing the etymology of a word
  • So far, Zaman has presented no evidence to support his claim that kuneo was derived from kuon, let alone that its original meaning is associated with dogs, i.e. he has argued nothing more than "these words look somewhat similar therefore they are derivatives of each other" and a citation of Strong's who seems to have held to the same unfounded opinion. This hardly constitutes scholarly evidence.

    How is a meaning or how are the meanings of a word established? A word has a certain meaning only when we find a text in which the word is used in this meaning. If no reference exists in which a word is used with the conjectured meaning, then there is no evidence that it actually ever meant this. "No reference? No meaning!" Period.

    How are scholarly dictionaries made? Before a certain meaning is listed in a dictionary entry, there needs to be established an actual occurrence of the investigated word with this meaning. For example, here are two articles from the Oxford English Dictionary website: New Words - how do they get into the dictionary? and Revising a Dictionary. This procedure is the same for modern as well as classical languages. Only documented meanings will be included in a scholarly dictionary. If speculation about the meaning of a word would be enough, dictionaries would soon become useless.

    Regarding the etymology of words, the same site states:

    There are many terms for which 'folk etymologies' are in wide circulation. Some of them are merely whimsical inventions; others are very plausible, and the only thing that prevents them from being given in the dictionary is the need for proper linguistic and historical evidence. Simply sounding plausible is not enough - the histories of words presented in dictionaries are based on the principles of etymology, and are supported by linguistic and historical evidence. Also limited space in dictionaries means that there is little room to explain why favourite stories are etymologically wrong. (On ‘Folk Etymologies’; emphasis mine)

    What are the 'Canons of Etymology'?
    [Extract from W. W. Skeat's Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (2nd edition, 1883), chapter xxiii.]
          In the course of the work, I have been led to adopt the following canons, which merely express well-known principles, and are nothing new. Still, in the form of definite statements, they are worth giving.

    1. Before attempting an etymology, ASCERTAIN the earliest form and use of the word; and observe chronology. ...
    1. The whole of a word, and not a portion only, ought to be reasonably accounted for; and, in tracing changes of form, any infringement of phonetic laws is to be regarded with suspicion.
    2. Mere resemblances of form and apparent connection in sense between languages which have different phonetic laws or no necessary connection are commonly a delusion, and are not to be regarded. ...
    (The 'Canons of Etymology'; bold and capital emphasis mine)

    It appears that connecting verb kuneo (kiss) with kuon (dog) is just one such unsustainable ‘folk etymology’. The fact that it did not originate with Shibli Zaman does not make it any more credible.

    The weekly word-origin webzine, Take Our Word For It, provides the following:

    Ernest Weekley's Threefold Etymology Test

    Dr. Weekley, a renowned linguist and etymologist (1865-1954), devised the following test for determining the veracity and accuracy of any given etymology:

    (Source: Weekley's Test for Etymological Accuracy; bold and capital emphasis mine)

    Obviously the last item in the list implies that the ‘the earliest or most fundamental sense’ mentioned in the first item must also be a documented one.

    Even though the above quotations on the methodology of determining etymologies were mainly designed for the etymology of English words, particularly those quotations taken from the Oxford English Dictionary website, the principles are pretty much the same for all languages.

    Obviously, the further back in time we go, the rarer documents will become. For very old languages, there will often not be enough data to build a solid theory. There are also general rules how pronunciation changes between languages, and within languages over time so that we can still recognize connections between words based on those general and well documented pronunciation and spelling shifts. See, for example, this table of consonantal shifts in the family of Indo-European languages in the article Mechanics of Etymology; Phoneme Shifts. Even if one cannot trace or document every step of the development of a word due to scarce data, this is no justification for wild speculative claims. One still needs to adhere to the generally recognized rules. However, despite its age, Classical Greek is a very well-documented language with many available texts.

    Let's get back to the specific question of proskuneo and kuneo. In accordance with the above principle that one can only claim a certain meaning for a word when also providing a reference to a text in which it is actually used in this sense, I provided in my original article more than two hundred references (nearly 200 explicitly and many more in the articles linked) for the use of proskuneo in the meaning of worship and prostration. This was backed up even further with the entries of the academic dictionaries LSJ and BDAG which in turn give references to the texts where these words occur.

    Shibli Zaman, on the other hand, has so far provided NOT EVEN ONE reference for his claim that kuneo ever meant "a dog" or "behaving like a dog", or that the main and original meaning of proskuneo is "groveling like a dog." Zero, nil, nada. Even in this second round, despite all the noise he has made, Zaman still stands before us absolutely empty-handed.

  • The etymology of προσκυνεω (proskuneo)
  • The discussion in this section will be somewhat technical. I need to ask the reader to bear with me, since the next couple of pages will present and explain the main evidence to decide the controversy between Shibli Zaman and myself in regard to the etymology of kuneo. I promise that the last section will be more fun again.

    There is no disagreement between Zaman and myself that proskuneo is a compound of pros and kuneo. I disagree with Zaman about his claim that kuneo is derived from kuon. In my first article I cited information regarding the etymology of kuneo that I had taken from a German-Greek dictionary. This was not met with much understanding on the part of Zaman. I had stated that

    Furthermore, my copy of Wilhelm Gemoll's Greek-German dictionary (Griechisch-Deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch) gives not only the meaning (kiss), but also provides explicit information about the construction of the word: kuneo, contracted from ku-ne-so, root: kus, the root form being best seen in some of the aorist forms: ekussa, kus(s)a.

    Since Zaman seems to believe citations only when scanned images are provided, here is the actual scan:

    [Wilhelm Gemoll, Griechisch-Deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch, Neunte Auflage 1965, Nachdruck 1985, p. 459]

    No surprise here: the dictionary says exactly what I had reported earlier. Let me explain the above entries step by step. Behind many entries there are round brackets (...) providing etymological information about the word. Even those who do not understand German should be able to recognize easily that the first element directly after the entry for the verb κυναω [translit. kunao], i.e. the fourth entry on the scanned image, is (κυων) [translit. kuon], informing the reader that κυναω is derived from κυων. After the adjective κυνειος [translit. kuneios] we find the same bracket, (κυων), which again means that this adjective belongs to or is derived from κυων. In fact, there are many words derived from κυων.

    What about the word under discussion here? It is the last entry found on the scanned image: κυνεω [kuneo]. Clearly, the bracket which should be familiar by now is NOT found after this word. Instead there is a different and more complicated one: (aus *κυ-νε-σω, W. κυσ). What does this mean? Well, it means exactly what I had written in the last article. Let me explain it again but providing some more details than I did last time: a star * is placed before a conjectured older word form that has not been documented in any text yet. Thus, the first part means that κυνεω is a contraction of the form κυ-νε-σω. That the letter sigma may disappear between two vowels is a feature that can be observed in many Greek words. After the comma we find W., the abbreviation for the German word Wurzel, which means root in English. In the last line of the entry we find another abbreviation: F. for Formen meaning (word) forms. After F. some special forms of the word are listed. Not all word forms that are possible (conjugation is a complex issue in Classical Greek since verbs can occur in some 400 different forms of inflection, while in English verbs assume only four or five different forms, e.g. talk, talks, talked, talking, or go, goes, went, gone, going) nor all forms that are documented in texts, but those irregular word forms are listed which are difficult to derive from the form of the dictionary entry, which for Greek verbs is the 1. person singular present tense indicative active. In this case, the aorist forms εκυσσα and κυσ(σ)α are listed. Therefore, everything is exactly as I had reported it in my original article, even though Zaman responded only with ridicule and contempt. We'll see shortly what he made of my statements, and how this further exposes his ignorance of even the most basic facts of the Greek language.

    Germany has a long and famous philological tradition, particularly in the classical languages relevant to theology and religious studies. Many standard references are still only available in German. Those wanting to become scholars of theology or the Hebrew or Greek language will have to learn German at least up to the level of reading proficiency in order to understand and use those standard references.

    Harvard University provides a bibliographical webpage listing reference works for Greek language studies, INTER LIBROS: Gateway for Classics and Medieval Studies Research at Harvard, where we find the following entry:

    Frisk, Hjalmar. Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2. unver. Aufl. ed. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1973.
    This is widely considered the standard etymological dictionary of the Greek language. (bold emphasis mine)

    The following is the scanned entry on kuneo from this dictionary:

    [Hjalmar Frisk, Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Vol. 2 (Κρ — Ω), pp. 49-50]

    Note, this is an etymological dictionary. Its very purpose is to trace the most ancient meanings of the words and their relationship to other languages. Again, everyone should be able to see that there is no mention of κυων (dog) in this entry even if you do not understand the German. The first paragraph states that the meaning of kuneo is kiss, and that the derived word proskuneo means to prostrate, to do homage by kissing the ground.

    The most important statement for our etymological question is the first sentence in the second paragraph. It means in English that "the present tense κυ-νε-(σ)-ω (instead of athematic *κυ-νε-σ-μι?) seems to have been constructed from the aorist form by means of a nasal infix (see Schwyzer 692 with literature references)." The mentioned nasal infix is the "νε" that was inserted into the root κυσ, i.e. (root) κυσ + (infix) νε + (1. person singular ending) ω = κυ-νε-(σ)-ω which was then contracted to κυνεω. The rest of the dictionary entry describes the relationship of this word to other words in the Indo-European language family.

    Conclusion: Frisk fully confirms the information found in Gemoll which was the source of my statements in the first article. Hopefully, with this elaboration we can finally end the discussion about the etymology of kuneo (κυνεω).

    Question to Shibli Zaman: Are you going to accept the verdict of the recognized scholarly standard reference on the etymology of Greek words?

    I do not argue that I am right because Frisk says so. That would be the fallacy of appeal to authority. Even the scholarly consensus is always up for reevaluation should new data or better explanations be discovered. However, there already exists a history of scholarly discussion about the etymology of kuneo and it seems that a consensus has been reached. Zaman needs first of all to take notice of the scholarly literature. If he then still intends to continue his protest and maintain the claim that kuneo is derived from kuon, he will have to prove this in accordance with the principles and scholarly methodology of current etymological research. Unless Zaman can cite some source texts where the lexeme is used to denote dogs, then his argument is dead in the water. Whether he does original research and becomes the first one to find such evidence in primary sources, or is able to find such references in articles published in scholarly journals (superseding the standard work by Frisk and the state of discussion it represents) does not matter. Pointing to anyone's merely speculative opinion, however, like the one found in Strong's will not carry any weight.

    For good measure, let me also provide a scanned image of the entry for κυων as found in Frisk's etymological dictionary:

    [Hjalmar Frisk, Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Vol. 2 (Κρ — Ω), pp. 58-59]

    Frisk's dictionary is organized according to "basic words" and the derived words are listed under those basic entries. Just as proskuneo was listed as a derivative under kuneo (see above) so it is also here. The first paragraph of kuon lists more than a dozen expressions that are derived from kuon. However, the word kuneo is NOT among them.

    If Zaman would like to avoid the embarrassment of such etymological errors in the future, and would like to become a serious student of the etymological aspect of linguistics, then he may want to invest in the three volume set of Frisk. At he can order it for a mere $800. Sorry, but high quality scholarship is not cheap.

    Morphological linkword games   (Zaman's abuse of the LSJ and BDAG dictionaries)

    As indicated above, I was not at all surprised that Zaman quoted the dictionary entry on proskuneo from Strong's Concordance. I did, however, not expect anything of the sort that we are confronted with from section III. onwards. Dealing with those ‘arguments’ will occupy us for the rest of this article.

    III. Scooping up the trail of fallacies

    In spite of utterly invalidating Jochen's slapdash ad hominem attack against me right at the "get go", I would like to take this further just for grins. I will establish Jochen's complete absence of credibility in the area of linguistics whether it is in etymology, philology, or grammar. For the sake of brevity, I've had to ignore much of the cornucopia of clangers in Jochen's lengthy diatribe so I've reserved myself to the juiciest (and most amusing) bits.

    Regarding the Zamanian grins, I have to mention the German saying, "Wer zuletzt lacht, lacht am besten", for which the English language provides even three versions: "He who laughs last laughs loudest", "... laughs longest", and "... laughs best!" There will be a lot of grins in this section, but I doubt Zaman will be very happy about them. Everything that Zaman presented up to this point was already quite bad, but it is going to get even worse. Much of what Zaman intended to be the undoing of my credibility, will turn out to expose his own ignorance. Shibli Zaman has certainly chosen his battle unwisely.

    This one is a real hoot:

    "Liddell and Scott's dictionary retains its importance to this day because of the fact that they were classical Greek scholars and drew on a wide range of extra-biblical materials in compiling their lexicon. However, their work has now been superceded by the third edition of the BDAG (which draws on their work). The bibliographic reference is: Frederick William Danker (editor), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature - 3rd Edition (BDAG), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. It is an absolutely massive tome and valuable because for each entry it traces its uses not only in the NT but in (a) earlier Greek materials; (b) contemporary Greek literature; (c) later Christian writings. In short, if anyone wants to see where a Greek word comes from and more importantly, how it was used in the first-century outside the NT, the BDAG is the book to consult."
    [emphasis mine]

    The fact that Jochen is a web-surfer who rarely visits a library is no secret, but nothing shrieks it more gallingly than the above statement. He has obviously never read either The Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSJ) or the Bauer-Danker-Gingrich (BDAG) Greek-English Lexicons. The LSJ has not been, nor likely will ever be, "superceded" by anything in the English language. At 2042 pages, plus a 153 page appendix, The Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon unquestionably outclasses the BDAG by over nearly 1000 pages (it is only 1108 pages)! In actuality the BDAG is the favorite of Christians because it draws primarily upon Biblical and Patristic writings, and does not draw upon pre-Christian Greek literature at any serious length. It also "corrects" the Greek language into a more linguistically "Christian" paradigm. This is why it is entitled "A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature".

    Let me begin with some minor but somewhat amusing observations. First, Zaman loves to accuse others of not doing proper research. In an earlier article he railed with these words against my discussion regarding the communication of ants:

    This style of argument is quite sophomoric in that it is entirely based on someone who does not even have a rudimentary level understanding of zoology or entomology (I believe this is covered in 9th grade Biology in the USA). Its sadly typical of this genre of anti-Islamic quasi-polemicists. You seriously couldn't go to the library or even do a web search for information on acoustic communication by ants?? What does this say about your credibility as a genre collectively?

    Well, as it turned out, Zaman had to eat his words since my arguments were quite well researched and based on the standard reference books which I read in a university library before writing my article. It is quite amusing that Zaman seems to think this particular ad hominem would work better in a second attempt when it had already failed so miserably the first time around, see my rebuttal article to his Talking Ants in the Qur'an?

    Again, this is a fallacious circumstantial ad hominem argument because it does not matter for the truth of a statement whether it was found on a webpage or between the two covers of a book. The question is the quality of the evidence not the question whether it came from an electronic or a printed source. Furthermore, in the article on ants he held it against me that I supposedly "couldn't ... even do a web search for information" while he now says the opposite and tries to use it as an insult that I am a web-surfer and do search the web for information. "Never will they be satisfied ..."

    Second, this is a weird formulation: "He has obviously never read either The Liddell-Scott-Jones (LSJ) or the Bauer-Danker-Gingrich (BDAG) Greek-English Lexicons." No, I have never "read them" like you would read other books, i.e. cover to cover. Encyclopedias, lexicons, and dictionaries are reference works that are used or consulted by looking up an entry but they are usually not "read" in the normal sense of the word by anyone except perhaps the chief editor who is responsible for their publication. Providing plenty of quotations from these lexicons in my first article should give some indication that I had indeed consulted those reference works, should it not? Quotations of plenty more dictionaries will follow below.

    Third, several times in this article, Zaman complained about the length of my article(s) and used this observation as an argument against their quality. But suddenly he switches sides and the quality of a dictionary is measured by the number of pages!? Incidentally, Zaman's main witness for his claim, the Greek dictionary appendix in Strong's Concordance is called A Concise Dictionary Of The Words In The Greek Testament; With Their Renderings In The Authorized English Version and consists of merely 79 pages! If the number of pages is a reason to dismiss a dictionary, Zaman has lost for yet another reason. In any case, we can observe now that my articles definitely "outclass" those written by Zaman by much more than merely double length! In fact, just two of my articles, the current one together with the article Talking Ants in the Qur'an?, outclass Zaman's complete website.

    Fourth, I made an error, ... so that Zaman was able to find a typo in my article. I am glad to see that Zaman has pointed it out in a more subtle way this time instead of making it a major issue of his response as he often did (cf. *, *). It is good to detect at last some improvement in his way of responding. Thank you, and the misspelled word "superceded" has now been corrected to "superseded".

    { Well, this being so, and because spelling issues are actually going to play an important role in the discussion below, let's at least have some fun with this one. English is definitely a candidate to be the language that is most illogical in its spelling (looking at it merely from the viewpoint of pronunciation). Just look at these three words: proceed, precede, and supersede. One could characterize English by stating: If you hear a new word, you won't know how to spell it, and if you read a new word you still won't have a clue how to pronounce it, until you consult a dictionary. Add to that the differences in spelling (*, *), pronunciation and meaning of words in American and British English (America and Britain, two nations divided by a common language!) to complete the chaos. [Obviously, there are etymological reasons why the spellings of proceed, precede, and supersede differ, i.e. they derive from different Latin words. A fun website to explore is Common Errors in English.] Anyway, I am in good company, since even the above linked Harvard bibliography on Greek language reference books misspells this word:

    Estienne, Henri, et al. Thesaurus graeca linguae. ... Originating in the Renaissance, the TGL was extensively revised by a team of nineteenth century German classical scholars. It has since been partly superceded by more modern lexicographical tools, including the Liddell-Scott-Jones’ A Greek-English Lexicon and the convenience of the online TLG ... (Source, on 28 Sept. 2003; bold emphasis mine)

    Moreover, searching Google for "supercede" resulted in 75,300 pages on the same day, "superceded" even yielded 106,000 search results. [Use every one of your errors to learn something more than merely correcting it! Moreover, as promised, I will acknowledge and correct my errors.] }

    There are, however, also some serious problems with Zaman's response. Let me requote the relevant part of his statement:

    The LSJ has not been, nor likely will ever be, "superceded" by anything in the English language. At 2042 pages, plus a 153 page appendix, The Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon unquestionably outclasses the BDAG by over nearly 1000 pages (it is only 1108 pages)! In actuality the BDAG is the favorite of Christians because it draws primarily upon Biblical and Patristic writings, and does not draw upon pre-Christian Greek literature at any serious length. It also "corrects" the Greek language into a more linguistically "Christian" paradigm. This is why it is entitled "A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature". (Zaman's emphasis)

    Apart from the fact that (1) the newest edition of the LSJ including the 1996 supplement is even longer (2446 page) and (2) the number of pages is hardly the main factor to determine quality, here is the reason why Zaman's statement is ridiculous: The LSJ lexicon may not be superseded as a classical (Attic) Greek lexicon. But it's use for Biblical studies is limited, because as any Greek scholar knows, the Koine Greek of the NT was not — as was supposed prior to the 19th Century — an ungrammatical, uneducated version of Attic Greek, but was, instead, a valid dialect of Greek in its own right. Much advancement in the study of Koine Greek emerged towards the end of the 19th Century when a number of extra-Biblical Greek texts from the NT period began to be widely published, and scholars began to appreciate the significant differences in grammar and vocabulary between Attic and "common" Greek. The only "paradigm" BDAG introduces is the necessary one of not assuming that the Attic Greek definitions in LSJ should be applied to the language of the NT. Indeed, subsequent editions of LSJ attempt to redress this lack, but have yet to supersede BDAG for NT Greek studies. [Another article discusses several more instances of Zaman's strange assumption that languages are stagnant.]

    What is shocking are Zaman's attempts to write BDAG off as ‘Christian’. BDAG is a lexicon covering Christian literature, not a Christian dictionary — and it’s credentials are very strong. I am not sure that the University of Chicago Press would be happy to be called a Christian Publishing House. [It sounded clever, but was merely another ad hominem argument against a source that frustrated Zaman because it failed to help him with his wrong etymological claim.] Would Zaman make similar statements against dictionaries covering the vocabulary of the Qur'an, Ahadith, classical Tafsir, and other early Islamic literature?

    Zaman continues:

    After quoting the very generic entry from the BDAG for pros-kunew (προσκυνεω) Jochen states:

    "Again, no link at all to dogs, rather BDAG identifies the word as a compound of the preposition ‘pros’ with the verb ‘kuneo’ (= kiss)."

    Let us see how the BDAG defines kunew (κυνεω). Well, it doesn't! There is no entry at all in the BDAG for kunew.

    So what? Even Zaman did not question that I quoted BDAG accurately. Nevertheless, here is a scanned version of the entry:

    [A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG), 3rd ed., Danker, p. 882-883; actual scan]

    I never claimed that the BDAG provides a separate entry for kuneo. This is merely a straw man argument and an absolutely irrelevant objection. The reason BDAG does not define kuneo is that this particular lexeme is not deployed within the literature under consideration. Rather the NT writers prefer another lexeme in the same semantic field — phileo / philema (φιλεω / φιλημα; cf. BDAG, pp. 1056-1057). Very few dictionaries are designed to be exhaustive in the sense that they cover all of the vocabulary ever used in a language through all times. BDAG covers early Christian literature and is the most scholarly dictionary covering this particular period and vocabulary section of the Greek language.

    Frankly, I don't know what could be the justification for Zaman to label the above BDAG entry on proskuneo derisively as a "very generic entry". It certainly is much more comprehensive and scholarly than Strong's Concordance, Zaman's source of ‘scholarly information’. Apart from the fact that BDAG did not help Zaman in his cause, this seems to be just another instance of his urge to treat with contempt everything that he considers to be Christian. For comparison, here is the entry in LSJ:

    [Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott (Revised by Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie)
    A Greek-English Lexicon [New Edition], (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958) p. 1518; actual scan]

    Could Zaman tell us which essential information is found in LSJ but missing (or even ‘suppressed’?) in the "very generic entry" of BDAG?

    Anyway, what does Zaman's preferred lexicon, LSJ, have to say about kuneo? I had already quoted it in my original article, but let me first give the actual scan of the entry this time:

    [Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott (Revised by Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie)
    A Greek-English Lexicon [New Edition], (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958) p. 1010; actual scan]

    The entries in Liddell and Scott's Lexicon are very densely written, hard to read, they list many grammatical forms of a word and contain a lot of citations from the Greek sources where the words are used. However, I had quoted in my article the relevant parts, i.e. all the meanings of the word as supplied by LSJ. Here is my original quote again:

    ku^neô :-- kiss, ... of pigeons, bill

    Anything missing? Did I try to hide anything? No. The word has two meanings in English. When used of human beings it means kiss, and when used of pigeons it means bill because in English a different verb is used for the act of birds putting their bills ("mouths") together, while in Greek the same word is used for humans (kissing somebody or something) and for birds.

    According to the scholarly dictionaries BDAG and LSJ, and contrary to Strong, kuneo means only to kiss: No other usage is known, and there is no hint of a "dog" anywhere. However, Zaman presses his case:

    Now let us draw upon another one of Jochen's funnies:

    "the root of kuneo is 'kus' not 'kuon' and has nothing at all to do with a dog."

    Is that so? Let us see what the BDAG says about that:

    [A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG), 3rd ed., Danker, p. 579; actual scan]

    Note that it says to see kuwn (κυων), and what does that mean? It means "dog". I've included the entries above and below it to display that there was no other entry in Jochen's beloved BDAG for what he alleged was the root meaning "kiss".

    Funny? Should I laugh or rather cry? It is painful to see that such ignorance can be clothed in so much arrogance. If any more evidence was needed that Zaman has absolutely no clue about the Greek language, and how Greek dictionaries are organized, here it is right before our eyes. Noun forms are usually covered in the first few lectures of any Greek language course or Greek textbook.

    As already mentioned, Greek verbs can assume some 400 different forms of inflection. Greek nouns can take up to ten forms (five cases, each with singular and plural). Lexicographers have decided that for Greek the best way to write a dictionary is to use the nominative singular form for nouns and the 1. person active indicative present tense form for verbs. People who have learned the language can usually infer this dictionary form from any word they encounter because most forms are constructed according to clear rules. Some words have irregular forms which make it difficult to know what dictionary entry they may belong to. The more user friendly a dictionary, the more of these irregular forms it will list as separate entries and then refer the user to the entry under which this irregular form belongs.

    Kusi (κυσι) is the dative plural form of kuon which not everyone may immediately recognize, even though it cannot be called irregular. Nevertheless, the BDAG lexicon helpfully informs the inexperienced user that the entry for this word is found under κυων.

    Here is a declension table of the noun kuon taken from the Greek Grammar book that I have mainly been using during the last 25 years:

    [Eduard Bornemann und Ernst Risch, Griechische Grammatik, Verlag Moritz Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main, 2. Auflage, 1978, p. 49; actual scan]

    No rule without exceptions but for Greek nouns the root (or stem, terminology is not uniform here) is usually recognized easiest by substracting the ending from the genitive singular form, in this case kun-os. The form kusi is a contraction of kun-si, and -si being the dative plural suffix. The sigma is part of the dative ending and does NOT originate from the root which is kun. Not only does Zaman not know how to read the dictionary, but he reveals yet again his ignorance of basic Greek, since this particular change is actually very common, occurring in many words. Let me again quote from the same grammar textbook that Zaman himself recommended but clearly never used to actually learn the language. In the section on consonantal changes, subsection "N Before Consonants" we find:

    96. ν before σ is dropped and the preceding vowel is lengthened to ει, ο to ου, 37) : μέλᾱς black for μελαν-ς, εἷς one for ἑν-ς, τιθείς placing for τιθεν(τ)-ς, τούς for τόν-ς.

    a. But in the dative plural ν before -σι appears to be dropped without compensatory lengthening: μέλασι for μελαν-σι, δαίμοσι for δαιμον-σι divinities, φρεσί for φρεν-σι mind.
        [H. W. Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, p. 27, §96. a.; underline emphasis mine]

    Thus, κυσι is derived from κυν-σι according to a simple general rule of what happens when the consonant ν appears before the dative plural ending -σι. BDAG seeks to support not only experienced users but also beginning students, so it provided an extra reference for κυσι. LSJ is designed for advanced students and working scholars, assumes the knowledge of such basic rules, and thus does not have a separate entry for κυσι. The Greek-German dictionary by Gemoll that I usually refer to doesn't have an entry for κυσι either.

    In any case, the problem for Zaman remains. While κυσι is indeed a form of κυων, this has absolutely nothing to do with the verb κυνεω. No lexicon links κυνεω with κυσι. If it is not merely utter ignorance, then it is a sign of Zaman's desparation that he feels he needs to make things up and hope not to get caught. As much as Zaman may yearn for it, there is still no etymological relationship between a kiss and a dog, neither in English nor in Greek.

    It is true that BDAG has no entry for κυνεω or "κυσ" but this is simply because κυνεω does not appear in the literature covered by BDAG. BDAG rightly notes that προσκυνεω is derived from κυνεω, and the LSJ lexicon rightly defined κυνεω as "kiss".   Zaman's ‘argument’ is dissolving before our eyes!

    The problem of multiple word forms for the organization of dictionaries is not peculiar to Greek. In most languages words can take many forms of inflection. English with its very few forms is an exception. Depending on the structure of the language, lexicographers choose one appropriate "representative" form under which the word is listed in the dictionary. In the Semitic languages words are (mostly) listed according to their (three) root consonants. In English dictionaries words are listed alphabetically including all their letters, not only the letters making up the root of a word. For example, the word "unloving" is not listed in the section "L" under its root word "love" but found in the entries beginning with the letter "u". In an English dictionary of Islamic terminology, one would find the entries "Islam", "Muslim" and "Salam" in different parts of the dictionary while in most Arabic dictionaries they would all come under the same head entry, the three root consonants "SLM".

    Similarly, in Greek, words are not listed according to roots in Greek lexicons either. They are listed alphabetically. I would guess that this system would hold for most languages in the Indo-European language family. Zaman mocked me for claiming kuneo had the root kus although there was not even an entry in the dictionary for kus. This only shows yet again Zaman's complete ignorance of Greek and of the organization of Greek dictionaries. The root may or may not be a word by itself, but words are not listed according to roots in Greek dictionaries. Usually only full word forms are listed in Greek dictionaries as main entries. Within an entry there may or may not be a reference to the root of the word. In this case, Gemoll listed the root, LSJ did not and doesn't for most words. In any case, if a root is not a word by itself, then it will not be listed as a main entry. Absolutely no surprise here either. How many more elementary basics will we have to explain?

    I can appreciate that it may be too much for Zaman to comprehend that kusi has the root kun while kuneo has the root kus, but somebody whose ‘studies’ of the Greek language seem not to have advanced beyond learning to read and write the alphabet should refrain from acting publically as if he was a scholar and lecturing others about the grammar or etymology of this language. This controversy could hardly have ended in a greater disaster for Zaman's credibility as a linguist than it now did.

    Or, rather, if only it had ended here, ... since Zaman continues:

    However, when we look into the LSJ we do find something under kussai (κυσσαι) that does not say to see kuwn (κυων):


    [Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott, New Edition, Stuart Jones & McKenzie (LSJ), p. 1014; actual scan]

    First of all, it is glaringly obvious now that Jochen doesn't know the difference between an aorist and its root since he claimed "the root of kuneo is 'kus'.."

    These two verb forms are again difficult ones, so that the editors of the dictionary have decided to give the user the information where to find the main entry for this word. Nothing is surprising here at all. Regarding my alleged ignorance of the difference between the root of a word and its aorist forms, let me quote the two statements that I had actually made in my original article, adding some bold emphasis this time:

    ... the root of kuneo is "kus" not "kuon" and has nothing at all to do with a dog.

    Furthermore, my copy of Wilhelm Gemoll's Greek-German dictionary (Griechisch-Deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch) gives not only the meaning (kiss), but also provides explicit information about the construction of the word: kuneo, contracted from ku-ne-so, root: kus, the root form being best seen IN some of the aorist forms: ekussa, kus(s)a.

    We have already dealt with plenty of Zaman's comprehension problems in the first part of this article. The above is yet another one. Zaman is not only unable to understand Greek dictionary entries, he is also unable to comprehend my statements in plain English.

    I never said that there is no difference between the root and an aorist form or that the root of a verb is identical to its aorist forms. This would be nonsense already for the reason that there is one root and there are many different aorist forms. I stated that for this particular verb the root form (singular) can best be recognized in the aorist forms (plural). Let me be even more explicit and hyphenate the first of the above aorist forms to distinguish its parts: e-kus-sa. Earlier we saw that the "-ne-" infix in ku-ne-(s)-o = ku-ne-o is a present tense marker. Similarly the prefix "e-" and the suffix "-sa" are markers for the aorist tense, this particular form being the 1. person singular indicative active aorist. The root is kus and with these aorist markers added the full word form is e-kus-sa. Another example is the above mentioned aorist infinitive kus-sa-i (κυσ-σαι) where kus is the root and -sai is the suffix marking the aorist infinitive. The letter sigma, the last letter of the root kus, was contracted away in word forms of the present tense, so one could not see the full root in those forms, but the full root kus is visible in the aorist forms just as I said.

    In the last quotation from Zaman's article I did not cite the last paragraph completely. Zaman is able to pack so many errors into his statements that we can only progress through his text in small steps. Here is the full paragraph:

    First of all, it is glaringly obvious now that Jochen doesn't know the difference between an aorist and its root since he claimed "the root of kuneo is 'kus'.." Aside, from "kus" not even being anything in Greek, kusai (κυσαι) and kussai (κυσσαι) are clearly the aorist infinitives of kunew (κυνεω) and not the other way around! (bold emphasis mine)

    The first sentence was dealt with above, but since Zaman's second sentence contains again several errors I needed to discuss it separately.

    Is the root of a word "not even anything"? Well, "kus" is as much not even anything in Greek as "SLM" is not even anything in Arabic. True, "kus" by itself is not a complete word, but it is the root of the word kuneo and this root has featured quite prominently by now in our discussion. "SLM" are the root consonants of "Islam" (submission) and "salam" (peace). Most Arabic dictionaries are organized according to root consonants. "SLM" is what you need to look up when you want to find the entry and meaning for "Islam". "SLM" by itself, without adding any vowels, is not a proper word in Arabic either. Is it therefore "not even anything"? Zaman talks absolute nonsense.

    The next part of the same sentence reveals another element of Zaman's general linguistic ignorance. What existed first, the past tense of a word or the present tense? How many years did people talk about "I go" or "I kiss" before they thought it would be really cool to be able to talk about things that happened in the past, and so they created also the forms "I went" and "I kissed"?

    In fact, if there was any "first" and "later", then the past tense forms were probably there first, because when people talk with each other they mostly talk about what happened in the past: What they heard, saw, experienced, what person X did ...

    Not only in the case of kuneo but for many Greek verbs the aorist forms are more primitive and closer to the root of the verb and the present tense forms are derived by adding further elements. The fact that modern lexicographers have chosen to organize Greek dictionaries by listing verbs in the 1. person indicative active present tense form, does not mean that the forms of the present tense are older or that the other verb forms are derived from this form. Languages are not derived from dictionary entries. Dictionaries are built on the observation of a language and for practical (organizational) purposes one has to decide and choose one form of the many inflections of a word and put that at the head of the dictionary entry.

    Neither is the root of a word nothing (even if it is not a complete word) [first error], nor are the forms of the dictionary entries older or more basic than the other inflections of a verb [second error]. This doesn't hinder Zaman to put even an exclamation mark after his nonsense: "... and not the other way around!"

    No, Mr. Zaman, even if you don't want to believe it, and think of yourself as the internet pope of linguistics, you are wrong again and again and again. In fact, we have seen that you are wrong in nearly every statement that you make. It is most definitely so that kuneo (κυνεω) is as much the 1. person indicative active present tense of kussai (κυσσαι) as kussai (κυσσαι) is the aorist infinitive of kuneo (κυνεω). This relationship is absolutely symmetric and works both ways.

    Let's continue with the next installments of Mr. Zaman's wisdom:

    Now since we are thoroughly told to look up kunew (κυνεω) when looking up the aorist that Jochen erroneously fancied to be a "root", let us look back at some of Jochen's quotes from the LSJ (web surfer's version of course):

    First, let me ask Zaman: Which relevant information in the kuneo entry that is found in the printed version of the LSJ is missing in the online version? (The reader is invited to compare the above given scanned image of the kuneo entry from the print edition with the same entry as it is found in the online version, or the larger entry on proskuneo again from the print edition and the online version.) Nothing missing? Then what was your point, Mr. Zaman? Was there any purpose for this complaint other than just being obnoxious?

    Anyway, besides the remarks on this issue already made earlier, let me explicitly give four reasons for using the online version of LSJ. One was already stated in my original article where I wrote:

    So far I have referred mainly to Liddell and Scott, because it is not only a standard reference but also readily available online, and thus there IS NO EXCUSE at all that the author has not consulted this reference before making such unscholarly and irresponsible claims.

    However, for Zaman there seems to be little difference either way, since he is not able to understand the dictionary whether it is the printed or the online edition, as both give exactly the same information.

    The second reason is an economic one. The above scanned image has the size 34.2 KB, while my quotation from it extracted all the relevant information and including the coding for bold and italics emphasis was exactly 58 Bytes in size, i.e. I saved more than 34 KB in storage space.

    I will provide plenty of scans this one time, because Zaman does not believe a citation if it is not scanned but only quoted, and I still entertain the faint hope that Zaman will finally accept the argument presented in this article.

    Third, many of the readers are not used to working with Greek letters, and the online edition gives comprehensible entries in a Latinized transliteration so that it is easier to follow for the people whom I want to understand the article.

    Last but not least, software for the visually impaired or fully blind people can translate text into speech, but can't do much with scanned images.

    Zaman continues by asking a ‘deep’ question about my quotation:

    "prosku^n-eô [list of grammatical forms omitted].."

    Why are the "list of grammatical forms omitted"? They are omitted because he can't make out heads or tails from it. Its "all Greek" to him. What he missed in the omission was the aorist pros-ekunhsa (προσεκυνησα) which reflects the aorist ekunhsa (εκυνησα) listed under kunew (κυνεω) in the LSJ as well (p. 1010).

    Before I answer his main question, let me quickly point out that Zaman's method of transliteration (pros-ekunhsa / ekunhsa) is nonsense. His problems with transliterations are discussed elsewhere so that I can gladly refrain from explaining and discussing yet another most elementary issue in this article.

    Since the information from the entry on proskuneo that I HAD quoted didn't help Zaman's case, he felt the irresistable urge to speculate about the part that I had NOT quoted. Not surprisingly, Zaman always has ideas to interpret observations in the worst possible way. Since I am an infidel, I must be deficient in many ways. I am ignorant and do not understand what I read (but Zaman certainly does as we have seen) or, otherwise, am trying to twist the truth by attempting to hide something. Never give a Christian the benefit of the doubt, because he always has sinister motives in everything he does.

    Sorry to disappoint this Muslim paranoia. The explanation is very simple. Just as explained for the case of kuneo I had also in this case extracted ALL the RELEVANT information from the entry on proskuneo. The topic of the discussion was, after all, the MEANING of the word and not providing an exhaustive list of all forms of inflection of this verb. I had carefully read the whole entry of this word (with understanding), and then selected the relevant parts for my quotation.

    Let me give at this time all the meanings listed for the word in the LSJ (which are identical in the printed and the online edition). Note that the meanings are the words in italics while the non-italicized parts give further information on the context in which a particular meaning of this word applies:

    προσκυνεω :— I. 1. make obeisance to the gods or their images, fall down and worship; of sacred places, do reverence to. 2. esp. of the Oriental fashion of prostrating oneself before kings and superiors, make obeisance to him. (Orig. perh. throw a kiss to the god, cf. Apul.Met.4.28: the gesture is probably represented in Sumerian and Babylonian art monuments.) II. later, 1. kiss. 2. greet. 3. welcome respectfully, respect.
    [p. 1518 of the print edition, or on this page of the Perseus online edition]

    In my original article I quoted only the meanings of proskuneo listed under Roman I. because the issue was Zaman's claim about the main or "original meaning" of the word. The meanings listed under II. are specifically said to be later meanings. In the above quotation I have only added the numerals I. and 1. to make the structure of the entry clearer. Otherwise, this is the complete list of all the meanings and presented exactly as found in the LSJ. To have both relevant entries in one place, let me give again the list of meanings of kuneo:

    κυνεω :— 1. kiss; of pigeons, bill. 2. = προσκυνεω.
    [p. 1010 of the print edition (cf. the above scanned image), or on this page of the Perseus online edition]

    Not to forget, Zaman still seeks to defend his original claim that:

    It is interesting to note that in the Greek text the word for "worshipped" here is "proskuneo" which is a contraction of "pros" meaning to "be in the manner of" and "kuneo" (root "kuon") which is basically a dog. How the Biblical translators understood groveling like a dog to be "worshipping" is dogmatically baffling to say the least. (Shibli Zaman, 24 November 2002, orig. article; bold emphasis mine)

    The word is pros-kunew (προσκυνεω) which I stated has its etymons in pros (προς) being of association and kuwn (κυων) being a dog. Thus, this particular Greek word for "worship" has an etymological ancestry in "groveling like a dog". (Shibli Zaman, 28 July 2003, current article in defense of the first; bold emphasis mine)

    LSJ is the most comprehensive dictionary of Classical Greek with the purpose to list all words found in Classical Greek literature with all their known meanings. Looking through the list of meanings in the entry of proskuneo as provided by LSJ, it should be obvious to everyone that there is absolutely no support for Zaman's claim. Nowhere in the known Greek literature is proskuneo used in a meaning even remotely similar to "groveling like a dog". Nor does the appeal to the basic word kuneo help Zaman's case. It's only documented meaning is the act of kissing as done either by humans or by pigeons. Neither one of these entries contains an explicit or even implicit connection to kuon (dog). Not even the slightest hint of it is found.

    All this seems to be only a minor problem for Zaman. He is used to overcoming obstacles more formidable than this. If the list of meanings in the LSJ Greek-English Lexicon does not yield the desired result, there are other approaches to make words mean what he has decided they have to mean ...

    "prosku^n-eô [list of grammatical forms omitted].."

    Why are the "list of grammatical forms omitted"? They are omitted because he can't make out heads or tails from it. Its "all Greek" to him. What he missed in the omission was the aorist pros-ekunhsa (προσεκυνησα) which reflects the aorist ekunhsa (εκυνησα) listed under kunew (κυνεω) in the LSJ as well (p. 1010).

    The aorist ekunhsa (εκυνησα) is also interestingly the aorist for the verb kunaw (κυναω) which means to "play the dog". Using the same tool Jochen has appealed to for his research we find the following morphological analysis yielding ekunhsa (εκυνησα) as the aorist indicative for both kunew (κυνεω), as well as kunaw (κυναω).

    When looking up kunaw (κυναω) in the LSJ it states, "κυναω = κυνίζω, play the Cynic," thereby establishing kunizw (κυνιζω) as its synonym. When we lookup [sic] kunizw (κυνιζω) the LSJ states:

    "κυνιζω , fut. κυνιω Stoic.3.162 , Apollod.ib.261:-- play the dog: metaph., live like a Cynic.."

    Zaman complained that I omitted a list of grammatical forms (which have no impact on our discussion of the meaning of the word). How does he improve on my citation? Zaman teaches us a completely new way of using a dictionary! What is his approach? Zaman omits the complete list of meanings provided in the dictionary which, of course, would undermine his entire argument (thus, who cares about those?), and focuses his attention solely on the list of inflected forms of the verb kuneo. Then he uses those to play a morphological game of linkwords in which he tries to tie an aorist form of kuneo to ‘the aorist for the verb kunaw which means to "play the dog".

    First, Greek verbs usually have seventy-eight different aorist forms (twenty-six forms in the active, middle and passive voice respectively), so that his formulation "εκυνησα is ... THE aorist for the verb kunaw (κυναω)" reveals again that Zaman doesn't know what he is talking about.

    Second, this whole approach is utterly ridiculous. As with some of his earlier errors, this is not only wrong for Greek but violates again general linguistic principles. In fact, what Zaman presents to us here may well be THE worst one of all of his manifold linguistic errors in this article.

    The fact that the verbs kuneo and kunao only differ by a single letter does not mean they are related, etymologically. In English there are certainly hundreds if not thousands of word pairs or even word triplets that differ not even by a single letter, but are identical in spelling and still not related! That was the whole purpose of including in my original article a section discussing the issue of homonyms (or homophones). Please read this section now. Knowing it will be assumed in the following discussion. Zaman complained several times that my article was too long, but every topic and aspect was included intentionally and even most of the examples chosen for illustration were selected carefully. If Zaman had given my first article his full attention and made an effort to understand the arguments, he could have avoided this blunder and spared himself another embarrassment. Well, let's discuss the issue and illustrate it by giving some further examples.

    Many languages have "strong" verbs with irregular forms of inflection and "weak" verbs having only regular inflections. All languages have the tendency to "regularize", i.e. to make forms more and more regular so that for some verbs the (older?) irregular forms and the (often but not always newer) regular ones exist side by side. Since we are discussing spelling of words here, one example in English is the word "spell". It has the strong (irregular) past tense form "spelt" but also the regular past tense form constructed by adding the suffix "-ed", i.e. "spelled". Both forms are acceptable, and both mean the same.

    Similarly, as we have already discussed above, there is a strong form of the 1. person indicative active aorist tense of kuneo that is constructed directly from the root, e-kus-sa (ε-κυσ-σα). However, there are also many "weak" verbs for which the aorist is constructed regularly from the present tense stem. In the tendency to make the language more regular, kuneo has a second set of regular aorist forms constructed from the present tense stem as if the root were kun-, i.e. the two above mentioned aorist markers (e-, -sa) are added to the present tense form to yield a "weak" aorist, e-kun-e-sa. In this regular aorist construction there is the additional change that a thematic vowel is "strengthened" (lengthened) in the aorist tense and epsilon (ε) turns into eta (η), here rendered by e in my transliteration. Thus, kuneo (originally a contraction from ku-ne-s-o) is treated as if it were a "regular" verb kun-e-o with root kun and thematic vowel -e-. Then a regular aorist is constructed from it. Had Zaman also studied the grammar book that he recommended for polemical reasons only, he could have known most of this from §§371-379 on pages 109-111 of A Greek Grammar for Colleges by Herbert Weir Smyth.

    For kunao on the other hand there is only one kind of aorist form, the regular aorist. It so happens that the "strengthening" (lengthening) of the vowel alpha (α) is also eta (η) which is a regular feature in inflection of both verbs and nouns (cf. H. W. Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, p. 14, §27. Quantitative Vowel Gradation.) Thus, the only letters different in the two words kunao and kuneo, the alpha and the epsilon, turn into the same vowel, eta, when the regular aorist forms are constructed. Therefore, even though the steps by which these forms were derived are vastly different, in the end result these aorist forms of the two different verbs kunao and kuneo are identical. But this does not mean that both therefore have the same meaning, same etymology, or that one is derived from the other. Such a claim can only come from somebody completely ignorant of basic linguistic principles. That this is silly can be seen by looking again at the English word "spell" in any major dictionary.

    I am sure that Zaman agrees that nothing gets a better ‘grin’ than showing somebody wrong from his own sources. That is why I mainly refered to H. W. Smyth's Greek Grammar for Colleges, and for the same reason I will now quote from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition:

    v. spelled or spelt, spell·ing, spells
    v. tr.
    1. To name or write in order the letters constituting (a word or part of a word).
    2. To constitute the letters of (a word): These letters spell animal.
    3. To add up to; signify: Their unwise investment could spell financial ruin.

    v. intr.

    To form words by means of letters.

    [Middle English spellen, to read letter by letter, from Old French espeller, ...]
      1. A word or formula believed to have magic power.
      2. A bewitched state; a trance.
      3. A compelling attraction; charm or fascination: the spell of the theater.

    tr.v. spelled, spell·ing, spells

    To put (someone) under a spell; bewitch.

    [Middle English, discourse, from Old English.]
    1. A short, indefinite period of time.
    2. Informal. A period of weather of a particular kind: a dry spell.
      1. One's turn at work.
      2. A period of work; a shift.
    3. Australian. A period of rest.
    4. Informal. A period of physical or mental disorder or distress: a dizzy spell.
    5. Informal. A short distance.

    v. spelled, spell·ing, spells
    v. tr.
    1. To relieve (someone) from work temporarily by taking a turn.
    2. To allow to rest a while.

    v. intr.
    1. To take turns working.
    2. Australian. To rest for a time from an activity.

    [From Middle English spelen, to spare, from Old English spelian, to represent, substitute for.]
    (Online Source; emphasis in red color is mine)

    Lexicographers do not award separate entries to different meanings of the same word because space is at a premium. Particularly the above entry spell3 shows that plenty of meanings of one word are listed in the same entry. This is the concept of polysemy that was also mentioned in my original article. These are several meanings of the same word.

    The words spell1, spell2, and spell3, however, are homonyms. They are different words despite the fact that they are spelled the same way, i.e. that they consist of the same letters in the same order. That is the reason that they are listed in separate entries in the dictionaries.

    At the bottom of these entries this dictionary gives etymological information about the words. We see that even though these words are spelled the same way today, they derive from different words which were spelled differently some centuries ago, e.g., spell1 from spellen, and spell3 from spelen / spelian.

    No responsible linguist or etymologist would argue that spell1 and spell3 are related, let alone being derived from each other. The fact that they are spelled the same way is no argument at all.

    If Zaman's methodology were correct, then all these words would be related, and they would even be related to the word "spelt" {spelt1, n., A hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe [Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin spelta, probably of Germanic origin; akin to Middle Dutch spelte, wheat]; online source} simply because the past tense form of "spell" is "spelt" and the spelling of this form is the same as the spelling of the name of this grain. [And there is always a way to construct a rationale for an imaginary ‘etymological’ relationship, e.g., eating lots of spelt will improve your spelling abilities and give you the decisive edge in the next spelling bee.]

    Above we already encountered the words vise and vice which are even spelled identically in British English:

    vice, vise (nn.) American English orthographically distinguishes a vice (a moral flaw) from a vise (a clamping tool), whereas British English spells both homophones (pronounced VEIS) vice. (Kenneth G. Wilson, The Columbia Guide to Standard American English, Columbia University Press, 1993; online source; bold emphasis mine)

    In my first article I had introduced the example of "bark" in the discussion of homonymy. It would be utter nonsense to claim that the noise made by dogs is described by the verb bark because this is also a term used for certain ships and "dogs can swim as well." There is no reason to invent arbitrary and artificial relationships between homonyms. They are simply unrelated.

    The way Zaman mistreats the scholarly dictionaries does not only betray some "lack of scholarship". That would be far too mild an expression. It proves that he does not know the most basic and elementary facts of the Greek language. These are mistakes which no first year student of Greek would make, let alone a scholar of Greek, or even a scholar of any language for that matter.

    Zaman's morphological linkword games are nothing but LINGUISTIC HOOLIGANISM.

    Zaman named his website "Near Eastern and Semitic Studies Institute of America" and poses as a scholar of etymology and linguistics, but if the true etymology of words doesn't help to support his anti-Christian polemics, then it is quite enough for him that words are spelled similarly in order to assert that they are related and mean the same. Zaman's claims and methods are not only highly unscholarly, they are the epitome of ignorance. In terms of linguistics, this is absolutely laughable and nothing else.

    These scholarly dictionaries were designed to be used by people who have learned the language under a qualified teacher, and who have in that process learned how to use the scholarly dictionaries as well. Interestingly, and most ironically, just five days before Zaman published this currently discussed abuse of Greek dictionaries, he made the following suggestion in order to prevent Shia Muslims from abusing a Sunni database of Hadith Collections:

    I suggest we use "rjaffer's" example as an appeal to the Muhaddith team that they should implement a free (or not) membership based login access to their resources. It would help their bandwidth usage, and they would have the control to ban people who misuse their material. I think these brothers are in Damascus...anyone there up for conveying the suggestion to them? I'm a programmer and would do this for them free of charge. Keep me posted. (Source: Shibli Zaman, Re: Sunni interaction with Shi`is, posting to the Islamic newsgroup, 23 July 2003)

    Based on Zaman's own criteria, he should from now on be banned from every university library for his linguistic hooliganism and abuse of scholarly resources.

    One more comment on kuneo and kunao: Words occur nearly never in isolation but are used in sentences or even a wider context so that there is hardly an occasion where the one can be mistaken for the other (just as in English one would hardly confuse which of the instances of "spell" is meant in a given context). Particularly, kuneo is a transitive verb that is used with an object: One kisses always somebody or something (the head, hand, lips of a person, or the ground and a valuable object). On the other hand, kunao is an intransitive verb, used without an object. To imitate the construction one could say "he is dogging" (meaning "playing the dog"). There would not come a separate object after this expression.

    In conclusion, I agree that the verbs kuneo and kunao share some aorist forms. However, as indicated above and before that in the section on homonymy in the first article, there are many examples of two words being spelled the same way in English which, nevertheless, have different meanings and different etymologies. Greek is no different in this regard. True, kunao is related to kuon, "dog." So, of course, it is related in meaning to its root but Zaman has not established that kuneo is related to kunao, beyond some inflected forms sharing the same spelling.

    Despite Zaman's flight of fancy through various similar looking words in LSJ, the simple fact is that LSJ defined kuneo as "kiss" and nothing else. Game over.

    Still, we are not done yet, since Zaman has more to say:

    The English word Cynic itself comes from the Latin cynicus which in turn came from the Greek kunakos (κυνακος) referring to a school of pessimistic philosophy. The American Heritage Dictionary states:

    "A cynic may be pardoned for thinking that this is a dog's life. The Greek word kunikos, from which cynic comes, was originally an adjective meaning “doglike,” from kuon, “dog.” The word was probably applied to the Cynic philosophers because of the nickname kuon given to Diogenes of Sinope, the prototypical Cynic. He is reported to have been seen barking in public.."
    [American Heritage Dictionary of the English Languages, 4th Edition]

    From this same root also came the familiar English term "canine" for "dog-like".

    That is all fine and dandy. I fully agree. However, the question was not the meaning or etymology of the English word "cynic" but the meaning and etymology of the Greek word "proskuneo". Thus, all of the above is simply useless and doesn't help Zaman one iota. The only effect of this section was that it suggested to me from which English dictionary I should quote the different entries of spell for my above discussion of Zaman's linguistic hooliganism.

    Zaman continues with another stab at Christian dictionaries:

    The fact that the Christian lexicographers of the Greek New Testament were shy to appeal to the obvious etymology of this term is no secret. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states at the very first sentence under pros-kunew (προσκυνεω), "The early history of the meaning of the word is obscure and contested," [Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Πε-Ρ, vol. 6, p. 758] and even relates Christian etymologists struggling to link it to Sanskrit (the patrilingual dialect of India) cunam for "hail!" Rather than appealing to the obvious etymon in the Greek itself, Christian etymologists are reaching all the way to India.

    No, the problem is not that Christian dictionaries are trying to hide something. The problem is that Zaman is fighting for a lost cause. He can't find this false etymology in secular dictionaries of Greek either. If the majority of ‘secular’ dictionaries would state that the etymon of kuneo is kuon and the majority of Christian dictionaries would deny this, then Zaman would have a basis for his conspiracy paranoia, but this is decidedly not the case. There is no scholarly dictionary at all that supports his claim. On the contrary, and rather ironically, the only dictionary that Zaman was able to find and that suggested such an etymological relationship (as a possibility, not as a fact, and without evidence) was the one produced by the evangelical Christian James Strong.

    So far, Zaman misrepresented and abused every dictionary he touched. This one is no exception. Let's have a closer look at what the dictionary states, and what Zaman made of it.

    [Gerhard Friedrich (editor), The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Volume VI (Πε - Ρ)
    (Translated by Geoffrey W. Bromley) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1968), p. 758; actual scan]

    [Ibid., the footnotes to the above paragraph; actual scan]

    The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT) is probably the most detailed dictionary on Greek words used in the New Testament. The above is only the first paragraph of a treatise on the word proskuneo that ranges from pages 758-766 and examines the use of this word in pagan Greek, Jewish and Christian literature. This discussion references several hundred texts where this word is used.

    First, Zaman criticises the TDNT for calling the etymology of proskuneo "obscure and contested". Quite tellingly he got this quote from the first line of the article. Did he not read further? The author (Greeven) takes great pains to state what various etymologists (both Christian and not) have suggested for the root of this word. The footnotes offer extensive avenues for further exploration, had Zaman wanted to do so. I suspect that he only skimmed the first paragraph or two and moved on. Significantly, there is no mention of dogs in ANY of the various hypotheses discussed.

    Etymology of ancient languages is by nature often somewhat speculative since the source data are so scarce. When hard facts are rare and educated guesses are necessary, the academic world will naturally develop several theories. When discussing a topic on which there are several opinions it is the proper academic methodology to acknowledge the disagreement before presenting one's own perspective, and not to claim more than one can prove.

    However, already Greeven's second sentence (omitted by Zaman) makes it obvious that the issue is not quite as ‘obscure and contested’ as Zaman's misleading quotation suggests. The expression "with few exceptions" clearly means that the vast majority of etymologists agrees that kuneo is connected to the German Kuss just as the standard Greek etymological dictionary by Hjalmar Frisk states. [Actually, reading in the TDNT that the majority of etymologists connects kuneo to Kuss should have warned Zaman against attacking me as he did. It is always dangerous to attack somebody who holds to the scholarly consensus when you don't have super-solid evidence to argue a different theory.]

    Second, the article could offer a good lesson to Zaman in how to write academically. Greeven covers several hypotheses for the etymology of the word with which he disagrees — but does not feel the need to insult his academic peers in the process.

    Third, that TDNT does not mention a link with dogs is significant given that of all the various Greek NT lexica, TDNT is notorious for winging off on etymological flights of fancy. James Barr devoted a long chapter in The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961, pp. 206-256 cover TDNT in particular) attacking it for just this reason, as well as its habit of regularly confusing words and concepts. If one would have expected to find a link to dogs anywhere among the Greek NT lexica, one would have expected it here in TDNT. That it is not is further evidence that Strong's guess was wrong.

    For the next points let me repeat Zaman's last statements in this paragraph:

    ... and even relates Christian etymologists struggling to link it to Sanskrit (the patrilingual dialect of India) cunam for "hail!" Rather than appealing to the obvious etymon in the Greek itself, Christian etymologists are reaching all the way to India.

    Fourth, Schwyzer is not a "Christian etymologist" but the author of one of the most respected and scholarly grammars of Classical Greek. It is listed as such on the Harvard Greek Resources page calling it "a key reference grammar for ancient Greek". It is not the Christian author Greeven or any other "Christian etymologist" who are struggling to relate the verb to Sanskrit. Greeven gives an overview of the opinions of many etymologists regardless of their religious affiliation. The particular example of a conjectured etymology that Zaman picked out for his stab was decidedly not the opinion of the TDNT, but from a footnote informing the reader about a dissenting opinion. Reporting also dissenting opinions is hardly a blemish for the TDNT but speaks of its scholarly approach. On the contrary, that Zaman would abuse this observation for a polemical attack against the TDNT reveals his true agenda and pseudo-scholarship, and it is a blemish only for himself.

    Both Frisk and the TDNT refer to page 692 of the first volume of Schwyzer's grammar because on that page one finds a detailed bibliography on the etymology of kuneo for those who want to further explore the issue. It is absolutely incredible how Zaman arrogantly dismisses the top scholars on the issue and apparently thinks of himself as the only ‘authority’ on etymology that counts.

    In fact, looking carefully at Schwyzer's work, this respected standard reference apparently agrees with Frisk (see the beginning of "Zusatz 2") and only reports the remark "(Denominativ zu *κυνο- = ai. çunám ,Heil‘)" at the end of his bibliographical list as the conjecture of some other scholar. Here is a scan of the actual paragraph:

    [Eduard Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik, Vol. I, 4th edition, Munich, 1968, p. 692]

    Zaman's formulation insinuates that there is a struggle by Christians to avoid the obvious and uncomfortable etymology. This accusation is merely an expression of his paranoia and has no basis in fact. If Zaman's dog were the obvious etymon, there should be plenty of Greek linguists arguing this case. Why is Zaman unable to quote any scholar but has to resort to morphological linkword games to achieve any connection at all? The answer is obvious: He cannot provide such a quotation because there is not even one scholar supporting this hypothesis.

    Before I summarize my observations of Zaman's ‘discussion’ of the TDNT, the reader should have another careful look at the above TDNT citation. What did Zaman do with it?

    Summary: (1) Zaman quoted the first sentence as if that were a true representation of the article covering pages 758-766 which, taken in isolation, is a distortion of the dictionary. (2) Of the second sentence he only refers to one of the footnotes about a dissenting opinion but fails to report that the majority of scholars are in agreement (they agree on something that Zaman doesn't like, so it is simply ignored). (3) Most importantly, the third sentence states clearly that the oldest occurrence of the word kuneo in Homer has the meaning kiss. In the above section on establishing the etymology of a word, we learned that etymology is all about the earliest documented meaning of a word. Thus, TDNT agrees exactly with all the other dictionaries, as much as Zaman may dislike it. The problem is not that TDNT is "Christian" but that Zaman is wrong.

    Let me quote one more dictionary since Brown offers a good overview of the basic scholarly consensus concerning the root of the word proskuneo (before going on to discuss the more important issue: how the word is used in the LXX and the NT):

    [Colin Brown (editor), The New International Dictionary of Christian Theology (Exeter: Paternoster, 1976), pp. 875-876]

    Zaman continues:

    A crushing example of the confusion in this disparate timidity is found in the following:

    [Greek-English Lexicon, Liddell & Scott, New Edition, Stuart Jones & McKenzie (LSJ), p. 1487; actual scan]

    So pro-kunew (προκυνεω) which was never historically used in a context with Christ means "of a dog", but pros-kunew (προσκυνεω) which was used in a context with Christ has nothing to do with a dog? There are many, many more examples, but there is no need to say anything more.

    I agree this is absolutely crushing evidence, though that is not so because of the dictionary entry. It is Zaman's interpretation of the dictionary entry that is yet another devastating blow to his credibility as a scholar of linguistics. The above paragraph is one example in a sequence of many that Zaman doesn't know how to use a dictionary; he doesn't understand what he is reading and quoting. In the above discussion of the LSJ entry on proskuneo, I had stated:

    Note that the meanings are the words in italics while the non-italicized parts give further information on the context in which a particular meaning of this word applies.

    To see what is so terribly wrong with Zaman's conclusion, let me place the entries on kuneo and on pro-kuneo in direct sequence:

    κυνεω ... kiss; of pigeons, bill.   2. = προσκυνεω.

    προκυνεω ... of a dog, give tongue too soon.

    Zaman imported information about the context in which the word was used into the meaning of the word itself! Though it is not explicitly stated, kuneo (kiss) is mainly used "of human beings" and the same word is documented also as being used "of pigeons". However, kuneo neither means "of a human being" nor "of pigeons", it means kiss. Most verbs in most languages can be used with different subjects. The verb kuneo with the generic meaning kiss was also used of pigeons in Greek literature and in that case it needs to be translated as bill because in English one does not usually say that pigeons kiss.

    In fact, I assume that kuneo could probably not only be used of humans and pigeons but would apply to other birds and all other species of animals as well. The simple reason this is not stated in the dictionary is that there is no documentation in the literature that it was used of cats or fish or elephants. Scholarly dictionaries are built on the basis of documented usage of a word. The only references for kuneo are those where the word was used either of humans or of pigeons. Most likely kuneo could even have been used in ancient Greece of two dogs kissing, but then it would still only be in the context "of a dog" while the meaning of the verb would remain to be kiss and not become "of a dog". Zaman's interpretation of dictionaries is absolutely ridiculous.

    In all his excitement to supposedly have found evidence for his claim, and using everything he finds wrongly, Zaman completely overlooked the only little piece that appears like it may support his cause. Let's take another look at this dictionary entry:

    Looking at the explanations of abbreviations and signs used in this lexicon one finds:

    (   )   Between these brackets stand the Etymological remarks.

    Obviously, not recognizing the information that supports his case reveals nearly as much about Zaman's lack of understanding as does his misinterpretation and abuse of elements that have nothing to do with the issue.

    I could have just ignored it, expecting with some justification that Zaman would probably never discover this little piece. Such an approach would, however, not satisfy me, since it is a matter of intellectual integrity to honestly deal with possible objections to one's own convictions even if a particular opponent may never raise them. I owe it to myself not to ignore any problems but to evaluate them, carefully discuss and then hopefully resolve the issues that are questioning my convictions, whether they are religious convictions or merely convictions about the etymology of words which have no consequence for my faith whatsoever. And since I am making my convictions public, I also owe this to my readers. Thus, what are we to make of this (κυων) bracket in the entry on prokuneo?

    First, it is important to recognize that this word is apparently documented in only one text (Poll.5.65) in all of Greek literature. It is a tenuous foundation for any linguistic theory if it is based on only one occurrence of a word.

    Second, neither the entry on kuneo nor proskuneo have the bracket (κυων) in LSJ. Therefore, LSJ is inconsistent on this matter, but the majority of entries does not support this etymology.

    Third, such large dictionaries are never the work of one scholar, but usually a professor involves many of his students in the compilation. Perhaps one of them ignorantly included this conjectural etymology and the main editor overlooked it. Even though the LSJ is a scholarly dictionary, that doesn't mean it cannot contain some errors. In fact, it did / does contain many, or otherwise there would not be the need for corrections in later revisions and supplements.

    Fourth, the same comment as made regarding Strong's Concordance would apply: This is a claim, not a proof. To support this claim, one would need to present a carefully reasoned argument based on solid evidence. We have already seen that the actual evidence is unanimously against this etymology. LSJ is not intended to be an etymological dictionary. The standard reference does not support it.

    Fifth, how can we understand the meaning of this word without deriving it from kuon (dog)? The comments under this point will be highly speculative, even more so since I currently do not have access to the original text. Let's clarify at least the meaning of the English term as given by LSJ.

    give tongue 1 (of hounds) bark, especially on finding a scent. 2 express one's feelings or opinions freely.
        [Compact Oxford English Dictionary]

    to give tongue   in hunter's phrase, to bark; -- said of dogs.
        [Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary]

    [Note again, neither "give" nor "tongue" means "of hounds/dogs". I.e. Zaman's above blunder exposes not only his ignorance regarding the use of this particular Greek dictionary. This is a common way of writing dictionary entries in any language, including his native English tongue, making this error of confusing the meaning and the referent all the more embarrassing.]

    Thus, prokuneo is said to mean giving sound or barking prematurely when the referent is a dog. The preposition pro means "in front of" (local) or "before" (in time), the latter being in view here. The second meaning listed under kuneo is that it is used synonymously s. 2. greet. 3. welcome respectfully, respect. I.e. it can be used metaphorically for greeting or welcoming without necessarily involving an actual kiss. Thus, pro-kuneo may be something like greeting, or welcoming prematurely, or of a dog, barking too soon.

    Alternatively, and more straight forward, kuneo is an action of the mouth. Thus, pro-kuneo is "opening your mouth too soon".

    These suggestions are very speculative and not really convincing. But on the other hand, language is not always logical anyway. There are many compound words whose actual meaning is very different from the meaning of their parts. That is what the etymological fallacy is all about! Furthermore, the meaning of proskuneo (prostrate, worship) is not a direct composition of the meaning of its parts either (pros = towards, kuneo = kiss). Why would we demand more from pro-kuneo than from pros-kuneo?

    Even though we may not know how "prokuneo" came to assume its (probable) meaning, there is definitely no necessity nor any evidence that it derived from kuon.

    Lastly, Zaman concluded this paragraph with the claim that "there are many, many more examples, but there is no need to say anything more." Even though I severely doubt that Zaman knows of "many, many more examples" and this is just more of his usual bluster, I can only respond: Please show us those examples and I will gladly evaluate them.

    The final paragraph in this section (we are still in section III) of Zaman's article is so overloaded with further nonsense, that I have to discuss it in three steps. In the first couple of sentences Zaman continues his etymological speculations with these words:

    The fact is that the word kuwn (κυων) for "dog" is the ancestral etymon. Noting how a dog licks its master's face in a display of unconditional love and servitude, the verb kunew (κυνεω) came to be used in a context of kissing dotingly on the face.

    Nothing becomes a fact merely because Zaman declares it to be one. So far the available evidence speaks overwhelmingly against Zaman's polemically motivated pseudo-etymology. Nevertheless, let us examine the details of his claims found in this paragraph.

    Note first that Zaman has again creatively transformed the expression found in Strong's, who had formulated his speculative relationship like this: "meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand", though in the final analysis it is inconsequential whether one speculates about licking the hand or the face. More importantly ...

    Note second that Zaman does not provide any documentation that the verb kuneo was ever used for a dog in this meaning. It was and still remains a mere claim with no evidence whatsoever. There are plenty of texts that use this word for humans in the meaning of kiss (whether kissing a hand or the head of another person, or the ground). To my knowledge these texts say nothing of LICKING the hand, the head or the ground. Does Zaman know the difference between licking and kissing? Or has he any reason to think the Greeks didn't know the difference?

    Or, putting the question differently: Is this the way Zaman kisses? Like a dog licking his master's face? I have no clue why he would be so fond of this picture.

    As a side remark: How does Zaman know that a dog's licking is an expression of "unconditional love and servitude"? Is Zaman now also an expert in canine psychology? I could accept more easily the interpretation that this is an expression of "joy", but do dogs know what "unconditional love" is? Does Zaman really believe dogs have such a lofty character attribute which is in Islam not even an attribute of God? (Cf. The Character of God in Bible and Qur'an, Love in the Qur'an)

    What moved Zaman to bring the term "dotingly" into the picture? Let us look at some dictionary entries on "dote/doting" regarding both meaning and etymology:

    dote   Etymology: Middle English; akin to Middle Low German dotten to be foolish ... (Merriam-Webster OnLine)


    1. To act foolishly. [Obs.]
    2. To be weak-minded, silly, or idiotic; to have the intellect impaired, especially by age, so that the mind wanders or wavers; to drivel.
    3. To be excessively or foolishly fond; to love to excess; to be weakly affectionate; -- with on or upon; as, the mother dotes on her child.
    (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998, online source)

    Is there even as much as a hint in any text of Greek literature that kuneo was understood to be kissing in a doting way? Zaman makes claim after claim after claim but when will he begin to give evidence for his claims?

    Let's continue with Zaman's deep linguistic analysis:

    Nonetheless, even inflections of kunew (κυνεω) were used as early as Homer's Iliad [9:373] to refer to dogs: "Yet not in my face would he dare to look, though he have the front of a dog (kuneos, κυνεος)."

    Oh, oh. Blunder upon blunder ... Would Zaman please inform us which form of inflection of kuneo this is? In the inflection tables of Greek verbs I could not find any form that ends in -eos. [Nor does κυνεω appear in the declension table of κυνεος for that matter.] When is Zaman going to stop talking about things he is completely ignorant about? The word kuneos is definitely not an inflection of kuneo, but an adjective derived from the noun kuon. Here is the LSJ dictionary entry for kuneos:

    [Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott (Revised by Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie)
    A Greek-English Lexicon [New Edition], (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958) p. 1010; actual scan]

    That κυνεος is an adjective and not a verb form can immediately be seen from the fact that the three gender endings "κυνεος, α, ον" are given at the beginning of the dictionary entry, i.e. κυνεος (male), κυνεα (female) and κυνεον (neuter). Again, nobody who has learned even the mere beginnings of Greek would make such mistakes. Even if Zaman does not know any Greek grammar, the English meanings given in the entry (shameless, unabashed) are adjectives which could have given him a clue that he is not looking at a verb.

    I don't know how Zaman found that reference to Homer's Iliad if he didn't find it by looking through the LSJ. If he found it otherwise, there is no excuse that he didn't look it up in LSJ (whether the print or the online edition). On the other hand, if he got that reference via the LSJ, then he has even less an excuse to claim that it is an inflection of kuneo.

    Moreover, where did Zaman get this atrocious translation from? Is this also ‘home-grown’? The first part of the sentence is reasonable, but the phrase κυνεος περ εων does not mean "though he have the front of a dog". Actually, what is it supposed to mean "to have the front of a dog"? Is Zaman talking about a mythical figure being half man and half dog? Utter nonsense.

    The word εων is a participle of the verb ειμι (to be), and it means "being" not "having", περ is an enclitic particle, giving emphasis or prominence to an idea, usually to what immediately precedes it, and κυνεος means what the dictionary entry states, i.e. shameless. It is a character trait that is emphasized here, not looking like a dog. "Although being a shameless person" may be a reasonable translation of that phrase.

    Finally, I deliberately extended the scanned image to include the first few lines of the dictionary entry on κυνεω again. Observe that the etymological bracket (κυων) is found after κυνεος but not after κυνεω, i.e. kuneos is derived from kuon but kuneo is not. This is exactly the same observation for the LSJ Greek-English Lexicon as well as for the parallel entries found in the Greek-German dictionary by Gemoll provided above.

    Indeed, in addition to the above dictionary citations for which a scan of the complete entry is provided, we have consulted, scanned and will make available upon request the entire entries on proskuneo from the following dictionaries:

    They are very instructive, provide hundreds of citations from the primary sources and not one of them connects (pros)kuneo with dogs in any way. If any reader is interested, let me know. Warning: these scans exceed 10 MegaByte in total.

    The third and last part of Zaman's final paragraph reads:

    Also, in the New Testament itself we find an inflection of Jochen's supposed "root" of "kus" used to refer to dogs: "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs (kusin, κυσιν)." [Matthew 7:6, Referring to Gentiles as "dogs" again, by the way].

    The fact that kusi(n) has nothing to do with kuneo and its root kus has already been discussed in great detail. There is no need to repeat the discussion just because Zaman repeats his errors. Zaman is not only ignorant of grammar, he is also irresponsible in his exegesis of this and other Biblical passages. But that opens a whole different can of worms and will be the topic of the first section in the last part, where it will receive a short answer.


    Zaman publishes most of his polemics under the preposterous name "Near Eastern and Semitic Studies Institute of America" (NESSIA). After having examined his actual linguistic abilities, the acronym NESSIA may be more accurately rendered:

    No Etymological Scholarship, Simply Ignorance and Arrogance.

    As noted earlier, Zaman dismissed William Mounce's The Basics of Biblical Greek as supposedly too basic, calling it "a very novice textbook". The following quotations are taken from another book by William D. Mounce, Greek for the Rest of Us, which is even more basic. The reader will not take long to recognize the relevance of these statements.

    The promotion page states the purpose of the book:

    Learn how to intelligently use commentaries and reference works that will produce more beneficial Bible study with minimal knowledge of New Testament Greek. ...

    You’ll gain a sound knowledge of basic Greek, and you’ll learn how to use tools that will add muscle to your Bible studies. ...

    In the preface and introductory chapter we read:

    There are, of course, many dangers in relying on tools rather than actually knowing Greek and Hebrew, and I expressed those concerns in the preface to EGNT. My fear is that people will think they actually know Greek and Hebrew even though they only know how to use the tools. Alexander Pope once said, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But as I indicated in EGNT, I saw that it is a little bit of arrogance that is dangerous. So I offer this text, praying that you will recognize the limits of the approach.

    ... I don’t want you to make silly mistakes that come from misreading commentaries or misapplying Greek and Hebrew grammar. ...


    There are limitations to our approach, or what I like to call "baby Greek." You will not be learning the full language, and my concern is that you will forget that you know only a little. I’m going to give you the ability to sound authoritative by citing Greek and Hebrew words and grammar, and perhaps be completely wrong. I actually put off writing this book for several years because of this concern, but I finally came to the conclusion that it’s not a little Greek that proves dangerous. It’s a little bit of pride that proves dangerous.

    If you don’t respect this fact, then these tools can become just another way in which you can be wrong. ...

    So I say as a gentle warning: please remember what we’re doing and what we’re not doing. We’re learning to use the tools; we’re trying to follow good commentaries; we’re trying to understand what words mean. We’re not learning enough Greek to make complicated grammatical pronouncements that aren’t supported by the commentaries.

    I remember when I was in seminary sitting in the balcony of a large and well-known church listening to the preacher say, "Well, the Greek says this and the Greek says this." And I’m looking at the Greek and I say (I hope to myself), "You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong." He didn’t really know Greek, but he was using it — it seemed to me — to elevate himself in a position of authority over his people. He should have been more careful, and more humble. (Source:

    It is obvious that Zaman has learned to read and write the letters of the Greek alphabet and is able to find dictionary entries. He has, however, apparently not yet mastered the skills and principles taught in Mounce's book of "baby Greek", since he is not able to use the Greek reference tools correctly. He seems not to understand what he reads in these dictionaries. [The only alternative interpretation would be even worse, i.e. that Zaman purposefully twists the dictionaries even though he knows better and, thinking these Christians are really stupid, expects not to be caught in the fraud and exposed for his abuse.]

    Let me review some of Zaman's statements that I had so far mostly ignored, but adding some bold and/or underline emphasis:

    Jochen Katz is definitely a master of illusions. At "Answering-(Attacking)-Islam" they employ a number diversionary tactics to supplement their lack of knowledge or evidence. One such tactic is that if there is no quality to the argument, they employ a whole lot of quantity.

    However, as Jochen in his understandably limited abilities had trouble finding something to attack here on the NESSIA website, he blindly shot in the dark. As we shall see he repeatedly shot himself in the foot while doing so.

    In spite of utterly invalidating Jochen's slapdash ad hominem attack against me right at the "get go", I would like to take this further just for grins. I will establish Jochen's complete absence of credibility in the area of linguistics whether it is in etymology, philology, or grammar. For the sake of brevity, I've had to ignore much of the cornucopia of clangers in Jochen's lengthy diatribe so I've reserved myself to the juiciest (and most amusing) bits.

    The fact that Jochen is a web-surfer who rarely visits a library is no secret, ... Now let us draw upon another one of Jochen's funnies: ... First of all, it is glaringly obvious now that Jochen doesn't know the difference between an aorist and its root ... Why are the "list of grammatical forms omitted"? They are omitted because he can't make out heads or tails from it. Its "all Greek" to him.

    Let me put it this way: Zaman's clearly expressed purpose for this article was to ruin somebody's linguistic credibility, and he was quite successful in doing so, although ‘somebody’ turned out to be somebody else. I do not claim to be scholar of linguistics myself, but I have received a thorough education in classical languages which is quite enough to enable me to recognize and expose it when somebody tries to sell linguistic nonsense as scholarship.

    In this article Zaman made it his calling to lecture the world on Greek etymology. My questions to him: Why do you think you are qualified to make pronouncements on Greek language issues? Have you studied Classical or Biblical Greek under a qualified teacher? Can you produce transcripts of your Greek studies from an accredited institution? In the rather unlikely case that Zaman can produce such a certification, this would still not make his above arguments correct. On the other hand, if he cannot do so this will be another nail in the coffin of his claim to linguistic qualification, let alone scholarship. This article was mainly about Greek, so that my questions here are about his training in any variety of the Greek language, but Zaman's claims are broader, so this is just part of many questions raised by his whole set-up (cf. Who or What is NESSIA really?).

    Let me conclude this section with a verdict by Zaman himself. For background information: One of Zaman's favorite topics is finding Muhammad in various Biblical passages. On the discussion forum soc.religion.islam Andy Bannister dared to publically resist his claims that Muhammad is spoken about in Song of Songs 5:16. Amidst his usual bluster Zaman also made the following statement:

    This was pathetic on the part of the opposing side and was not appreciated by me at all. Displaying an extreme lack of knowledge in Hebrew as well as his native English language and then trying to correct others in either language is inconsiderate to say the least. It is a display of incompetence in debating this subject. (Shibli Zaman, More on the "MACHAMAD" of Song of Songs 5:16, posted 21 February 2000; Google archive, accessed 26 Sept. 2003)

    Part III   — Mopping up the leftovers

    An Interlude of Exegetical Incompetence and Theological Ignorance

    Due to the sequence of thought in Zaman's article I need to make just a few comments on his theological polemics before I return to his final comment of ‘linguistic analysis’. Zaman had finished his last paragraph of section III by making the claim:

    "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs (kusin, κυσιν)." [Matthew 7:6, Referring to Gentiles as "dogs" again, by the way].

    Zaman manages to make two errors in his short commentary. First, Gentiles are actually not mentioned anywhere in the whole chapter of Matthew 7. What is Zaman's basis for (mis)interpreting the passage in this way? Second, no responsible exegete would simply equate Matthew 15:26 with Matthew 7:6 since the Greek text uses two different words that are merely rendered the same way in the English translation. The English language only provides one common word for dogs (i.e. "dog") while Greek has several. Despite transcribing the Greek word for dog in the above quotation, Zaman has seemingly forgotten by now that he himself stated in his original article about Matthew 15:26 that ‘the Greek word for "dogs" in this verse is "kunarion" which is the diminutive of "dog"’, and talks about the two as if they were one and the same.

    In fact, his statement continued, ‘... which is the diminutive of "dog" from the same root as the word translated as "worship".’ This is actually another instance of Zaman committing the etymological fallacy since this statement again assumes that all that counts is that two words come from the same root. Why would languages have so many different words deriving from the same root if, in the end, all of them mean the same simply because they are derived from the same root? Let me give one example from the Arabic language to point out how silly this approach is. Above I already mentioned the root word salama with its triple root consonants "SLM". From it is derived the word 'aslam meaning "to surrender, become a Muslim" and 'uslim "to be bitten by a snake" [J. G. Hava, Arabic-English Dictionary, 1951]. Since both forms are derived from the same root, should we therefore conclude that there isn't that much difference in their meaning? Being a Muslim is being bitten by a snake?

    Anyway, the fallacy aspect was already discussed extensively and in sufficient detail. Let's focus on the theological issues here. To facilitate a better understanding of the usage of the word "dog" in the Bible, I will provide a comprehensive list of occurrences. The New Testament deploys two different words:

    κυων (kuon) κυναριον (kunarion)
    Matthew 7:6; Luke 16:21;
    Philippians 3:2; 2 Peter 2:22;
    Revelation 22:15
    Matthew 15:26,27; Mark 7:27,28

    All occurrences of "dog" in the Hebrew Old Testament (OT) use the Hebrew word (keleb). The references are: Exodus 11:7, 22:31; Deuteronomy 23:18; Judges 7:5; 1 Samuel 17:43, 24:14; 2 Samuel 3:8, 9:8, 16:9; 1 Kings 14:11, 16:4, 21:19, 23f, 22:28; 2 Kings 8:13, 9:10, 36; Job 30:1; Psalm 22:16, 20, 59:6, 14, 68:23; Proverbs 26:11, 17; Ecclesiastes 9:4; Isaiah 56:10f, 66:3; Jeremiah 15:3. The Septuagint (LXX), the Jewish Greek translation of their Scriptures dating from the Third to Second Century BC, lacks 1 Kings 14:11, but apart from this one verse the lexeme keleb is always rendered as kuon in the LXX. Keleb is deployed as an expression of contempt in a number of instances, be it as an insult against others or to express one's own unworthiness towards another person. Significantly, in none of the instances where keleb is deployed as an expression of contempt is it rendered as kunarion.

    Though it is certainly more scholarly to work with the original Hebrew or Greek text, Zaman could have found all of these occurrences of the word "dog" in the KJV, his preferred Bible translation, by simply consulting his copy of Strong's Concordance, finally putting this concordance to its proper use.

    Not only Zaman but all readers of this article are invited to check the context of the above references in the Hebrew OT and Greek NT. You will observe that the story in Matthew 15 (with its parallel in Mk. 7) is the only place in all of the Bible where the lexeme "dog" is specifically used to denote Gentiles in distinction to Jews and, significantly, in this passage it is a different word that is used than in all the other references. Why Zaman thinks that the term "dogs" in Matthew 7:6 has to refer to Gentiles remains a mystery.

    In fact, had Zaman at least used Strong's he would have seen the two entries Mt 7:6 and Mt 15:16 next to each other and the different Strong numbers (2965 and 2952) right next to the references should have told him that different Greek words are used for "dogs" in Matthew 7:6 and 15:16. Therefore, there is no excuse for Zaman to simply equate them. Here are the scanned entries from Strong's concordance (left column) and the dictionary appendix (right column):


    Zaman continues with this theme and gives it a section of its own:


    Finally, the let us look at the context of the entire verse within which Jochen isolated this one word as a smoke screen.

    "Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
    [Matthew 15:21-28]

    No matter how many pages upon pages of fluff Jochen wants to write, the fact remains that in the Christian Bible, if you are not a Jew, Jesus called you a dog. This woman had to beg like a dog, and had to be addressed as a dog, just to have her poor daughter healed. She had to actually acknowledge that she was truly a dog before Jesus healed her daughter.This isn't about an etymological term that once meant dog, but later meant prostration. This is about Jesus calling this woman and all Gentiles dogs! If this is the "loving" relationship Christians speak of between them and Jesus, then all I have to say is, "No, thank you."

    It should be rather obvious that Zaman seeks to divert the attention from the issue of linguistics into the discussion of theological issues. That can hardly be called a conclusion of what was discussed so far, but rather it is a whole new topic. Already in my first response to his ‘etymologically’ supported theological polemic I had stated:

    To gain a proper understanding of the passage about Jesus and the Canaanite woman the reader should consult a good scholarly Bible commentary. A detailed exegesis of this text is not our topic here. [Some of my personal thoughts about Matthew 15 can be found in this article.]

    It is obvious from Zaman's statements in his "conclusion" that he has not read my explanations in the link provided. Why he constantly seems to think that he can rebut my articles without even properly reading what I wrote is beyond me. This current article is still not the place for a detailed theological response. I like to focus my attention and discuss one topic at the time. Zaman poses as a linguistic scholar, and this article was about his linguistic blunders.

    However, on the very same day that I had published my rebuttal to the linguistic aspects of Zaman's anti-Christian polemic, I also published my response to his article Stung from the Same Hole Twice, where I discuss various theological aspects of this particular Zamanian polemic. For whatever reasons, he has so far completely ignored those answers and questions but instead repeats the same claims again as if there had not been a reply. Does an answer count only if it is included in the same article?

    Since Zaman abuses Matthew 15 in various ways I may at some time in the future write a more detailed direct response, for now I recommend the reader to follow the links given here. They provide sufficient answers for those who want answers. Zaman's exegetical abilities seem not to rate much higher than his linguistic ones. Only some remarks regarding the interpretation of this incident will be given in this article so that he can see I am not running away because I am supposedly unable to respond to his ‘powerful argument’.

    One cannot read the Gospels and conclude the Jesus had anything but love for Gentiles. Indeed, His final commission to His disciples was to proclaim the Gospel not only to Jerusalem and Judea, but also to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. The way Jesus responded to Roman Centurions, Samaritans, and Gentile Greeks in the Gospels makes it clear that He did not regard them as "dogs." The one instance that Zaman has decided to emphasize does not even use the word kuon — of which Zaman desires so badly that it may determine the meaning of proskuneo — but kunarion. A quick look at BDAG will confirm that this word means a small dog kept as a pet. It does not have the pejorative meaning Zaman ascribes to it.

    The word kuon is used as an expression of contempt several times in both the Old and New Testaments, and in Matthew 7:6 where a negative meaning is intended, it is the word kuon that is used. It is important to note that the passage in Matthew 15 deliberately uses a different word. It is, furthermore, significant that this woman is one of only two people in Matthew's Gospel whose faith Jesus describes as great (and the other was also a Gentile, the centurion in Matthew 8). In fact, there is a clear motif within Matthew's Gospel of Gentiles responding with faith. Much of this and more Zaman could have known had he bothered to follow the recommended link. A detailed exegesis and response to Zaman's (ab)use of this passage will have to be deferred to a future article.

    The problem is that Zaman looks at the term "dog" filtered through his own Islamic worldview but forgets that he needs to interpret each text in its proper historical and cultural context. He is importing notions into the text that are not there. Islam has a very low view of dogs, and they are treated with great contempt or even feared (cf. Muhammad and the dogs). That is not the way the word is used in this text. As already noted it is very important to realize that the term is NOT kuon but kunarion. It is not talking about dirty, filthy and potentially dangerous wild street dogs, but the house pet.

    Even without consulting a dictionary, if Zaman had just read the text more attentively, he could have discovered that these "dogs" live indoors "under the table". Both the children and the dogs are loved by the master and cared for by him. Still, there is a difference between the children and the pets. The woman accepts that difference and believes in the goodness of the master anyway, and Jesus rewards this faith. Importing the Islamic understanding of dogs into the text, an understanding that is foreign to it, is irresponsible exegesis.

    Apart from the fact that Zaman has apparently no problem when Muslims call Christians "dogs" revealing a certain lack of integrity in his "moral outrage" against this passage, one can observe again the combination of ignorance and arrogance also in Zaman's Bible interpretation. There could be solutions to the problem of ignorance. But Zaman's main problem is his aggressive arrogance that does not allow anyone to help him out in resolving the ignorance issue. There is a Biblical story that Zaman may want to pay some attention to. In the book of Acts we read about the minister of finance of Ethiopia who was a true seeker with a genuine desire to know the living God. Let me quote two verses:

    Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. "Do you understand what you are reading?" Philip asked. "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. [Acts 8:30-31]

    How different and how humble is the attitude of this powerful man, that he would acknowledge not to understand something, and that he would invite a simple Christian to come up into his chariot and explain to him the word of God.

    Burning one last straw man

    In his last section Zaman returns from his theological detour and claims:

    V. Wait! He's not done!

    Now, to follow Jochen in his haphazard disarray, we will jump to his next, yet completely unrelated, rant. In the context of the "James Ossuary" Jochen says I used the word "etymology" incorrectly when I said, "Forgers are good at their craft but they are terrible etymologists." Jochen maintains, "In fact, he seems not even to be able to use the word correctly. Grammar has very little to do with etymology. Grammar is about the place of words within a sentence, about the relationship between words and about the changes that words undergo depending on case, number, tense, etc. Grammar is about the use of words within a sentence structure. Etymology is the study of the derivation of words, of the historical development of words, their forms and meanings."

    Just as Jochen hadn't the slightest clue regarding Greek grammar when he started this diatribe, he has no clue what the issue with the James Ossuary was. It is not about grammar, but primarily about the etymology of the strange noun "achui" supposedly deriving from the proto-Semitic "ach" and the possessive waw suffix. If it were a mere matter of inflection than this would be grammar, but this is regarding the evolution of the Aramaic word for "brother" and its possible (and impossible) usages from proto-Semitic to the Syriac of the early Church. Again, Jochen shoots in the dark and ends up shooting himself in the foot.

    If the above were a correct representation of what I wrote, then my statement had been pretty dumb. However, as mentioned above, I will not allow anyone to get away with misrepresenting my arguments. First, my original paper was discussing various etymological fallacies committed by Zaman in both Greek and Arabic. The topic of the paper was linguistics and etymology. The question of whether Zaman even knows the difference between grammar and etymology was certainly not "completely unrelated" or proof that I am in "haphazard disarray".

    Second, it seems that when I emphasize one part of a quotation, Zaman completely overlooks the part that was not emphasized. It was not me who introduced "grammar" into the discussion as it looks in Zaman's above quotation. It was Zaman himself. Let me quote again what I had actually written with somewhat changed emphasis for clarity:

    ... Zaman stated:

    Nonetheless, I analyzed all the data available regarding the box and its puzzling inscription with an open mind. Almost immediately I believed the inscription was a forgery because anyone who knows Aramaic would immediately spot a serious GRAMMATICAL error therein. Forgers are good at their craft but they are terrible ETYMOLOGISTS.

    Is Zaman the scholar of linguistics which he seemingly wants to present himself as? ...

    It was Zaman who stated that these people made "a serious GRAMMATICAL error" and then concluded that they are therefore "terrible ETYMOLOGISTS". Grammar and etymology are, however, separate concepts or disciplines (although researchers in the field of linguists may need to know both for their work). Making a grammatical error does not imply that one is a bad etymologist, nor does making an etymological error imply that one is a bad grammarian. Zaman's statement was a logical error based on the confusion of these two terms.

    That is all I had written. Since I did not (yet) discuss even one aspect of the James Ossuary controversy, it was rather silly of Zaman to claim that I have supposedly "no clue what the issue with the James Ossuary was." It is Zaman who has no clue at all in regard to what I know or even only think about the issues surrounding the ossuary. I have simply not made any statement about it. In a sense, this is ad hominem before the argument even began.

    However, we can now observe that Zaman contradicts himself:

    Almost immediately I believed the inscription was a forgery because anyone who knows Aramaic
    would immediately spot a serious GRAMMATICAL error therein.

    ... he has no clue what the issue with the James Ossuary was. It is NOT about GRAMMAR, ...

    Did I understand that correctly? Let me repeat: The ossuary inscription is a forgery because of a serious grammatical error, but it is not about grammar! Very logical, Mr. Zaman.

    Note that I still haven't made any pronouncement on the ossuary itself. In the first article I only observed how Zaman confused the terms grammar and etymology. In this article we see that he (a) severely misrepresented my original statement resulting in (b) a straw man argument, and that he (c) created confusion by contradicting himself whether the issue is or is not about grammar.

    Jochen Katz

    Responses to Shibli Zaman
    Answering Islam Home Page