BY The Greek word symbolon originally meant a tally. Two guest friends broke an astragalos or other object between them and each party kept one piece as a proof of the identity of the presenter of the other. Gradually a symbol began to mean any identity token, and even a guarantee. It became a written document, a passenger list, a treaty, a passport and the like. It might be a contract, a receipt, a warrant to obtain allowances, or to secure an officer's post from the Emperor. Then the meaning extended in other directions: a beacon, a sign of an approaching storm, aportent, an omen, or a symptom. It might denote a watchword. The early Christians recognised each other by a very concise formula of their faith which came to be called a symbol, the germ of all later creeds. A symbol was the name given to an allegory; it might be a code, a legionary standard, a standard weight, a coin, and a meeting by chance 1). The different applications of a word enlarge its lingual field. The result may be that it reaches the semantic area of a synonymous term \I). Where the two fields do
Philosophia Reformata – Brill
Published: Feb 20, 1956
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