Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

21Feb/100

The Misuse of the Bible (Cont.)

Let me add a little substance to my post yesterday. I have a tenancy to be cynical when it comes to languages, not because I wish to display any ability of mine, but because I've learned that it is VERY important to ensure you are not adding to the Words of God by promoting your own meaning with His text. In all honestly, I'm just as likely to make mistakes at this point...I haven't learned enough Hebrew to be effective in using it yet.

What makes Hebrew or Greek difficult?

1. In order to use a language, you need to know "syntax/grammar" not just the meaning of words. Remember sentence diagramming in elementary school, where you had to show the relationship of words? Well, that matters a lot in other languages too. The Greek word for "the" has 24 different forms. Why? Because how it is used in a sentence matters.

2. No word means the same thing every time it appears in Scripture. "Son" in Hebrew is used to identify children, distant relatives, and even the nation of Israel. We'd have some really interesting stories if we translated "the Sons of Israel" as if it always mean Jacob's 12 sons. The Hebrew word "day" can mean a physical day, or an span of time.What indicates which meaning is being used? Lots of things, in particular, the words "evening" "morning" or "first day" always specify a 24 hour period of time. Hmmm...wish a lot more scientists were aware of that.

3. Greeks and Hebrews had idioms too. Have you ever heard the expression "my dogs are barking" or "we're cooking with gas, now"? Well, they don't mean the way they sound...which is why non-English speakers spend time specifically learning to identify these phrases before being thrown into the language. Greek has some word combination that can't be easily translated either. How would you know? You've got to know the language!

4. What time frame is it? Greek and Hebrew have very different ways of specifying past, present, and future. Completed action, action in progress, and potential action. Greek builds it all into different forms of the verb. Hebrew uses the same verbs, in a specific order with other words. Either way, there's a big difference between the statement if you get these elements wrong. "I am my beloved's" vs. "I was my beloved's" vs. "I might be my beloved's" (just a humorous joke, not a real example)

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