Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's Greek To Me

I don’t know if Shakespeare gets as much time in schools today as he did half a century ago, but those who studied his “Julius Caesar” would be familiar with this from a line spoken by Casca:

but those that understood him smiled at one another and
shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me

Casca is describing Cicero's speech in Greek, and it was not understandable to him. That’s what the phrase means, and I experienced a good example of it.

I had the opportunity to be in Cyprus. It is a beautiful island and two very gracious ladies took time to show me both mountains and seashore while I was there. In the mountains, one pointed out a couple of them that held her family’s almond groves. Though she and her husband lived and worked in Nicosia, the groves had been in her husband’s family for generations and they still worked them.

The other took me to Larnaca and around the bay to Cape Greco. On that trip we stopped at a Greek Orthodox church where Barnabas is said to have preached. Quite believable, as he was born there. We could not reach Famagusta, the port from which the ship Exodus sailed, headed for Palestine to return European Jews following World War II. Cyprus is a divided country and Famagusta is held by the Turkish government.

It was during the week when the phrase “it was Greek to me!” became apparent. We were in the process of doing User Acceptance Testing on software my company created and adjusted for their company. A series of tests were designed to display the accuracy of those adjustments. I was there to facilitate the testing and coordinate updates with our home office.

Naturally, they spoke Greek between themselves, while using English when speaking directly to me. Greek is an expressive language! One afternoon I kept hearing “Nay!”, “Nay!” from each of them during a conversation.

You know what that means in English. Well, it’s not the same in Greek. While I was concerned something was wrong, they had discovered a portion of the tool that would help them and were speaking Greek, “Ne!”, which means “Yes!”

Beyond the wonderful history lessons of Cyprus, the unmatchable hospitality of its people, that trip brought home the meaning of “it was Greek to me.” And how the meaning of words are so very important.

Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. (1 Thessalonians 4:1 KJV)

Exhort is an English word translated from the Greek and it means to call near, invite, to invoke by imploring, or pray. Another Greek word is also translated as exhort, though its meaning is to admonish or advise.

Not found in the Gospels, “exhort” is found in many of the other New Testament books, much as the above example – the author is inviting, imploring readers in the name of Jesus to live as He lived and to please God.

When we invite someone to participate in church activities, it should be our reason, too. By doing so, we implore them to join in recognizing God’s place in our lives.

Keep in mind, before exhorting another, we should be certain about God’s place in our lives.

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