Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Words Matter

This paragraph comes from an NBC News article on the theft of Paiute hieroglyphs. Can you see what’s wrong with it? NBC News’ name tells us it is in the ‘word’ business. At best, using an incorrect word is a distraction. At worst, it is a lie. In between falls explanations of a lack of education, lack of attention, lack of interest.

‘Elicit” is not “illicit.” I remember a sports reporter with the Daily Oklahoma in the 1980’s quoting a source’s phrase as “It’s all cheroot.” Old timers (such as yours truly) know that phrase is not about a cigar but should have read “It’s all she wrote,” when referring to the end of a game. The words are not the same.

Etymology really isn’t the same as semantics, either. Often the history of a word does not give it’s current meaning, though it may tell the story of how it got to where it is today. That’s very important when considering the Bible, its origins and its translations by people of different languages into differing languages.

My best example is one that caused a rift between another blogger and myself when I mentioned that English has limitations that affect on our understanding of LOVE. That was brought to mind when I looked at next Sunday’s lesson on 1 Corinthians 13. I once wrote:
Charity is important.  That English word was translated in 1611 from the Greek word agape.  In some places it was translated as love and in other places as charity.
I had used another example earlier, referring to John 21:12-17:
In the New Testament there were three Greek words for love. Brotherly love (phileos), physical love (eros) and the spiritual love between man and god (agape.) An example of the difference in nuance is in the 21st chapter of John where Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. (John 21:12 KJV)
The reader took exception due to his perception that my words indicated a lack in the KJV translation from the original Greek.  I don’t see a ‘lack’ in translation, I see a lack in the ability of the English language to show a nuance in the single word ‘love.’ We use it for the things we hold dearest – our children, our spouse, our family. We also use it for how much we like things – our food, our furniture, our cars, our entertainers. Yet the feelings we hold are not comparable, are they?

What do we love with all our heart, soul and mind? For what are we willing to give ourselves, our lives? What do we mean when we answer, “Yes, I’m a Christian”? Words matter.

Our fruit is on display to all, but God knows our hearts, our motives, and upon those we will be judged.

A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:35-37 KJV)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the good news of the Word. God has given us such treasure. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


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