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Friday, December 30, 2005

Are Linguistic Facts Theologically Significant?

Kenny Pearce asks important questions in his blog post today.

Can anyone guess which side of this debate I would come down on?! :-)

(If you can't, see my response to Gerald, on his iustificare blog. Kenny's post is a response to Gerald's.)


At Fri Dec 30, 05:23:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

In short: I think it's nonsense. The only problems I do see as far as gender issues go is how some translations render a singular into a plural when the text does not imply plurality.

As for the other issue he raised: Are the languages and idioms of biblical Greek and Hebrew "inspired" as well?

I refuse to accept that. This may be too strong of a statement, but I think that is almost a form of linguistic and cultural racism.

If we're going to go that far, then we might go all the way and reform Christianity to be like Islam: A religion that requires you to recite creeds in Arabic, says that only the Arabic Quran is God's ultimate truth, and that you have to make a trip to Mecca at least once in your life.

God is spirit. Not flesh. Languages are of the flesh -- They can't propped on the some pedestal like that.

At Fri Dec 30, 10:20:00 PM, Blogger Talmida said...

I believe there is theology in the etymology, in a way. Language certainly has meaning and the Hebrew language carries layers of meaning in its vocabulary that I have never seen translated (and which I cannot imagine being translated).

I think for example of the word rahhamim, which is often translated "mercy" in English. The Hebrew word has for its root the word "womb". To a Hebrew reader (or listener) there might be images of motherly compassion or fraternal sharing of the same womb that come across with the word rahhamim. How could you possibly translate that? And yet it can speak (among other things) to a female aspect of God - something that some English readers think is missing from the Bible.

The word for "bless" also means "to kneel", the word for "holy" also means "to set apart", the simple word for peace, shalom means welfare, wholeness, so much more than the English definition of the word. All the proper names have meanings, and they are often important.

They are sometimes referred to as Hebrew Honey, the little extras that colour the text when read in the original tongue. Are they important? Part of the Holy Text? I think so.

At Sat Dec 31, 02:58:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Talmida,

We definitely need to differentiate between what is lexical and what is grammatical in language. That is, I cannot accept that grammatical gender is relevant beyond indicating to us who the actual subjects, objects and so on are in a sentence.

However, the lexical content in language is a completely different matter. How best to communcate this kind of content is difficult. I like the plain text translation of kephale as head but it still does not communicate the range of meaning in English that the word has in Greek.

One simply has to have a Bible dictionary of some sort to develop the multiple meanings of many words. The puns just don't translate.

I had a little book on Treasures from the Greek New Testament when i was quite young that provided some insights.


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