Thursday, August 12, 2010

A few more bible words that do not mean what you think they mean:

delivered as per request.

Repent. Comes from the greek μετανοεω. Does NOT mean "stop doing bad stuff." DOES mean "Change the way you think." With our current (cultural) Mormon emphasis on certainty and a cultural environment that does not exactly encourage changing our thought patterns, we could all use a hefty dose of Mosiah 18:20.

Perfect. Comes from the greek τέλειός. Does NOT mean "without flaw." Does mean "mature," "complete," "having received ordinances of divinity." The "Be ye therefore perfect" phrase would better read, "Be ye therefore one with God." Atonement, anyone?

Helpmeet. Comes from two Hebrew words "Ezer" and "k'negdo" and means "A divine savior to be your equal." Does NOT mean servant. Does NOT mean subservient. (Does NOT mean a companion for you to preside over, either, but I don't wanna open THAT can of worms right now.) Eve does the things that Adam cannot do--she "saves" him--and she does everything as his equal. Makes her the hero of 2 Nephi 2: 25, really.

Beguile. As long as we're talking about Eve, let's talk about this one. It comes from a less common Hebrew word with many possible (and rich) connotations. It implies a deep internal struggle, one with a lot of thought, a lot of internal debate, consideration of consequences, and, ultimately, coming to a decision with full accountability. (See Beverly Campbell's Eve work for more on this; that's the first place I learned about a lot of it.) Eve as "that stupid girl who believed the snake" is not only a gross oversimplification, it's inherently false and misleading. Eve--given the conflicting commandments of "don't eat the fruit" and "multiply and replenish"--was essentially asked to choose between the law and love. Madeleine L'Engle talks about situations like this--specifically when talking about Abraham and his crazya' decision to sacrifice his only child--and said that God was asking him to choose between the law and love. Abraham chose the law. Eve chose love.

This next one is a little one and maybe nitpicky, but I thought it was interesting. In John 3:1-2, it says that Nicodemus came to Jesus "by night." But in the Greek, the case inflection used is the Genitive case, or possessive. Although used correctly in the sense translated, it also could indicate a level of possessiveness between Nicodemus and the Night. Nicodemus *was* the night's, grammatically speaking. (The 's after a word is a genitive case inflection, just so you know.)

I kind of always thought of Nicodemus as a bad guy, like most people. And the grammar does back this up. But I do have to say that this one Christmas, I went to church at my MIL's ward and Elder Ballard was talking and he mentioned having always felt like he had a "special kinship" with Nicodemus. At first, I found this very alarming. Nicodemus is basically the creepy white guy in a suit sitting at Enron who cares about profits above people and personal gain above the law. But Elder Ballard explained that he was always just a business man, like Nicodemus. He always wanted to follow Christ. And it always seemed harder for him than it seemed for other people. It was a struggle. Nicodemus wasn't a man who got visions and revelations, he was a *real* man, complete with his flaws. And yet, Nicodemus was the one who paid for Christ's funeral. Nicodemus was the one who kept coming to Jesus in spite of his inherent (nightly) nature. He was never a perfect man, but he never stopped trying. And isn't that what following Christ is about?

So I guess I have a little more empathy for that Nicodemus guy than I used to. (Things are all very simple and black and white when you're a 19 year old BYU student.)

If you're ever reading the bible and you find something questionable, I recommend the following:

1) Strong's Concordance. (I'll put a link below.) You can look up every instance of any word in the bible and trace it to its Hebrew/Greek root.
2) A Greek and Hebrew Lexicon. Connotations are the main thing lost in translation. In fact, I'll post a little example I show my students in my next post. Connotations really are the key to understanding meaning from language. And since language (as imperfect as it is) is all we have to understand stuff, it does us good to know how it works.


Barb @ getupandplay said...

Ooh, this is a great post! I had Johnny read it, too, as this is one of his favorite topics.

Catherine said...

Me gusta! I want more of this from Dr. Kerry's pulpit.

Sarah said...

I like you in bed in pain - more time for something like that! That is exactly what I think every time I'm at the temple. I KNOW Eve knew what she was doing. Love it. Keep it coming Oh Brillant One. :)

(Hope your you know what feels better soon!)

Swanky Mommy said...

I have a whole chappy on "perfect" in my unpublished manny. Love this!