language

I have never actually looked at the Hebrew language in any detail before this class. What immediately struck me about the language/aleph bet was that I would have to change or should I say struggle to change my lifelong training of reading from left to right. And for a 57 year old graduate student who is your stereotypical we “ain’t done it that way before” preacher it has definitely stretched me. As a matter of fact a lot has already stretched me in this class. I hate to admit it, but it is good. There I said it.

And just today, this Sunday afternoon it struck me that yes it is important to study the history of the text you are reading. And as so many of you have said, to deeply look into the text is not so much to question the text as to its truth, but to question your own preconceived notions of what it says. Your questioning may reinforce what you already believed, but it also may open a new light on what you have always believed it said.

Now what does that have to do with the Hebrew language? As I learned in a previous class I took at Lincoln our language is probably the largest window into our culture and our minds that we can examine. When you look at the Hebrew language and its aleph bet and study its history and origins you can see how it arrived on the pages of the Old Testament from civilizations and cultures long past. You can see how words came to describe what people thought of their world and how those words then were used to describe what ultimately is found on the pages of scripture. Many of these words arrived from other civilizations.

The result seems to me to follow if you want to understand the meaning of a text of the Old Testament to its fullest there must be some understanding of the language it was written. This language of Hebrew seems at first to be simple in its basic three letter format yet from these three letters spring a variety of richness that exhibits God’s complexity. This finally struck me in the chapter on Nahum when the author described that Nahum comes from a Hebrew verb that means to comfort or have compassion. And from that came Nehemiah (Yahweh is comfort). It doesn’t surprise me that God would have chosen a language that grows from three letters (is it a stretch to think Trinity here) into such a diverse means of communication.

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2 Responses

  1. I really love the idea of learning a language as a window into a culture. It is true that we can learn so much about the context of a situation or story just by learning the language, nuances in meaning and implications inherent in the text that we totally miss in translating the words. It is a great opportunity to see further than our own language can carry us.
    I had never thought of the trinity connection…that’s cool.

  2. The three stem trinity connection is a very cool thought. Maybe it is a stretch but with so many things being intentional when it comes to the word of God, I don’t know that it is really that far off.

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