Our Words Reflect Our Personal Experiences
BHC's Thirteenth Bible Study Guideline
Work consumes a great deal of our time and the words we use at work tend to show up in other areas of our lives also. This is reflected in the word choices made by the ancient authors of the words found in the Bible too. A very good example is found in the Gospel of Luke. This is a case in which readers of most English translations cannot see because the translators didn't fully explain the meaning of one of Luke's words. All three Synoptic Gospels record this account, which seem to be identical.
Dr. Luke's Needle
In each of the above verses we see
the word "needle." It appears to be exactly the same word in each
Why would Luke use a completely different word for such a common item? If you look up the two words in a comprehensive Greek lexicon (Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon) you will find that both words are defined as needle. The primary difference is that RHAPHIDOS is the word used for the common sewing needle. BELONES, on the other hand, refers to a "small" needle that is not as common.
There are a couple of possibilities for Luke's choice of BELONES that scholars have discussed over the years. One is that using the word for the smaller needle would focus readers more on the impossibility of a camel going through an even smaller hole than that of a common sewing needle. There is, however, another possibility, that has been pointed out
As a result of such studies the fact that Luke used the same word that was used by Galen the physician in 130 CE to refer to a needle used by surgeons. (Online text of Galen) In either case, traditions that have been handed down to us indicate that Luke was familiar the word for a smaller needle that was used by doctors and chose to use it here. This supports the other traditions that Luke was a doctor and he simply used a word that he used in his profession -- BELONES.
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Fourteenth Bible Study Guideline
Context carries with it the idea of something that is "woven together." Just as individual letters are woven together to form words, words are woven together to form sentences, sentences are woven together to make paragraphs, and so on. Therefore, a word must be examined as a part of the sentence in which it is used. The sentence must be examined as a component of the paragraph, etc. Many errors in theology are regularly made by interpreting or taking the words of the Bible out of their original context.
The immediate context is that text which immediately precedes or follows a discourse or segment of discourse with no intervening text. If a word, sentence, or paragraph is removed from its contextual environment, the original meaning can be lost and a new unrelated meaning substituted in its place. If we take words out of their context we can make the Bible say anything we want. Here is an example of what could happen:
John 3:16 (KJV)
James 2:19 (KJV)
Out of Context Conclusion:
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Lucifer, Satan or Foreign King
The above verse, Isaiah 14:12, has been of interest to many Bible readers for centuries. A popular Christian interpretation of Isaiah's words goes something like this:
Establishing the Context
The immediate context of Isaiah 14:12 begins at verse 12 and ends with verse 15.
The bold-italics have been added to help you follow the references to Lucifer. It is no wonder that God is upset with Lucifer, considering all the things he says. But we still dont know who Lucifer is at this point. Did you notice the third word in verse 12 - thou? Thou is Old English for you, and thine is for your. The question that we must now ask is who is Isaiah referring to in his first thou in verse 12?
In order to find the answer to that question we must expand our contextual environment from the immediate context to the general context. Please note that the verses are in reverse order.
We finally found the end of the chain of references. What have we discovered - that the thou of verse 12 is none other than the king of Babylon. By simply establishing the immediate context first, and then expanding it to a much broader general context when we didnt find the answer, we were able to answer. Lucifer was not a reference to either a fallen angel or Satan, it was only to the king of Babylon.
BHC's FBHC's F
Always compare two or more English translations when studying the Bible.
Another habit that will help you is to always read the biblical passage in more than one English version of your Bible. Let's take a look at the words of Isaiah in the New Revised Standard version:
Did you notice that the word Lucifer wasnt there? Instead, we read the words Day Star, another reference to the King of Babylon. If you read another hundred English translations you would not find the word Lucifer in any of them. It only appears in the King James Version or versions based upon it. Of course this raises another question - Why is Lucifer found only in the KJV?
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The Meaning of
Just One Word
• • •The Cost of a Mistranslation
A Japanese word, "mokusatsu", may have changed all our lives. It has two meanings: (1) to ignore; (2) to refrain from comment. The release of a press statement using the second meaning in July 1945 might have ended the war then. The Emperor was ready to end it, and had the power to do so. The cabinet was preparing to accede to the Potsdam ultimatum of the Allies -- surrender or be crushed -- but wanted a little more time to discuss the terms. A press release was prepared announcing a policy of mokusatsu, with the "no comment" implication.
But it got on the foreign wires with the "ignore" implication through a mix-up in translation: "The cabinet ignores the demand to surrender." To recall the release would have entailed an unthinkable loss of face. Had the intended meaning been publicized, the cabinet might have backed up the Emperor's decision to surrender. In which event, there might have been no atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no Russian armies in Manchuria, no Korean war to follow. The lives of tens of thousands of Japanese and American boys might have been saved. One word, misinterpreted.
* This article appeared in the March 1953 issue of Harper's Magazine and was written byW. J. Coughlin. Reprinted from Power of Words by Stuart Chase, page 4.
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How important is it for us to have a culturally correct
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No Quick Fix
The ultimate responsibility for accuracy rests upon your shoulders, the reader of the Bible. There will be no new translation or commentary that will be able to make the reader see the words of their Bible through the eyes of the Sources. That is why the Biblical Heritage Center has made it a goal to teach as many people as possible how to use the BHC linguistic approach to Bible study. What is at stake may be much more than eternity, we believe it is also the quality of life, how we perceive as our reality, how we relate to one another, and more.
It takes determination and work to change old ways of thinking. George W. Woodson, a man who worked with former slaves after the Civil War, faced a similar challenge. Below are his words:
Many religious people have something in common with the people Mr. Woodson was trying to help. If there is no back door, or red color on the beer can label, or a Lucifer in their Bible verse - their Belief System will demand it and may even create a reality that includes it! Life is challenging enough. The more accurate the information we have available to us -- the better the decisions we make will be that affect our lives.
Congratulations -- you have completed Lesson 5!
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