The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 4 (Last part :)

– – I have mentioned nuances a lot so far. What I mean is the combination of denotative and connotative meaning: meaning that is directly expressed and meaning which is subtly implied. A silly example of this is if a girl introduces a guy to . . . no . . . those are too messy . . . If a friend tells his friend, I now, know that you care about me.” the Denotation is: At this moment I know you care. The connotation is: At one time I did not know you care. The English Bible brings out some of these denotations and connotations from context, but one thing it can’t make up for is the use of syntax in Hebrew and Greek to establish emphasis in communication. One example off the top of my head is Romans 10:3, “Being ignorant of the of God righteousness and seeking their own to establish they did not submit to the righteousness of God.” The contrast denoted in English and Greek is clear, but the fronting of “The Of God” righteousness reemphasizes the point of the whole letter about the righteousness of God being revealed  English flattens this and misses some of the nuances pointing back to God’s righteousness in the OLD Testament.

– – It is at this juncture I want to introduce a point about God’s word i have never heard expressed by anyone else, but I think it will be widely agreed upon just by common sense. The Word of God is not just What He says, but also How He says it. It is the same in communication between people isn’t it? One man says “I love you” to a woman he is proposing to. Another time he says, “I love you.” to a co-worker who just got him coffee. Is the word communicated the same? No. Same words different relationship, different tone of voice, different inflection, different situation, etc. This is the way it is with human communication, and human communication of humans writing to humans in human ways with shared understandings is the way God chose to communicate His divinely inspired word. The Mystery of Jesus’ incarnation is not dissimilar.

– – What I have discovered after 8 years in Greek and 3 in Hebrew, is that the Word of God rings out so much clearer in the original languages, and He is very lovely in His leading, very brilliant in His glory, very true in His tone. Because I am still not a master of either language, I do read English and because I am in relationship with English-listeners I read English, but when I do, it reminds me of watching a VHS tape when you’ve seen Blue-ray. The picture still comes through, but the color, the sound, and the quality is sometimes lacking in the clarity to tell the story in the most meaningful and appropriate way. And I am still learning not to apply my English nuances to the Greek and Hebrew texts; it is something I wonder if we ever unlearn, or if we just humbly accept our own frailty and incapacity to get it right alone.

– – One more illustration which I sheepishly borrow from Kate and Leopold, but those who have actually been to Paris may attest to: The most famous art gallery in Paris is the Louvre. But some people don’t know that only a fraction of the paintings are on the walls, the real art show is in the basement. All the revered works of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and so on.The Bible is like the Louvre, in English you will only get a fraction of all that it contains.

This is my call of exhortation. If you are content with the paintings on the walls of the Louvre, then by all means enjoy them, but if you seek to know the source of their art better, if you hunger for a richer depth of appreciation for the soul and ethos of the art before you, I invite you to come down into the basement, where the fragile treasures preserved timeless await the witnesses who have the heart to enjoy them.

– – But do not go without a guide. Art is best appreciated in conversation. You need bring nothing with you accept humbleness in your humanity, and a heart to seek out Him who is truly good. Let an expert in these paintings teach you so you can enter into the joy, anguish and love that rests deep in the art before you and the Heart within you.

– – To do this for the Bible in the original languages, I recommend Mounce’s Biblical Greek, and Van Pelt’s Biblical Hebrew to get you started! And find a good teacher or a fellow student to go through it with you. Languages live between people and die when unspoken; but God’s Word will never die. Enjoy the world you discover in the text; I guarantee it will be bigger than your current one and it is not very far at all from where you live out each day. Be patient, resilient, sentient, and repentant, and His Word will come alive in you to mold you into the shape of the Word: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you for reading this introduction, contemplation, explanation, and invitation.

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