God Language and Scripture

UnknownIn the beginning pages of this book it addresses the importance of learning the original language of any given text before interpretation. In addition to this the book also focuses on how knowing the original language should be used to interpret a text that is written in a different language. By way of illustration the author reveals the mistakes that people make when trying to figure out the meaning of a particular text written in a different language. The author argues that those who have tried to interpret the Bible in its original language make the mistake of narrowly focusing on the word construction and its history. Both of which are important yet not completely necessary in learning what the text actually means. That is the purpose of learning and studying any foreign text and that is figuring out the meaning. A reader reads for meaning not the construction of words. Knowing how the words form can help in determining the meaning but it is always subsistent to the meaning of the whole.

Chapter two dives into the question of how the Bible uses language? Does the Bible say anything about languages? And how should humans use their language responsibly in response to the other question? All of these questions are answered. It begins with a relatively systematic approach through the Bible to show that language is employed throughout the entire Bible. The author then makes the connection of how language connects everyone the divine God. There is also a discourse in this chapter on how humans have abused this language that God has given to everyone. One example that is briefly mentioned is the account of the Tower of babel. The author ends with the encouragement to readers the importance of how believers in Christ should use their language with sensitivity and responsibility. Reminding us from the words of Paul himself in Ephesians 5 verse 4, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Following this is the scientific study of language. The chapter title summarizes it completely. Beginning with the definition, linguist “see their task as one of discovery, analysis and explanation of how people actually use language.” Linguist main goal is to learn and understand how language was used during the time that it was used. It also studies how words change over time. In addition to this linguist study the sounds that different languages have. Moreover they study on whether language came before writing. The chapter then closes on the significance of studying language in how it exists in humanities and liberal arts.

Chapter four dives into the subject of language families. Language families are the relationships that one language has with another. It is also, metaphorically speaking the family tree of languages. One example of this is the Romance language, which includes French, Italian, Rumanian, and Spanish. Among other families there is also a Germanic family. Which includes Russian, Gothic, German, and Swedish. Language families also can connect with other families. There is evidence to believe that the Romance languages and Germanic languages at one time had a proto-language as well. The author personifies it by calling them “cousins.” Moreover these languages also have been found to be cousins of the Celtic family. Subsequently the author then begins to address the history of both the  Hebrew and Greek language. These languages are apart of the Northwest Semitic language family. There are two groups that this family divides into. One group is the Canaanite language, which is where the Hebrew language is in and the Aramaic languages, which the latter is found. Interestingly though, knowing these family connections have little importance in interpreting a text. However it does serve of serious importance when there is technicality. When tracing a language back to its development there are two focuses the internal and external history. Internal focus question refer to questions about the language changing while external questions include anything that refers to the general culture. To the end of this chapter the author details the origins of both the Hebrew and Greek language. One noteworthy of attention is that the original Greek language had to go through “radical changes” to make up what is known today as Koine Greek.

In the next section of the book it goes into the details and describes the biblical languages. The chapter focuses on two emphases one is the sound of language, which is also known as the study of phonology and the other is the subject on words, which is known as the study of lexicology. When it comes to interpreting a text in the Bible phonology has little to do with the actual meaning of the text. In fact the most fundamental principle of phonology, “is the need to distinguish between letters and sounds.” A smaller section within the subject on sounds is a stress on the importance of the dot in Hebrew words that distinguish the differences in their sounds. However one thing that was confusing is why the author chose to address the subject of the Hebrew consonants and vowels under phonology? Another question that was never answered in this chapter was how does the fact that Hebrew being a cognate language have anything to do with phonology? Cognation is simply the relationship between one language and another. This seems more like a subject that should under lexicology. Following this is the subject on lexicology. In this section the writer affirms the clarity and exactness of the ancient Greek language. Unlike Hebrew however there is more ambiguity with the meaning of the words because it does not have as many stems as Greek. These stems in the Greek language, depending on the context, can strongly convey the meaning that the author had intended. Nevertheless the meaning of certain word cannot be conclusively true in its perfect intended meaning. The author calls this the ambiguity of languages. All languages have this edge of ambiguity. Otherwise as the author states, “the number of words in everyone’s active vocabulary would grow to unmanageable proportions.”Adding that this is a necessary aspect to every language. Thus concluding chapter five.

Chapter six informs the reader of the importance of studying sentences. That is because it is necessary in order for words to communicate meanings and messages. Some words can function as a sentence independently to express an emotion but the words themselves are limited to a few sayings. After this the author moves on to inform the reader of the differences between the Greek, Hebrew, and English language. A common characteristic that exists between the Hebrew and English language is that word order determines meaning. Greek however has no rules concerning word order when it comes to meaning. Except to add emphasis on certain words by placing them in the front of the sentence. Following this is a detailed explanation of what time and aspect are. Greek is different from the English language in that it uses an augment to indicate what time the verb is taking place, while the English language may employ words such as yesterday, today, or tomorrow. Aspect however is not so clear in the English language unless otherwise noted. The Greek language however is more specific and uses the imperfect tense to indicate aspect. The author also looks closely at the meaning of words within its context. In fact he argues in support of using the Bible as a tool to interpret the Bible. It is important then to, “give special attention to the way sentences are joined, how they form paragraphs, and how the paragraphs combine to constitute larger units.”

Chapter seven proceeds on giving the textual transmission of the Word of God. Thus addressing textual criticism and ways in which a scribe may apply concepts like noise and redundancy. In addition to this the author adds the importance of studying the original language. Moreover he also adds three important factors that constitute for a beneficial understanding of the New Testament.(1) Mastery of the source language – certainly a much more sophisticated knowledge than one can acquire over a period of four or five years; (2) superb interpretive skills and breadth of knowledge so as not to muss the nuances of the original; and (3) a vey high aptitude for writing in the target language so as to express accurately both the cognitive and the affective elements of the message. Thus naturally leading into a discussion of different Bible translations and the dynamic equivalent versus the formal correspondence. The author of this book argues that a dynamic equivalent is a more faithful rendering of the text. In addition to understanding the importance of literal translations the dynamic equivalent will usually best convey what the author is trying to say. In conclusion the book ends with an exhortation of the necessity to pass on what one learns. It is the job the learner to become a teacher so that all will enjoy the riches of God’s Word.