I have been prepping for a sermon on the church post-Easter celebration. Some have been asking questions like, “What is God doing during the pandemic? Why isn’t he answering our prayers?” and saying things like, “I am sharing this fake news because I want people to have hope that there is life post-COVID.” These are certainly important and serious issues. Since some of the comments talked about government and its role in the pandemic, my study (naturally) brought me to the word “beast” as used in the Bible.
Theology is sometimes based on archaic words and untranslated words. The problem with both is that it is possible to give them meanings that are different from what they really mean.
Transliterations are the words in the Bible that aren’t translated. Rather the Greek letters are switched into english letters and that new word is put into the Bible. I can think of two examples, angel and baptism.
Angel is a word that really means messenger but because it is not translated we have come up with a white-robed, halo-wearing, person with wings that has no connection to reality.
Baptism is a word that really means immersed or submerged but because it is merely transliterated we can take it to mean anything we want, whether that is sprinkling, pouring, or dunking. Of course what really messes us up is when this word is connected to the Holy Spirit 😉
Translations are words where the same meaning from the original language is found in another language. I think it was Andrew Walls who said, “All translation is betrayal.” This is partly because concepts between languages often don’t precisely overlap. It is also partly because often translations don’t change as quickly as language itself changes.
For example, the Tagalog word ulam is often translated as viand in English. Put up your hand if you know what viand means 🙂 It may be an accurate translation but it isn’t a very helpful one. (Having said that, what is a modern English word for viand I wonder?)
There are also biblical examples of the same thing.
Tongues. This is a old way of saying “languages.” Speaking in languages. The gift of languages.
Beast. This word can also mean animal, which is the most common way this word is said in today’s usage. But see what happens when we use it instead of beast? Mark of the animal. The Animals of Revelation.
Can you think of any other biblical words that could be replaced by more normal words?