Thursday, September 10, 2015

Words, words, words

I was intrigued by a passage on early transliteration of key words in the New Testament, in a most fascinating book about the history of the English language. Ooops, you yawned. Give me a chance.

Owen Barfield, in History in English Words, explains that “passionate Hebrew meanings were gradually imported into the cold and clear-cut Greek words” during the centuries, before the life of Jesus, when Egyptian Jewish scholars translated Hebrew scriptures in the Greek (Koine Greek) language to create what is known as the Septuagint.

The meanings of words change continuously, with changes in knowledge and social interaction, evolving cultural milieu, travel and other environmental factors. This has been happening since humankind started talking.

Barfield relates what happened in plain talk: “Seeking for words to convey such notions as ‘sin,’ ‘righteousness,’ ‘defilement,’ ‘abomination,’ ‘ungodly,’ the Jewish translators had to do the best they could with noises which to Heraclitus and Plato had implied something more like ‘folly,’ ‘integrity,’ ‘dirt,’ ‘objectionable practice,’ ‘ignorant.’

The Greek version of the scriptures was known in the synagogues of Palestine. It’s possible that Jesus 
read it.

I wonder what Jesus thought the words meant.

Owen Barfield, History in English Words (Hudson, NY: The Lindisfarne Press, 1953), 114-15.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015 All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment