Many Words/Many More Definitions

D L Henderson
4 min readSep 3, 2022

September 1, 2022

To my dismay, I have found from my social media experience, words matter. Above and beyond that simple premise, each and every person has a different understanding of the words being used — their words and other people’s words. It’s a particular chaos from the story of the Tower of Babel where God decided it necessary to frustrate Mankind’s ideas to build alternate stairways
to heaven — which, in fact, are no ways at all and are opposed to His Way — unfolding throughout Biblical history and culminating with Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

Thus, I arrive at this particular conundrum. People talking past each other — not necessarily for lack of trying to have a good talk — but for truly misunderstanding what exactly the other person is trying to say!

We have to see the context of the words and phrases being used. Clues are picked up by voice inflection and facial expression. Typing words, phrases, sentences, etc. on social media deprives us of any real communication of ideas without repeating over and over and using different verbal approaches. It’s tedious and frustrating and often breaks down relationships — old and new.

My written topics are usually based on my experiences and my studies of the Bible. I believe words matter and the idiom that “something is lost in the translation” applies to understanding the Bible. Context is very important, including the culture and the events within the timeframe of History. Translating from original languages, such as Greek and Hebrew, present unique difficulties since they often require phrases to convey their message- not just a single English word. Along these same lines is the illustration of the many Inuit words for “snow” needing several English words to draw the same picture. In the same way, an individual’s understanding of the Bible can be skewed simply by this difficulty in the process of translation. Best efforts sometimes fall short. So, I often refer to Greek and Hebrew academic resources who actually know the Greek and Hebrew languages. This makes understanding Bible passages — both the context and the true message understandable. The problem cynics raise of assumed Biblical contradictions evaporates.

Please bear with me as I try to give a couple of examples Below is an illustration of my point of what is so confusing in our conversations.

Definition of theology
1: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, especially, the study of God and of God’s relation to the world
2a: a theological theory or system
b: a distinctive body of theological opinion” (Merriam Webster — https://www.merriam-webster.com/)

Definition of faith (Entry 1 of 2)
1a: allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY
b(1): fidelity to one’s promises
(2): sincerity of intentions
2a(1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God
(2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
b(1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof
(2): complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction. especially a system of religious beliefs (ibid)

You see, even English words can be defined in several ways! Therefore, extended discussion is essential and patient, active listening must be more than just a technique. Open mindedness, too, from realizing your words may mean different things than my words, even though our sentences are exactly identical is a beginning. This can be applied to philosophy, politics., everything. For example, most times when people say “socialism” they mean “communism” by that meaning “dictatorship.” However, another person realizes the first two are economic systems as is “capitalism,” while the third is a political system as is “democracy.”

So back to my concern for people to gain understanding of the Bible: Faith can mean different things to different people, say the Catholic faith or the Presbyterian faith and their established core principles. Or it could be understood as faithfulness to any set of chosen principles. Theology likewise can mean to one person the academic study of all religions and/or philosophies and to another, sitting on the same park bench, a set of core beliefs of a particular sect.

“So, what are we talking about? I forget” the conversation ends, and we part ways and continue, 0ne to the zoo and one to the library…

It’s complicated. But as King Solomon queried, “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?”

Further illustrating my point is a lengthy but enlightening discussion of the various Hebrew words for “fools” at this website: https://iblp.org/questions/what-are-five-types-fools

Now, this little essay could go on and on, but let me end with this and turn you to your own thoughts and considerations:

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” — Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 and “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” — 1 Corinthians 13

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D L Henderson

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between