Sometimes Words Have Two Meanings
August 31, 2022
Reading is an art form just as much as writing is also an art form. Led Zeppelin’s famous “Stairway to Heaven” points out “sometimes words have two meanings.” So, I think it is a commonly known fact. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is a well known maxim. Even in ordinary conversations similar difficulties arise. We can talk past one another just as easily as talk with one another.
It is difficult to talk with another person, if as soon as you start, their eyes glaze over. Also, if they have no exposure to the topic, if they are like me, their minds start to drift away to something else on their minds — like “I’ve got to mow the lawn today.”
Nevertheless, my genuine concern is how to read the Bible, because more than any other book, it is a treasure trove of practical wisdom concerning our eternal destiny. Too dramatic for you?
King Solomon advises, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Within this maxim is also an illustration of my insistence that words matter: “By way of clarification, there are two major types of fear in the Bible, fear-dread and fear-revere …The other type of fear is a good kind of fear, yir’ah (yeer-AH), in Hebrew, a wholesome fear. This fear can also be translated as reverence, respect, honor, devotion, or awe. Yir’ah is only found in the Bible in reference to God and parents (Lev. 19:3).” — https://www.jewishjewels.org/blog/the-fear-of-the-lord/
My first Bible after being “born from above.” was a King James cross reference Bible. It had a center column which referred to other passages of the same topic as I was reading. Good thing, because even though I grew up with that translation, I didn’t understand many of the words or had the wrong understanding of the language used. It was the language of the early 17th Century and that of Jolly Old England.
If one goes back to the original languages of ancient Hebrew and Greek, even the professional translators have some difficulty making sense with modern equivalences. That doesn’t mean that the cynical position that the Bible cannot be understood or relied on is correct. There are many Translations available today, and if a person uses a computer search, there are many resources that have all of them and also has a narrator who reads them to us! Besides that, as I have cited above, there are websites with expanded explanations.
This idea of understanding one another and especially understanding the authors of the Bible can be illustrated by the dozen or so Inuit words for snow and ice. Often translators are confronted with one word that has expansive connotations that cannot be expressed as one English word. However, they have done very well and hold up to any critic with only an elemental understanding.
It is not unlike a mechanic trying to explain to me what is wrong with my car: I just have to take his word for it. But it still has to jive with common sense, because I know it’s going to cost me.
Nevertheless, New Testament and Old Testament Dictionaries are a handy reference tool — hardcover or online versions. Besides these tools I use to confirm or overthrow my assumptions, there is this advice which has helped me immensely: Listen to what others have been learning and decide whether it confirms or opposes what you are learning, and if there is contention, review, double check your resources and readings. You can be sure of your thinking, but be open to a correction. You can be correct just as much as you can be wrong. Just don’t give any weight to the novice, the cynic, the rebellious, or the angry.
I guess my questions to you are, “Do you want to know the truth? Do you want to understand the truth?”
Sometimes words have two meanings.