My last post brought home the point that the Bible from Genesis all the way up to Revelations is a thoroughly Hebrew document.
Why is this so important?
It’s so important because language is a reflection of the culture from which it springs.
Whether examined from a sociological, anthropological, or linguistic perspective, the simple truth is that all cultures are firmly embedded in their respective native languages.
When God divided the world at the Tower of Babel, the tremendous impact was not just that the people had merely lost the ability to communicate among themselves.
The results were much more far reaching than that.
As a result of Babel, the people who could still communicate among themselves separated into new groups that grew into cities that eventually grew into separate nations.
And each nation ended up developing their own language, customs, and values.
Language and culture are inextricably linked!
You cannot separate one from the other.
Every culture has a set of philosophies and concepts that are totally unique to that particular culture.
And I should know, having lived on three continents (North America, Europe, Asia) over the span of my life.
When I worked as a Japanese-English translator, what I found particularly challenging was dealing with a Japanese word that really had no exact English equivalent.
Each culture has words found only within its own language.
This is why it can sometimes be very difficult to communicate to anyone outside of your culture.
First, you may be using a word that only exists in your language.
Second, there may be certain concepts and values that only exist in your culture and thus there would be no words for it in other languages.
For example, I have heard that in the Mexican Spanish dialect, there are a number of different words to describe the idea of “love”.
Apparently each of these words expresses a slightly different aspect of love and they have no direct English equivalent.
Because those particular aspects of love are foreign to English-speaking North Americans.
They only exist and can only be understood WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE MEXICAN CULTURE.
This reminds me that the Western notion that one should only get married to somebody you “love” or are “in love with” would be an odd idea when looked at from the perspective of other cultures.
In many other cultures in the world like the Middle East or Asia and places where matchmaking is prevalent, other things are given much higher priority than some fleeting and ephemeral concept like “love” when it comes to choosing a life-long mate.
So getting back to my point, this is EXACTLY THE PROBLEM WE FACE WHEN ATTEMPTING TO UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE.
We are dealing with a modern English translation of an ancient language embedded in an ancient culture.
We have to attempt to comprehend WHAT THE WORDS IN THE BIBLE MEANT TO THE HEBREWS who wrote those words.
Let me say that again.
We have to try to understand WHAT THE WORDS IN THE BIBLE MEANT TO THE ANCIENT HEBREWS who wrote those words.
We have to examine their words FROM THEIR CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE, NOT OURS!
Now what makes this endeavor even more challenging is that the ancient Israelite mindset revolved around a “way of thinking” quite different than ours.
This “way of thinking” was quite common for that era and was of course reflected in their native Hebrew tongue.
I think I need to clarify what I mean when I say “way of thinking”.
I am not talking about how we place different degrees of emphasis on different matters during a debate for example or how and why we disagree on what is important or not.
I AM TALKING ABOUT THE VERY THINKING PROCESS WE GO THROUGH WHEN WE RECEIVE AND PROCESS INFORMATION TO ARRIVE AT CONCLUSIONS!
I’m talking about the “STYLE OF THINKING”.
Here’s an interesting fact that I find quite mind-blowing actually.
Today most of the world…and definitely the Western world…uses a “Style of Thinking” that did NOT exist prior to 450 BC.
What happened in 450 BC?
That’s when the Greek style of thinking began to emerge.
It is this Greek style of processing information and forming conclusions that has pretty much taken over the whole world, especially the developed world.
You reading this, chances are very high, especially if you’re from the West, that you think like a Greek.
You think in a manner that scholars term the rational/logical style of processing information whether you realize it or not.
And all of the Bible translators going back to the Bible’s very first translation in 250 BC used this Greek rational/logical style of thinking.
But here’s the thing.
The Biblical Hebrews from before Moses up to the time of Yeshua and the Apostles did NOT think that way.
While it is true that by the time of Yeshua, some of the Jews of the Diaspora began to absorb the Greek style of thinking, for the most part, the Hebrews did NOT think in a rational/logical style and the Bible itself most definitely does not reflect a Greek style of thinking.
The Hebrews operated in a style of thought scholars term “ANALOGIC“.
Therefore, what the Hebrew writers of the Bible really meant can be totally lost through the process of translating analogical Hebrew thought into rational/logical based languages like Greek, Latin, or English.
We have to think like a Hebrew if we’re going to properly understand the Hebrew Scriptures, and that includes both the Old and the New Testament.
In my next post, I’m going to talk a little bit more about the Greek mindset or rational/logical thought and how it is preventing us from properly understanding the Scriptures.