Preliminary Notes on a Scriptural Linguistics

linguistics1[These are just some notes, as the blog title indicates, that I am storing away for the time being. Just thought I’d share and see if I could get some criticisms/help/etc. Solus Christus! -h.]


1. A common assertion made by linguists is that meaning can get “lost in translation.” They mean by this not only that languages do not correspond to one another, strictly speaking, in a one-to-one fashion, but that some ideas are confined to their language of origin. This idea is confused on a number of levels.

a.The inability of the translator to find an adequate expression or set of expressions for a given idea implies only the inabilty of the translator, not the deficiency of language.

b.Moreover, Scripture implies that the linguist’s dictum is false. Consider:

i.Gen 11:1-9 teaches us that “the Lord confused the languages of all the earth.” God determines whether or not humans can understand one another.

ii.Thus, the Scriptures teach us that “interpretations belong to God” in Gen 40:8b.

iii.Likewise, in Daniel 5 we see that the one in whom the Spirit of God dwells (i.e. Daniel)is able to interpret and translate foreign writing. The implication is not that such a feat can be performed by all Christians, but only this: Interpretation, and translation, belong to God.

iv.John 19:20 tells us that: “Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.” The same fact is being expressed in three different languages. Each language is, therefore, adequate for the task of revealing Jesus Christ as the Son of God and King of the Jews.

v.This fact is repeated in Acts 2:1-13.

vi.Hence, we are commanded to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:19-20a)

Language, in other words, is not an absolute impasse. Rather, Christ, who alone owns interpretation and reveals truth at will to whomever He wills, ensures us that he will be with us until the end of the age. (Matt 28:20b)

vii.The New testament contains many phrases which serve to explain to the reader a certain phrase or word. For instance, consider the following.

a. ““Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name eImmanuel”(which means, God with us).” – Matt 1:23

b.”And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull),” – Matt 27:33

c.”Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” – Mk 5:41

d.”And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Mk 15:34

e.”Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” – Jn 1:38

f.”He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).” – Jn 1:41-42

g.”and said to him, “Go, wash in mthe pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.” – Jn 9:7

h.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).” – Jn 20:16

i.”Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity.” – Acts 9:36

2. Language derives from one source: God. However, languages evidently developed from the original speech which God imparted to man in the garden. This is evident given the words we find in Genesis 10:5 & 31.

3. Inability to comprehend one another is the judgment of God. Genesis 11:1-9 tells us that the Lord “confused their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech” (7a). The implications of this are as follows:

i.Harmonious linguistic communication is natural.

ii.Linguistic confusion is unnatural.

iii.Harmonious linguistic communication is possible.

iv.Linguistic confusion is not necessary.

v.Linguistic confusion keeps men from sinning as deeply as they truly desire.

vi.Harmonious linguistc communication is to be found among those who have been redeemed.

-As Paul says, “…in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Cor 14:19)


One thought on “Preliminary Notes on a Scriptural Linguistics

  1. cucumberlodge says:

    I found these notes quite provocative, having not considered these teachings in much depth previously. Excellent example(s) of how even God’s declared “confusion” of languages works toward his glory, as he builds his church and accomplishes his will. I was thinking about his delegation of the naming of animals to Adam before the fall, A beautiful picture of the relationship of creature and creator.
    Seemingly one could suppose that before the fall communication between creator and creature presented a perfected form of communication. This brings us back around to the exaltation of scripture as it boldly declares itself to be God’s Word, perfect, holy, unchangeable, and eternal. The answer to “lost in translation” thanks to God is “saved by his Word”. Thanks again.


involve yourself

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.