Food for Thought: Be Open to God's True Meaning
by Ardith Hoff
The winner of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee did so by correctly spelling the word koinonia. Most champions win with a word that few people have ever heard, much less know how to spell. The Scripps' press release defined koinonia as an "intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.” Adapted from an article on People. Com, 6/1/18
Finding just the right word, spelling and pronouncing it correctly are challenges for speakers, writers and translators. For example, I know a man who was part of a team of interpreters who helped translate the Dead Sea Scrolls. In a class he taught entitled, “How the Bible Happened” he explained some of the problems they encountered. He said that often there is no exact word to translate from one language to another. What’s more, they couldn’t always be sure of the context in which a word was being used. He said that they had to prayerfully consider each passage and then rely on what God seemed to be leading them to believe was the correct translation.
When my cousin was a missionary in Vietnam, and was first learning the language, she told a helper to, “Put the dishes in the cupboard,” but the inflection she used came out as, “Put the dishes in the prison.” It was a harmless mistake that got a laugh from her helper, but is an example of of how context matters. The word in Vietnamese is the same, but is pronounced differently whether meaning one place of confinement rather than another. It is similar to the English word “wind” meaning a rush of air or “wind” meaning to wind a wire around something to form a coil.
When we who are not trained linguists come upon words or phrases we are having trouble understanding, we need to prayerfully search for the correct meaning. This is not to say that we should not listen to what our pastors and bible commentators tell us, but that we need to guard against false prophets. We must trust God to implant His true meaning within us. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV