2cornucopias

Posts Tagged ‘Language’

Is It Just Semantics? by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2015/02/13 at 12:00 AM

In the field of language, Latin is classified as a dead language while English is classified as a living language. A dead language is one which is no longer spoken by any recognized group, and, therefore, its grammar and vocabulary will not change. (Latin has been dropped from most schools because “dead” was interpreted as “useless” which it is anything but.)

Since language is arbitrary to begin with, and is designed by those who use it, a living language changes all the time by adding new words, new meanings for old words, words dropped, etc. Words can pick up positive or negative meanings. For example, “pretty” used to mean “sneaky”.  Think of all the new words added to English in the past 30 years.

If you eliminate the English words with Latin or Greek roots, you are left with a very monosyllabic tribal language based on the uneducated Germanic tribes of Anglos and Saxons who settled in England.  Thus, English may be widespread in the world because of American power and wealth (as Latin once was for the same reasons), but it is not a very sophisticated language. For example, the Greek language, much older than English, has about 7-8 words that mean “love” depending on the object of the love. If a Greek uses a form of “agape,” we know he is referring to religious love. If he uses “eros,” we know he means physical love.  If he uses “philos,” he is thinking of friendship.

In English, we use only one word, “love” to cover everything.  Thus we love God; God loves us; we love our spouse, our child, our parents and the country. But we also “love” our team, pizza, ice cream, that movie, a TV program, and we’d love to visit Europe. We even love the dog.

Thus the word love covers so much that it really doesn’t mean much or at least not what it’s supposed to mean.  We have extended the meaning of love to encompass the ideas of like, prefer, hope, desire  etc.

The ability to love is one of those gifts of God that comes with our rational nature.

No other creature can love…not even the dog.  It is like language, law, conversation, fine arts, etc…a peculiarly human gift in that only humans can engage in it.

Love must be rational.  This is why we tend to look askance at infatuation whose root is “silly”.  Love can only apply to rational beings. You simply cannot love ice cream or any other food.  I suggest that these egregious uses of the word “love” may be part of the reason that love doesn’t mean what it used to mean; we have made it a vague and amorphous word.

We need to find a synonym that conveys the idea of love accurately.  We are always hearing that God loves us. Is it a quasi romantic, cutesy, mushy love that cannot even be really imagined, let alone grasped by the mind?  It is because of this false idea of divine love that the error of universal salvation has arisen. “God loves us so much, He would never send anyone to hell.” “God is good that He could never send anyone to hell.”

I suggest we think of love in  terms of “commitment”. Whenever we hear “love”, we think “commitment.” John 3:5 might be more meaningful if we said, “God was so committed to the world that he gave His only-begotten Son…”   “Commitment” suggests a much stronger reality.

All human love should involve commitment to another person. If there is no commitment, the “love” may be based merely on physical attraction (“He’s a hunk.”) or selfish utility  (marrying the boss’s daughter). The highest love involves a dedication/commitment to the spiritual and/or temporal well-being of another person.

There is another aspect of real love that contemporary society has rejected. The best love relationship has a divine component. If you do not have a commitment to God and the things of God, whatever love you offer will be diminished because God is the source of love. A true love song can be used as a prayer, too. Think of “Be My Love”. Then try making a prayer out of modern “love” songs!

When we think of love, think of commitment to someone. That is a strong word…and a bit scary, too. It does give us a sense of what is expected in a love relationship whether it is with God or another person. When we want to have a model of commitment, we need look no further than the Bible and Christ. God didn’t just say he was committed to man, he proved it on at least three major occasions.

The first was Christmas when a divine Being allowed himself to take on human form.

The second was at the Crucifixion when Christ committed Himself to rescue mankind potentially from hell.

The third is a commitment that we don’t usually think of in that way…the Resurrection. This was a commitment to the peace of mind of the faithful who, because of the Resurrection, need never doubt that the Gospels are true history and, therefore, reliable in all that they teach.

As Catholics, rejoice and be glad that our God has shown His commitment to us.

Have we reciprocated that commitment?

The Semantics of Easter

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/04/07 at 9:11 AM

Beginning in the 1960’s, a concerted effort was launched by influential clergy in the Vatican and their American allies to make radical changes in the Church. According to some, the changes have not enhanced the Church or the religious experience of the Catholic people.

The  most obvious was the complete overhaul of the Mass under the guidance of Archbishop Bugnini who worked in the Vatican. It was later discovered that he had been a secret member of the Masons, a group not well-disposed toward the Church. Bugnini’s goal, in his own words, was the make the Mass more acceptable to Protestants which is odd because Protestants do not even believe in the Mass in any form. The new Mass has been a subject of controversy ever since.

Another source of negative change were the  new Bible translations which too often actually altered the meaning of the original texts. One notable example concerns what used to be a familiar verse:”What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers (allows) the loss of his SOUL.” This is a warning from Christ Himself that the salvation of the soul is one’s most important need and goal. The contemporary wording is: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his LIFE?” Major difference. The idea that to become very wealthy and then die has no spiritual implications at all. To use a slang term…it’s a “tough break”, but little else. After all, everyone will “lose his life” at some time. The tragedy is not dying: it not being ready to die spiritually.

Another change for the worse is in the verse “My Father’s house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” The new reading is “My house is a house of prayer, but you have made it a place of business”. In the time of Christ, the Jews had to convert their Roman coins to Jewish coins for Temple use. Money-changing was, in itself, legitimate. However, the men were gouging the  Temple attendees by giving far less vale in Jewish money than for the Roman money they took in. Christ was not objecting to the business aspects, but to the almost extortionary exchange rates over which the people had no control.

An even more serious change occurs in the Easter narrative. It concerns to change from the active to the passive voice (Normally translations would not change the voice of verbs.) The active voice in grammar means that the subject of the sentence is doing something himself. Ex. The man opened he door. The passive voice means that the subject is being acted upon by someone/something else. The door was opened by the man. The door did not open itself. In my younger years, the Easter narrative always read: “Christ rose from the dead.”, “He is risen: which are in the active voice and means that Christ brought Himself back to life.

Nowadays the words are in the passive voice. Christ was raised from the dead.”God raised Him up.” The problem is that some might conclude that Christ did not raise Himself and had to be resurrected by some other power like Lazarus and widow’s son were raised by Christ.

If we begin to doubt the reality of the Resurrection, it will damage our faith and lead to doubt about other aspects of doctrine, especially ones we may not be much in favor of. Thus, it is very important that we understand that Christ as God brought Himself back to life. He did not need any help.

Is all this re-translation an effort to deny or denigrate the Person of Christ. I don’t know, but the history of the Church in U.S. Certainly suggests I might be so. If the faith of a Catholic is weakened or lost, there is no alternative. In the words of St. Peter, “Where shall we go, Lord, you have the words of eternal life.”

The Resurrection of Christ is the singular event in the history of mankind and of the Church. No has done it before or since. The Resurrection is a truly a historical event as any historical event you can name. It really happened and can be proved.

St. Paul tells us that if Christ did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time with Christianity because, without the Resurrection, Christ is just another teacher of doctrine and morals, but no more significant than any other teacher.

In the Easter season, the Church often speaks of the “joy of Easter”. This joy is not a physical or emotional joy as it was at the first Easter. It is the happiness that arises in the mind because we KNOW that Christ rose from the dead as He said He would. It is the joy of confirmation that all that He said is true. It is the satisfaction of certitude that we are followers of the true God and our faith is not misplaced. It is the assurance that our efforts to lead a moral life amid a grossly immoral culture are not in vain.  It is the hope that the blessed eternity that Christ promised to those who are faithful will actually come to pas in due course.It is the consolation of knowing that our God who took on human flesh is still alive and always available to us.

Live accordingly.

“Resurrexit sicut dixit.”

“He has risen as He said.”

Alleluia!

Is It Just Semantics?

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/04/02 at 7:53 PM

In the field of language, Latin is classified as a dead language while English is classified as a living language. A dead language is one which is no longer spoken by any recognized group, and, therefore, its grammar and vocabulary will not change. (Latin has been dropped from most schools because “dead” was interpreted as “useless” which it is anything but.)

Since language is arbitrary to begin with, and is designed by those who use it, a living language changes all the time by adding new words, new meanings for old words, words dropped, etc. Words can pick up positive or negative meanings. Ex “pretty” used to mean “sneaky”.  Think of all the new words added to English in the past 30 years.

If you eliminate the English words with Latin or Greek roots, you are left with a very monosyllabic tribal language based on the uneducated Germanic tribes of Angles and Saxons who settled in England.  Thus, English may be widespread in the world because of American power and wealth (as Latin once was for the same reasons), but it is not a very sophisticated language. For example, the Greek language, much older than English, has about 7-8 words that mean “love” depending on the object of the love. If a Greek uses a form of “agape,” we know he is referring to religious love. If he uses “eros,” we know he means physical love.  If he uses “philos,” he is thinking of friendship.

In English, we use only one word, “love” to cover everything.  Thus we love God; God loves us; we love our spouse, our child, our parents and the country. But we also “love” our team, pizza, ice cream, that movie, a TV program, and we’d love to visit Europe. We even love the dog.

Thus the word love covers so much that it really doesn’t mean much or at least not what it’s supposed to mean.  We have extended the meaning of love to encompass the ideas of like, prefer, hope, desire  etc.

The ability to love is one of those gifts of God that comes with our rational nature.

No other creature can love….not even the dog.  It is like language, law, conversation, fine arts etc…a peculiarly human gift in that only humans can engage in them.

Love must be rational.  This is why we tend to look askance at infatuation whose root is “silly”.  Love can only apply to rational beings. You simply cannot love ice cream or any other food.  I suggest that these egregious uses of the “love” may be part of the reason that love doesn’t mean what it used to mean; we have made it a vague and amorphous word.

We need to find a synonym that conveys the idea of love accurately.  We are always hearing that God loves us. Is it a quasi romantic, cutesy, mushy love that cannot even be really imagined, let alone grasped by the mind?  It is because of this false idea of divine love that the error of universal salvation has arisen. “God loves us so much, He would never send anyone to hell.” “God is good that He could never sent anyone to hell.”

I suggest we think of love in  terms of “commitment”. Whenever we hear “love”, we think “commitment.” John 3:5 might be more meaningful if we said, “God was so committed to the world that he gave His only-begotten Son…”   “Commitment” suggests a much stronger reality.

All human love should involve commitment to another person. If there is no commitment, the “love” may be based merely on physical attraction (“He’s a hunk.”) or selfish utility  (marrying the boss’s daughter). The highest love involves a dedication/commitment to the spiritual and/or temporal well-being of another person.

There is another aspect of real love that contemporary society has rejected. The best love relationship has a divine component. If you do not have a commitment to God and the things of God, whatever love you offer will be diminished because God is the source of love. A true love song can be used as a prayer, too. Think of “Be My Love”. Try making a prayer out of modern “love” songs!

When we think of love, think of commitment to someone. That is a strong word….and a bit scary, too. It does give us sense of what is expected in a love relationship whether it is with God or another person. When we want to have a model of commitment, we need look no further than the Bible and Christ. God didn’t just say he was committed to man, he proved it on at least three major occasions.

The first was Christmas when a divine Being allowed himself to take on human form.

The second was at the Crucifixion when Christ committed Himself to rescue mankind potentially from hell.

The third is a commitment that we don’t usually think of in that way…the Resurrection. This was a commitment to the peace of mind of the faithful who, because of the Resurrection, need never doubt that the Gospels are true history and, therefore, reliable in all that they teach.

As Catholics, rejoice and be glad that our God has shown His commitment to us.

Have we reciprocated that commitment?