In a recent debate on facebook between a Christian Evangelical, and myself the topic of what words mean came up. The positions were that words can mean whatever you want; which was in opposition to my position of, words have meanings based on their placement in a sentence, paragraph, or larger work, in addition to their placement within history. I backed this up with giving the historical definition of the word wench in relation to the modern day connotation. I thought that this was the most intelligent and inspiring internet posts that I had ever written, but alas, to my dismay they were deleted. I believe their deletion was due to the necessity for Christians to shield themselves from opposing ideas.
I am a very big advocate of knowing the historical meaning of words. Not only is it very interesting, like knowing that the phrase Good Morning used to be some kind of blessing, but it also informs the reader of the intent of the writer. One example would be, if you were to read a story or article written in the 1300’s and came across a sentence that loosely said, “Jessica was a Wench.” By our most current connotation of the word, wench means a slut, but back in the 1300’s it was a young woman, most likely of virginal status. This is of course why the historicity of a word is important.
This brings me to my most important point here, that words matter. The importance of what a word meant when the writer wrote it matters. I understand that for some Christians, American Christians, that they think that the “Holy Spirit” is the person who decides what words mean, but readers cannot just claim that some invisible force just decides a different meaning than the author intended meaning. This would be like that scene from Family Guy where, Stewie goes into the future with his future self and scrawls on Brian’s tombstone the word “Douchebag.” You can find that video clip here. Please go view it, it will definitely add to the explanation. Therefore, as you saw (I hope you viewed it, because if you did not you really are missing a well-placed example) in the future of family guy, the word “douchebag” isn’t an insult as it is in today’s society. This is why in the future of family guy were you to say that someone of with a pretty horrible personality was a douchebag, the people would be confused. If they knew the guy, they would wonder about your ability to judge character, because douchebag clearly means a great person. While, if they did not know the person they might be willing to give him a job, or loan him money based on your stellar recommendation.
This goes to the point that I was arguing with this American Evangelical Christian. See a different person decided to call me a fool based on Psalm 14:1, which states:
While the Christian uses this quote, as a lame way to hurl a personal attack at a person. By calling someone, who most likely trumps them in education, what they think is an idiot; they are not really doing that at all. What they are doing is incorrectly defining a word. In the biblical sense, as verified with the OED, (which I am very sorry I cannot link you to due to it being a subscription site) fool means a number of different things. But what is important is that the meaning of this word during biblical times, based on the Hebrew word that it was written in did not mean, stupid, idiotic, or having a deficient intelligence. Please see the NIV explanation here.
The Oxford English Dictionary does state the following about the word fool: “ A.
n. I. 1. a. One deficient in judgment or sense, one who acts or behaves stupidly, a silly person, a simpleton. (In Biblical use applied to vicious or impious persons.).” As you see, I have highlighted in red that the term in the biblical sense means a vicious or impious person. From Bibletools.org, it states that the biblical definition of fool has nothing to do with someone having deficient mental abilities but is based on the deficiencies seen within their moral/spiritual state. Now, you may be asking yourself what exactly the words vicious or impious mean. Well synonyms for these words are depraved and irreverent. Moreover, of course a non-Christian would be irreverent because why would a Non Christian respect a God that they do not believe in. I for one know that I would be highly offended if someone did not believe in me. However, see that is not what the Christian is trying to argue when they quote things like this to an agnostic person. What they are trying to do is not only avoid backing up their beliefs with factual evidence, but also insult a person without having the backbone to just do it directly.
So, not only is the person who quotes Psalm 14:1 being ignorant to his or her own biblical past, but they are also using it as a tool for deflection. However, I guess that is what happens when you only read one book and have the same opinion parroted at you. I prefer my approach by going to multiple sources and seeing if Scholars, and other learned people agree with what I am thinking. Sometimes, you are knocked down, maybe even bitch slapped by facts. Other times, you find out you were right. However, at all times, you improve your knowledge of the world.
For further understanding of these subjects, I suggest:
http://www.youtube.com/user/Thunderf00t – excellent commentary from a PEARList.
http://www.etymonline.com/ – to start out finding what words mean
http://www.oed.com/ – if you have a library card, you probably can access this site.
http://www.youtube.com/user/philhellenes#p/u/12/m0-K3AL2Gj8 – another excellent non-theist channel.
If you are a Christian and have some websites that talk about topics in a sensible way with logic, please suggest them to me, either in the comments section or by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also leave me a message on Google Voice. There should be a widget to the side, if not now, eventually. Thanks.