Monday, April 13, 2009

Example of the importance of language

A few days ago I came across a great example to illustrate the importance of language, especially with regards to scripture. Granted, this example is not from scripture, but at one point it was not uncommon.

"God executes indifferent justice."

The key word here is "indifferent." Here, we're looking at a meaning of 'impartial,' not 'apathetic,' as pointed out by the source of this example and analysis (my thanks and credit to John Dierdorf). Also, Mr. Dierdorf kindly points out that "executioner" and "executor" have a related etymology and were used interchangeably, both meaning 'one who carries out.'

On a tangent, one would have to say "to execute to death." Again, Mr. Dierdorf kindly points out that due to the original meaning of the word, that phrase was not redundant, as it is now. Similarly, "damn" meant 'harm.' ("Damn" has one of the most interesting etymologies, btw.) So, it was not redundant to say "to damn you to hell."

Linguistic tangent aside, my focus here was to show how language changes, and in today's age, it has the potential to change very quickly. Because of this, we need to remember to take scripture, and whatever we read, in its proper perspective. Words that mean one thing now may mean something entirely different in ten years, let alone hundreds, and that's to say nothing of translation and further extrapolation, interpretation, etc. Remember, context is really important.

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