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Jerry- Historical and Literal word usages

Apr 03, 2006 03:35 PM
by Vincent

You wrote:

"Yes, have you read the Apocryphon of John?  I have analyzed it 
pretty closely and found that it was used as a sophisticated 
meditation template that is strikingly similar to the kabbilistic 
tree of life.  Whatever this community was, that wrote the 
Apocryphon of John, it is clear to me that they had worked out a 
system of worlds and correspondences for meditation  leading to 

Yes, I'd read the Apocryphon of John briefly some years ago.  It is 
found within the pseudepigraphal literature, and constitutes one of 
the finer examples of pseudepigraphal texts.  Within pseudepigrapha, 
we see many fine examples (although sometimes merely fragments) of 
how other religious belief systems actually permeated Christianity.  
Things that don't overtly show up in the canonized Bible of today.  
There are many implicit doctrines within the canonized Bible, which 
will seldom be noticed without some knowledge of ancient 
pseudepigraphal (and other) texts.

"As do most people.  The problem is that literal meanings change all 
the time.  That is why they keep revising dictionaries.  The King 
James translation is full of obsolete words as well as currently 
used words that had different meaning back then.  To make it worse, 
The King James Version is a translation of Greek and Hebrew 
scriptures that were already over a thousand years old.  So the then 
current Greek and Hebrew had already changed.   Worse yet, fro 
translating the OT, the KJV relied heavily on the Ptolemaic Greek 
translations from the Hebrew.   So it was a translation from 
Ptolemaic Greek into Biblical Greek, into Latin, into English. 
Confusion upon confusion.  It has only been in the last 125 years or 
so that new generations of Biblical scholars have been going back 
over everything, trying to clean up the mess."

When I use literal word meanings over historical word meanings, I 
use the latest dictionary interpretations as much as possible, 
unless otherwise specified.  Granted, literal word meanings change 
over the years, but so do historical word meanings from era to era.  
Of course you can quote what historical era that you using a 
particular word from.  I will likely quote the latest version of the 
dictionary.  Both the literal and historical meanings of words 
change from era to era.  This is specifically why the historical era 
must be cited when using the word.  But I just try to make things 
simple by using the era of 'now', and referring someone to the 
latest and most up-to-date dictionary, unless otherwise specified.

Now attached to the literal meaning of a word will also be found our 
individual interpretations of the dictionary definitions, insofar as 
we colorize words through rigorously (albeit often subconsciously) 
straining them through the filter of our subjective life 
experiences, thereby attaching mood and emotion to mere dictionary 

"That would be a standard historically based interpretation, because 
that is the sense the Romans originally used the word.  Since the 
Gnostics also followed Christ, I would also call them Christian."

Okay.  I view the word interpretation as quite literal too.

"I would say that this is less of a definition, and more of an 
observation of what a certain group of Christians did in the past.  
I recall once meeting an evangelical Christian who did not consider 
Roman Catholics to be Christian at all.  Therefore, in reference, to 
the crusades and the inquisition, she could say with a clear 
conscience that the people who did those things were not 
Christians.  I might have responded (but out of courtesy, didn't) 
that they might not have been Christian in her definition, but they 
were followers of Christ and did those things in the name of Jesus.  
The point I am trying to make here is that: the way we define our 
words also defines our personal reality."

I again suggest that every word that we use, whether in a historical 
or literal interpretation and/or context, is nonetheless colorized 
through the filter of our own subjective life experiences, thereby 
becoming uniquely imbedded with our own emotive energies.  Although 
we may use the same words, the concepts behind those words will 
nonetheless be uniquely colorized from one person to the next.  This 
remains true when using a word in either a literal or historical 

"I am more prone to answer such a query by simply defining the word 
according to how I understand it.  Sometimes I will be asked that 
question and suddenly realize that I am not as clear about the 
meaning of the word as I had assumed, and ask their input so that we 
my come to an agreement for the sake of the conversation."

I agree.  This is often the best way.  Again, we each colorize our 
words differently, according to the unique moods and emotions which 
we each (often subconsciously) attach to every word that we use.  
Dictionaries or historical references may often merely serve as a 
starting point at times, but can be very impersonal at best.

"In some cases, we might look the word up in a dictionary (if one is 
handy).  For every day conversation that is fine, since a current 
dictionary is supposed to define the word according to its common 
usage.  A very good dictionary, like the Oxford English Dictionary, 
will also show how the word was used in earlier centuries and how 
the meanings have changed. Sometimes, we need to know that too.  For 
Greek words, I have a nice copy of the unabridged Riddle and Scott 
Greek English Lexicon, which also shows how a Greek word changed 
meaning over the centuries. I also have similar lexicons for Chaldeo-
Hebrew, Egyptian, Sanskrit and Latin.  Sometimes there are 
interesting and helpful articles on the Internet.  But there is a 
lot of garbage there too."

Although english and greek dictionaries are fine tools, they do not 
always agree either.  And a single word may additionally offer ten 
possible definitons, insofar as definitions of a single word may 
vary according to context.  An effect originating from this 
phenomenon occurs commonly in the many different bible 
translations.  If the bible translator is going to interpret a 
particular greek word into english, in the context of a particular 
verse (say John 3:16), does the translator use definition A, B or C 
as presented by the Greek lexicon?  First the context of the verse 
must be determined, and translators do not always agree on context.



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