Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Holy: Understanding it Better Through Staying on Course

"There is no shortcut. But there is a path. The path is based on principles revered throughout history. If there is one message to glean from this wisdom, it is that a meaningful life is not a matter of speed or efficiency. It's much more a matter of what you do and why you do it than how fast you get it done."  This quote on wisdom and method is from Stephen R. Covey.  I quote it, because the path to understanding holy is filled with pitfalls that can be described as shortcuts.  But also I am convinced that there is a very reliable path to understanding holy that will raise the level of certainty about its meaning to a new level. 

In this entry, I will outline the five steps in that process and follow up with short descriptions.  I have mentioned these steps before, but I now understand them better and I have a new commitment to this method after hearing and then reading Covey's quote.  They are: 1) Translating, 2) Transfering, 3) Totaling, 4)Training, and 5) Teaching. 

Please don't get overly hung up on terminology.  These five could also be called the following names, based on terminology drawn from biblical study and linguistics: 1) Comparing translations, 2)  Textual displaying, 3) Exegesis 4) Action and Post-Action charting, and 5) Universal classifying of words.  I have tried to use the most everyday language and the most principle centered language that I found in the literature of biblical exegesis and interpretation or in the literature of linguistics (the scientific study of languages).  To varying degrees, the steps are universal to all the major books on exegesis. 

Let me use one book as a specific example from the field of linguistics.  It is: Translating the Word of God by John Beekman and John Callow.  On the contents page (p. 7), they outline their principles of translation.  I would like to grade their book like a teacher does an assignment based on each of the five steps above. 

1) Translating: C+  (reason why: they do not balance both meaning and clarity as equals)
2) Transferring: B+ (reason why: they add to the traditional science of sentence diagramming)
3) Totaling: C+  (reason why: this is largely left implict rather than explicit, but they do practice it)
4) Training:  C+ (reason why: this is not covered in any real depth in this book)
5)  Teaching: A (reason why: the analysis of the universal classes of meaning is superb)

The book's overall score is: B.   It has for years been a very valuable addition to my library.  I could even upgrade it's overall score to B+, based on the fact that the teaching portion could be given an A+ (if I added that to my scale). 

Let's look again at the purpose for this entry on my blog.  It is to clarify and commit to how I am going to approach the meaning of holy.  It is only fair that my readers understand the principles of the method that I am using to get the results that I will arrive at. 

There are many tempting short cuts to avoid. The first is reading a greater volume of contemporary lexicons on Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek to be sure the meaning of holy is correctly understood.  The second is to read the greats of church history to make sure that the meaning of the word holy has not been lost in moving from a period of revival to a period of decline.  The third is to keep digging deeper into the etymology of the word for holy in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  These are all good, but they can become the enemy of the best method for determining the meaning of holy. 

So going forward, even while I will use these other methods on occasion, I have to make sure that my focus is on the 5 step method that I proposed at the beginning.  Again, the terminology may differ, but the method is universal.  This method may also be better in some books than others.  Again, what matters most is staying with the method rather than getting side-tracked.  I feel like I could have used my blog entries better in the past with the 5 steps being more of a primary focus.  Again, this does not say the other methods are bad, though it may still mean they are enemies of the very best.  So while I will still use these methods, I hope to use them more sparingly. 

In addition, I think each passage I write about will have to be broken up into each of these 5 steps, so that my each of my entries is not too long.  That is one of the limitations in communicating by blog rather than by article or book.  So please be aware that in the near future that I may be dividing my entries up in this way in order to keep things short enough for those who want a quick answer, but also long enough through labeling for the person who wants to go into greater depth. 

Returning to part of my earlier quote: "If there is one message to glean from this wisdom, it is that a meaningful life is not a matter of speed or efficiency. It's much more a matter of what you do and why you do it than how fast you get it done."   Reading lexicon entries is fast, dictionaries entries are even faster; but I am in this to solve the problem of a fair level of uncertainty, and not to gloss over any uncertainty.  Here we go in embarking on a path, rather than on a short cut!

In Christ,

Pastor Jon