Words can be so much fun!
But on the other hand, the wrong use of a word can be very damaging. I have enjoyed discovering new information about the words we use.
For example, the word unclean.
Just this morning I found out that in Paul’s second letter to the believers in Corinth, he quotes from the Torah in chapter 6 and verse 17
Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says YHWH, and do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you….”
What is the context of this? In the surrounding verses, Paul is telling the Corinthian believers to be set apart according to the instructions given by YHWH. To not be yoked with unbelievers, to cleanse themselves from the defilement of the flesh and spirit, etc.
What I found especially interesting, is the Greek word used here (akarthos) that has been translated as unclean. It is the same as the word that is translated in Hebrew (tame) when referring to unclean animals, things unclean by nature. This sounds to me like a very clear case of Torah instruction by Paul. Just a few verses later, in chapter 12 and verse 21, he mentions his sorrow for the unrepented sin of uncleanness, using a variation of this same word, akarthos.
Note that this is not the same word that is used in Paul’s letter to the Romans (ch 14) or the book of the Acts of the Apostles (ch 10) or Matthew’s account of the gospel (ch 15), passages that are often used to teach that we no longer have to worry about what we eat. The word for unclean that is used in these instances is the Greek word koinos, which does not refer to things created unclean, but instead to anything that becomes unclean through a process or processes as described in the Torah. (such as a woman who is menstruating or a person that touches a leper) This kind of unclean can also become clean through another process also described in Torah. In some cases, the Rabbi’s added to this and called clean things unclean and Yeshua made it clear that they took it too far.
That is one instance of proper use of a word.
Let’s take the word sin.
How many times have you been taught the definition of sin given by the apostle John, that sin is lawlessness, or not keeping the Torah? Or did you realize that sometimes the word lawlessness is translated as iniquity in Scripture? For example, in Paul’s letter to Titus chapter 2:14 the Greek word anomia is used, but is often translated iniquity and we tend to read it a certain way. But if we read it the way it should be written, it says
Who gave Himself for us, to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people, His own possession, ardent for good works.
Doesn’t that just sound different than “redeeming us from all iniquity”? They are the same in essence, lawlessness and iniquity, but in our culture, we do not think of them the same. The correct word makes a difference.
Since we are on the subject of the law, let’s look at the word Law. A more accurate translation of the word Law in most cases, would be Torah. But many people find that a scary word because it has been taught from our pulpits as something to be avoided. In reality, the Torah is a set of instructions on how to be holy, on what YHWH expects of us. David and Paul both talk of how perfect and good it is. Try using the word instructions every time you see Law in Scripture and see if it gives you a different sense.
Here’s another one. Holy. All throughout Scripture we are told to be holy, but what does that mean?
If we read the below passage in Leviticus, we are told to be holy as YHWH is holy. That what we eat makes us holy. Have you ever been taught that? Yet, it’s written right there! Holy means set apart. So what if we use the word set apart instead of holy and see if it changes the way we understand it. Peter reminds us in his first letter to the believers in Pontus, Galatia, Kappadokia, Asia and Bithunia. You will see in the first chapter and verse 13-16 that he says to be sober, obedient, set apart, specifically in ALL behavior and then quotes from Leviticus 11:44-47, which instructs us to be set apart and how that takes place. Here it is:
For I am YHWH your Elohim, and you shall set yourselves apart, and you shall be set apart, for I am set apart.
Neither shall you defile yourselves with any kind of swarming thing that swarms on the earth.
For I am YHWH who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your Elohim.
You shall therefore be set apart, for I am set apart.
This is the law of the animals, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that swarms on the earth, to make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the creature that may be eaten and the creature that may not be eaten.
Just a few more words. =)
Church. Did you know that the Greek word ekklesia does not mean church? It means assembly or called out ones. When someone says church, what does it make you think of? A building, most likely. Or maybe the people that meet in that building. Could be even the formal service that takes place in that building. Read the following verses with the word ekklesia translated differently.
Paul’s 1st letter to the believers in Corinth (11:15)
For, in the first place, when you come together as an assembly or as called out ones, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it…
Paul’s 1st letter to the believers in Corinth (14:28)
… but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the assembly; and let him speak to him and to Elohim
What about Lord? In the Older Testament, the word YHWH is always replaced with Lord But our Creator has a name and He has told us what it is and asked us to use it. This is one way we can show others Who it is we worship, by using His name. He is not just “some” god, He is YHWH, the Creator.
And finally – Old and New Testament.
Originally, the Older Testament was called the Tanakh, consisting of the Torah (or words of Moses), the Prophets and the Writings. Our Messiah refers to them many times in this manner throughout the gospels.
The Newer Testament was originally called the Netzarim Writings, the Messianic Writings, or the Brit Hadasha
Using the terms old and new give a sense that the old testament is outdated, which is not the case at all. It is the foundation for the Messianic Writings and all that we believe.
I hope that the information in this post will spur you to deeper thought and to consider words that you use and the meaning they convey. There are other words that could be defined for more clarity in our language, but we will save them for another day…