Hebrew and Greek as languages

From: Eric Weiss (eweiss@gte.net)
Date: Fri Apr 10 1998 - 10:43:44 EDT

[A friend (who I believe has not had formal training in either language
- i.e., I don't believe he reads the Hebrew and Greek text but rather
does word studies with English-language helps) made the following
comments to me re: what he perceived to be differences between Hebrew
and Greek as languages and as vehicles for communicating their
respective messages, i.e., the words of the Old and New Covenants,
respectively. Would anyone care to comment on the substance of my
friend's remarks - i.e., how true or valid or perceptive they are? If
the discussion ends up veering outside the parameters of B-Greek or
B-Hebrew discussion, please continue to respond to me by e-mail
off-line. Thanks! - Eric Weiss]

Like English, I understand Greek as a transient, somewhat scavenger
language. Even Agape was
sort of commandeered and "shifted" for a special purpose in the NT.
With Hebrew, while you do
get a bit of drift and fashion among letters, etc., it is a very slow
creep indeed. Hebrew is
one of the most calcified and "fixed" languages this planet has ever
seen. Hebrews thought of
words as being "holy" and not to be tampered with flippantly. Thus,
creative "shifts" were
rare and everyone knew what every word (with its limited vocabulary,
this was not so hard)
meant. Greeks appear to be more like us - they do not think words
"holy" or sacrosanct, but
rather in a utilitarian sense. Hebrew, insular and rigid. Greek, broad
and flexible.
I see in this a type of the two covenants.

As you might know, God was keen on His people coming to one place to
worship Him in the Old
Covenant (OC). If you could not get there, you at least faced there.
Again, along these
lines, as an OC Jew if a prophet lived within your lifetime... you were
lucky. And the
prophets were 100% correct, or stoned. There was high quality, but VERY
little quantity. In
the OC there was a fixed pattern and a sense of stability. If you were
not Jewish, your
chances of being "saved" were slim. Like the Hebrew language it wears
as clothes - the OC
closed and carefully guarded.

In the New Covenant (NC), we have a distributed, decentralized grace
given - not a priestly class - to the
worst of men. As to place, no longer is this even a consideration.: "A
day is coming where it
won't matter where the Temple ought be..." I know perhaps two dozen
prophets, but can't trust
what anyone of them might say next without testing. We have quantity,
but the quality is
suspicious. The First Century Christians were accused of "turning the
world upside down".
Uncircumcised Gentiles receiving the HOLY Spirit <gasp!> This is messy
business, even if it
spread like wildfire. The Spirit is being poured out on "all flesh".
In general, the new wine
will surely break the old wineskin - it expands at a much different
rate. Like Greek, hard to
pin down and constantly shifting. A picture of the persecuted church
and the spread of the

Again, along this line, proper - HIGH Hebrew and colloquial, LOW Greek.

Perhaps I am seeing things, but I suspect that the LANGUAGE used was
part and parcel of the
message being communicated. The medium and the message have a
reinforcing resonance.

The vessel and the fluid in it must match...

"Eric S. Weiss"
- - -
Be skeptical of what you are about to hear when someone who hasn't had
at least a year or two of biblical Greek and/or Hebrew says: "Now, in
the original Greek (or Hebrew) it really says (or means) ...."
- - -

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