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Interpreting the Language of Scripture 101

Updated on December 13, 2015
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Beyond "Old English"

Most people say that reading the "Ye Olde English" of scriptures is what makes it so challenging, but I'm here to tell you, it's WELL beyond old English!


So, what makes reading and understanding the scriptures so challenging? Truth is, many of the plain and precious parts were taken from the scriptures as the Bible was going through the canonizing process. Does this mean the Bible we have today is useless? No. Hard to understand? You can answer that one for yourself (and its probably why you're reading this hub in the first place!)

While many plain doctrines have been removed, there is another underlying form of scripture that remains: Symbolism. Its everywhere! From the sacrifice of Abraham's son Isaac, to the chapters within John's Revelation. And when symbolism isn't taking place, there are always traditional barriers, historic events, and strange terminology with wording. Fear not! For this hub has come to relieve some of the awkward pains!

Given as much, I'm still learning myself. There is the possibility of some of my definitions being incorrect (I am human after all). I also don't know the meanings of everything, but I have listed the ones that I do know. As I come to learn and understand more, I will correct any errors I have made. If anything appears incorrect to you, leave a comment and I will analyze it.

Common Terms and definitions

Stuff that repeats in the scriptures frequently


Beam/Mote - Used to illustrate judgement and hypocrisy. A mote is like a small sliver, where a beam can be defined as it is today

Betimes - Early

By and by - According to the Bible Dictionary, the term "...in 1611 meant immediately. However, in common usage today it has come to mean nearly the opposite"

Cavity of a rock - A cave

Cubit - Probably used the most when describing the dimensions of the Ark of the Covenant, and the building of Noah's Ark. So, just how long is a cubit? Again, Bible Dictionary holds the answers "Originally the distance from the elbow to the tip of the fingers. It varied in length, from 17 and 1/2 inches in the 8th century B.C. to 21 and 1/2 inches in time of our Lord"

Dagon - Fish

Dust - Ground, earth, dirt, etc.

Dwell/Dwelt - To live in/at

Eagle - Or Gier Eagle. Not an actual eagle, but a buzzard/vulture

Exhort - Strongly encourage

Firmament - Sometimes used as the expanse of heaven, space, or even just the sky

Flesh - Has several meanings: Flesh of beasts/fish/man, mortality, and the carnal nature of man. However, it is also used plural in terms of marriage; "cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh". Obviously a man and woman in marriage are two separate people. In this term, it is used to represent a family unit; and just the same, when "the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God" is quoted, it means one Godhead, one working Godly unit, one in purpose.

Girdle - Or to gird, in the form of a verb. Just what does this mean? A girdle is a type of belt/sash that Jewish people wore, usually to attach a coin purse to. It also held another purpose: Jewish customary dress was more like a robe that went down to about the knees. This style of clothing made it difficult when moving about with work and labor, so they would take the girdle and tie it between the legs, high enough that the long fabric wouldn't obscure the movement of the legs when working. Thus, gird up your loins.

Let - This one is tricky, and has a double meaning to it depending on the verse. Once again, Bible Dictionary gives us some insights "To prevent, hinder, impede, or restrain (Ex. 5:4; Isa. 43:13; Rom. 1:13; 2 Thes. 2:7). To allow or leave someone to do something (Matt. 8:22; 13:30; 27:49; Luke 9:60)."

Loins - If you're dyslexic, this might come across as "lions", but far from it. Loins is the par of the body where reproduction takes place. Ever heard of a loin cloth?

Meet - Qualified, suitable, fitting, proper

Nay - No

Roll - Add an "sc" in front and you get scroll

Sleep/Slept - Often used for the term of being dead

Stick - As used in Ezekiel with the stick of Judah, Ephraim, and Joseph. Follow the footnote on "stick" and it reads "HEB wood. Wooden writing tablets were in common use in Babylon in Ezekiel’s day"

Suffer - Allow

Tare - A poisonous weed that resembles wheat, so much so that it is not discernible until they are mature: Wheat heads bow, while a tare will stick straight up

Thee/Thou/Thy/Thine - All forms of you/your, but respectively

Tight (like unto a dish) - Mostly used in the description of the barges in Ether, it means they were to be built tightly, as to prevent the leaking of water, just like a dish shouldn't leak water

Verily - Truly

Ye - You in general form

Yea - Yes

Endings

-st/est - Doest, knowest...basically puts everything a form of action, or plural. Doing, does, know, knowing...

-th - Sayeth, doth, taketh...puts everything into present tense. In most cases you can remove the "th" ending to get the word you need. Says, do, take...

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Symbols

With the easy stuff out of the way, here comes some of the more difficult parts of the scriptures: Symbols and Symbolism. Albeit, there are still a lot of symbols and such I don't know, but I'll share the ones I do know (and I'll update as I run across more)


Arm - God's Power. When God makes "bare his arm", he shows forth his power

Branch - Used quite often with the olive tree analogy. The olive trees are representations of the twelve tribes of Isreal. A branch of a tree, is a piece, or a people, of that particular tribe

Dragon - One of many relations to the Devil; other relations include (but are not limited to) Wormwood, that old serpent, Lucifer, the beast, father of fear, father of lies, the destroyer, and of course Satan

Eyes - We hear on occasion, but mostly in Revelation, about beings/animals being "full of eyes". Not literal eyes, rather symbolic for knowlege/wisdom. They are full of wisdom/knowlege

Fire - Fire holds several meanings, but most commonly with glory/light/power. Chariots of fire, eyes of fire, and sometimes pillars of fire aren't literal fire at all, but rather light/glory. Feeling a "burning" in one's bosom, is likened to feeling the power of the Holy Ghost. There are instances where fire is literal, like Moses and the burning bush, or the pillar of fire that came down to stop the Egyptians as the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea

Horn - Horns are also a symbol of power. The dragon had 10 horns, the beast had horns like unto a lamb (lowercase "L"), four horns on the alter that sits before God...

Star - Again, used a lot in Revelations. Stars are used to symbolize spirits

Wings - Always associated with angels, only scripturally linked to Seraphims and the four beasts John sees in vision. Again, like the eyes, not literal. Wings symbolize movement, or the ability to act

Widow at the Treasury

Money System

Coin
Weight/Worth
rough USD average
Shekel
Averages 15 grams
$9.65
Drachme
"Half Shekel"
$4.83
Didrachmon
"Double Drachme"
$9.65
Stater
Four Drachme
$19.30
Denarius
KJV translates "Penny"
$20
Assarion or Farthing
1/16th of a Denarius
$1.25
Kodrantes or Quadran
1/4th an Assarion
$0.31
Lepton or Mite
1/2 a Quadran
$0.16
Talent
75.6 pounds
$22,049.50
Wikipedia used for some clarification and minor details; Bible Dictionary for money system details
Source

Numbers

Hebrew numbers tend to have a greater significance to them than meets the eye. While I am unsure of all the numbers and their placements, here there are several number sequences used throughout the scriptures:

2 - The Number 2 is used as a witness. Hence, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established". In today's times, there are two witnesses needed to convict someone of a crime, there are two witnesses present at baptism, missionaries travel in twos...

3 - The Number 3 is divine completeness. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and The Holy Ghost are 3 members that make up a divine and complete Godhead.

6 - The Number 6 is the number of man/mortality/sin. It is also just one short of being 7; it is one short of being perfection. 666, known as the mark of the beast, holds two purposes: It resembles 777, being only 1 number each row away from 7, and it copies the repeating 3 rule, but it is not 777. This implies that the mark of the beast, or the Devil, closely resembles, and may fool you to be God. Those of his armies, his followers both demons and men on the earth, and the Antichrist to come, may appear to be holy men, perform miracles etc, but it is not God. It is also a number of "commerce", buy/sell/exchange. Not to say that purchasing and selling is bad, but have you noticed the power of consumerism lately? All the lastest stuff, the flashy gadgets/gizmos/cars/toys...we want and want and are never satisfied. How much time do we spend on our electronics? Updating status on social sites? Throwing birds at concrete walls? We start to forget God as we idolize the works of our hands and become hoarders of our own. How a man receives this mark is participating in this kind of trafficking.


7 - The Number 7 is perfection. So, 777, or 3 7s, is complete perfection, hence the mark of The Father. We see the use of 7 several times throughout the scriptures. Some examples include (but are not limited to): God made the world in six days, and rested on the seventh, which he blessed and sanctified. Joshua led the children of Israel to march around Jericho once a day for 6 days, and on the seventh day he marched around seven times.

10 - The Number 10 shows up many times, and claims to be Testimony, and Law and Responsibilty. Examples of 10 include (but again, are not limited to) the parable of the woman and the 10 coins, The Bridegroom and the 10 virgins, 70 x 7 (amount of times to forgive someone, 7 being the above named Perfection) and the calling of the Quorum of the 70 below the 12 Apostles

12 - The Number 12 is used repeatedly and in many instances. The number 12 in Hebrew signifies "Perfect Government", or "Priesthood", which is uniform with there being 12 apostles. Other instances of the number include (but are not limited to) the 12 Tribes of Israel, The Bridegroom came at midnight (12:00) and the sealing of the 144,000, 12,000 from every tribe (12X12 to get 144)

Hebrew Traditions

One of the biggest challenges to reading scriptures, is the traditional barrier of the old world. While there are multiple different traditional aspects of the scriptures, here are a few to start:


Terms in 3's - Ever read "Woe woe woe", or "Yea Yea Yea"? Ever wonder why the heck they wrote it 3 times?? This is because in Hebrew, they don't have the typical "Good, Better, Best" format we have, but rather it's provided in the number of times the word is repeated. "Woe" would be the equivalent to the base "Bad", "Woe woe" would be "Worse", and "Woe Woe Woe" would be that look your parent's give you when you KNOW you're in trouble... In opposition, "Yea" is "Good", "Yea Yea" would be "Great", or "Very good", and "Yea Yea Yea" is "I just got perfect score on my ACT!!"

Clean vs Unclean - "In the Old Testament, the Lord revealed to Moses and the ancient Israelites that only certain foods were considered clean or, in other words, fit to be eaten. The distinction that the Israelites drew between clean and unclean foods had a great effect upon their religious and social life. Certain animals, birds, and fish were regarded as clean and acceptable to eat, while others were unclean and were forbidden" -Bible Dictionary. Basically, certain circumstances or situations could mark an item, food, or even person as "unclean", and to be avoided. A prime example would be pigs: Jews didn't eat the meat of a pig because it was considered the foulest of all creatures (granted, they wallow in mud). Certain parts of animals are considered unclean, and Leprosy could mark a person as unclean; hence when the leper begged Jesus "Canst thou make me clean?"

The clean/unclean was part of the Law of Moses (A set of carnal commandments that illustrated the basic purposes of God's commandments), and when Jesus came, he fulfilled much of law, as well as revealing the higher law of commandments from the Father, replacing (or in a sense, upgrading) the basic laws. The clean and unclean is still practiced to a degree among Jewish people today (Kosher, as its known as today), but the principle is to be practiced in a more spiritual sense. To be "clean" is to be free of sin, avoiding impure and unholy practices, and maintaining a righteous life.

LORD/GOD - Printed in small caps throughout the Old Testament. "LORD" or "GOD" (small caps) is very different from "Lord" or "God". Jews believed that the name of the God of Isreal (Jesus), was so sacred, it couldn't be spoken or written. (Hence why the Hebrew name of Jehovah, or YHVH, was written without vowels) In translation of the King James version, the writers kept that tradition, and used the word LORD or GOD, printed in small caps, in replacement for Jehovah (which is the Pre-mortal name of Jesus). Anytime LORD or GOD is printed in the Old Testament scriptures, you can confidently substitute it with "Jehovah"

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That's a Wrap

Its not much, but its something, right? I may not know everything yet, but hopefully this'll help to clear up some confusion and make more sense of some of the language barrier.

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