The Berean Expositor
Volume 16 - Page 64 of 151
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The Language of Doctrinal Definition.
pp. 14, 15
A plea for the fuller recognition of the importance of the
Hebrew words employed in the teaching of doctrinal truth.
In a recent discussion concerning the correct translation of a word, we turned from the
Greek of the N.T. and based our argument upon the Hebrew equivalent in the O.T. This
has appeared in the eyes of some as the result of a "policy"; instead it is the practice of a
"principle". On page 98 of our July 1925 number (Volume XV) we said:--
"Without attempting to justify or explain the following statement, I have come to the
conclusion that the language of revelation and of doctrine is not primarily N.T. Greek,
but O.T. Hebrew, and that it is dangerous to build up a theory upon the etymology of
Greek words without continually checking it by the Hebrew equivalent. We may look
into this matter upon some future occasion."
Let us give the matter a consideration now.
Doctrine rooted in O.T.
When we speak of such subjects as Sin, Sacrifice, Sanctification, Justification, Grace,
Forgiveness, Soul, Spirit, Life and Death, while we readily agree that the crown and
climax of these doctrines is to be found in the N.T., we most surely perceive that each
and every one of these doctrines has been practically defined once and for good by the
words used in the Hebrew O.T. This we found in connection with the word "faith" (see
pages 97-99 of Volume XV).
Seeing that the Greek N.T. is largely taken up with the fulfillment of O.T. promises, it
is impossible, if connected thought and sane argument is to rule, that doctrines should
suddenly take on characteristics that are derived merely from the meaning and usage of
the Greek word employed to translate the Hebrew equivalent.
When we read of sacrifice in the N.T., nothing pertaining to the Greek word must be
allowed to overrule or minimize the established meaning of the word in the O.T. It is
impossible to fix upon the Greek word translated "sin" and build up a doctrine that
ignores or treats merely as supplemental that Hebrew teaching which should rather be
looked upon as fundamental.
God and Lord.
Perhaps two rather extreme examples may help us to appreciate the position of affairs.
The Hebrew words El and Elohim are translated into Greek by Theos and into English by
God. These translations are quite correct so long as we leave them as translations, but the