Hebrew and Cucumbers

DSC_0353On Thursday, we begin taking Hebrew classes.

Okay, technically, we have already taken one semester of Hebrew. But that was years ago and it was an online course. Hence, only half of the alphabet looks familiar to me.

So Thursday, we will give it a second go. Some may ask, Why bother to learn a dead language? Isn’t it, you know, dead?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, not many people actually speak Hebrew anymore.

But this dead language is actually very much alive in ways you probably do not realize. Would you be surprised to know that the impact of the Hebrew language has been felt by millions all over the world? Would it surprise you to hear that without Hebrew, our own American culture would look quite different? In fact, chances are your life has been impacted by this dead language without even realizing it. How can this be, you wonder?

Because without the Hebrew language, we would not have most of the first half of the Bible: the Old Testament. And without the Old Testament–besides not knowing how the world was created and not having the entire first half of God’s word–we would not have much of our English language. Don’t believe me?

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Without Hebrew, we would not have: “The Lord is my shepherd” or “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”.

Without Hebrew, we would not have the phrase: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Without Hebrew, we would not have the expressions: “an eye for an eye“, “the apple of my eye“, “eat, drink, and be merry“,  “a drop in the bucket“, or “let there be light“.

 

If you have ever used the words/phrases  scapegoat, holier than thou or….wait for it…cucumber, your life–your language–has been impacted by this so-called dead language. Yes, all of these words and phrases have their origin in the original Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament.

But we are not beginning our not-so-first semester of Hebrew on Thursday just because we love the etymology of the English language.  As fun as that is, we will delve once more into the world of reading from right to left because we want to know the source of our English Bible.

We are blessed to live in a day and age where there are some pretty fantastic English translations of the Bible.  But they are still translations. Specifically, translations from Hebrew (most of the Old Testament), Aramaic (several portions of Daniel, Ezra, and one verse in Jeremiah), and Greek (the New Testament). And our desire is to be able to read these original languages so we can retain the purity of the original text as we seek to create our own translation of the Bible in a yet-to-be-named tribal language in Papua New Guinea.

So, the next time you use the word cucumber, think of us. And think of the people group on the other side of the world who we will hopefully be living among about this time next year. And pray.

Cameron for the Dodds

 

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