YHVH = haShem

Will Wagers hyle at airmail.net
Thu Aug 26 23:52:04 EDT 1999

>Will Wagers wrote:
> > >At 09:30 PM 8/24/99 -0400, you wrote:
> > >
> > > >
> > > >Someone earlier mentioned a book that detailed etymological origins of
> > > >Biblical Hebrew terms. Could they look this up for us and 
>explain what the
> > > >book says about SHEM ?  SHEMAYIM? etc. ?
> > >
> > >Etymological studies are interesting enough- but they really do not help
> > >much in understanding either usage or meaning in context.
> >
> > I disagree. History is the context of all.
>This is a nice cliche,

Really? I've never heard it put that way and thought it summed up my
argument nicely without boring everyone to death.

>However, in the context of language, words mean what
>they mean because a society chooses to use them that way.  How
>they got where they are is sometimes an interesting study, but it
>frequently tells us virtually nothing about what the word meant at
>the time in question.

I think saying that "a society chooses" is a misleading, anthropomorphic
description of the process, intimating that society has a mind analogous
to a human mind, that it is free to choose, and that it consciously chooses.

The fact is: *society chooses* to use words in a remarkably consistent
manner, to modify those meanings in logical ways, and to choose most
often to have meanings mean what they have always meant: This is one
thing we can learn from etymology.

In this case, the "society choosing" what the words mean is two
millennia after the fact.

I disagree that the history of a word tells us nothing about the meaning:
In fact without a history, a word is meaningless.

Oddly, I often see people, who disavow that etymology is useful,
nevertheless argue that a word means such-and-such in this context
and so-and-so in that at this-or-that time, i.e. history or etymology.

It serves Christian theology well to be able to divorce the meanings of
Biblical vocabulary from their roots (as has been done with the *unique*
historical event of Jesus, which purportedly resets the clock of history,
making all that comes before irrelevant),  so that the 
context--theologically-determined--governs all.

Will Wagers	hyle at airmail.net	     "Reality is the best metaphor."

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