Listen to the Language

Recently, I heard a Cherokee explain her spirituality.  She said that the Cherokee language has no words for negative things like guilt, shame, evil, etc.  It is simply not a part of their vocabulary.  Apparently there was not a felt need for it.

Also recently, I have read and heard quite a bit about traditional marriage.  The claim is that the Bible makes it clear that marriage is only between a husband and a wife, and that such a marriage is the only relationship in which sexual activity is not sinful.  The problem is that the Biblical languages do not have words for husband or wife. We translate something as husband or wife when there is a possessive applied to another word, usually the simple words for man or woman, but also the word meaning “lord, master, or possessor”.  There is a separate word for concubine but not a separate word for wife.  Maybe it wasn’t as important to the writers of the Bible as it is to us today.

What are we supposed to make of a language that has more than ten words that mean kill?  Check out a thesaurus for the number of ways we can call someone sinful.  What does that show about those of us who have inherited this language?

I’m told that the Eskimo language has ten different words for snow. It shows that snow is important to them.  What is important to us?

How many words do we have that mean love?  How many words apply to the concept of grace?  Not different adjectives applied to the same noun – that doesn’t count.

If we think that the concept is important enough we develop different words for the different nuances of it.

Language reveals culture.  Language changes. Hopefully the future will have more words for love and fewer words for sin.

Listen to yourself.  What’s in your language?

1 Comment

  1. Fay on Oct 27 at 4:25 am

    Again, very nice. I have thought about the snow thing before but not in this particular way…thanks.



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