Let’s not argue about semantics

Grammar you never learned in school: Degrees of comparison in the first, second, and third person.  For example, I am slim, you are slender, she is skinny.

Many disagreements are dismissed as “It’s just a matter of semantics”.  Semantics concerns the ‘color’ or ‘flavor’ of a word or phrase.  Even though slim, slender and skinny mean the same thing, more or less, they each convey different information about personal vanity, diplomacy or envy.

Bible translators have to decide which coloration to put on a word or phrase.  The translator makes assumptions that lead to his choice.  Sometimes these assumptions stem from the translator’s beliefs.

For example, Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches and My Father is the vinedresser.  He will lift up any branch which does not produce fruit.”  Most translators say “cut off” rather than “lift up”.  Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary gives 15 ways to translate “cut off”.  Some of these meanings tend toward the idea of ‘elevate’ and some tend towards the idea of ‘dispose of’.  (If you wonder how the same word can have opposite meanings, consider the word ‘fast’.  It means ‘to be able to move rapidly‘ and it means ‘to be immovable’.  It also means ‘a period of time set aside to avoid food’.)

If a translator believes God will cut off and burn someone who doesn’t measure up, that may lead him to use “cut off”.  We’ll do better if we let the scripture explain the scripture.  This scripture is about being a systemic part of Jesus.  Also, it is about being cared for by His Father.  It says we are in Jesus just as surely as a branch is in a vine.  Branches don’t disconnect from and reconnect with the vine.  They are a permanent part of the vine.  Because our connection with Jesus is permanent, the Father’s care for us is like lifting a branch up into the sunshine so it will produce.  This is similar to the scripture that says we are members of His body.  Jesus will show care and concern for every member of His body, no matter how weak or unattractive it is; just as each of us does for his own body.  In fact, the weakest members will often receive more care and support than the stronger members.

Remember, scripture wasn’t written just for the scholars.  There is enough good stuff in the scripture to keep any scholar busy but we all can understand it when we read it, or listen to someone read it.  As a general rule, the less we rely on others for our understanding, the more likely we will understand the scripture.  This is because the scripture is a letter, so to speak, from God our Father to each of us.  He desires for us to understand it and He works directly with us so we can understand it.  When we read the Bible, we can rest assured our Father will give us understanding.

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