Thursday, June 07, 2012

The English Language is Older than you thought

Because the blog is moderated, I don’t comment on it, but this comment is simply too much to ignore:

Vaughn Ohlman: …That is why I, as you know, don't use words such as 'single' or 'homosexual'; preferring the Biblical words 'unmarried' and 'sodomite'.

Does Mr. Ohlman realize not a single word of the Bible was written in English? If he wants to use “biblical” words—I suggest talking in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek as appropriate. Anything else would be……well….…just……not………biblical.


  1. Wow, yeah, I realize that.

    However, as a linguist, I also realize that there are true translations, and false translations. If you will care to look at the Greek (for 'unmarried') or the Hebrew or Greek (for 'Sodomite') you will notice that neither 'single' or 'homosexual' is a good translation of those words.

    Any other questions?

    1. Then I'm sure you also understand the distinction between denotation and connotation, right? BTW, what word, exactly, are you translating as "sodomite"?

  2. And what, precisely, do you mean by "sodomite"? An inhabitant of the city of Sodom (which, IIRC, no longer exists)?

  3. As to the original post, I'm not at all clear what the controversy actually is. In some sense, yes, the definition is "one man and one woman."

    But definition and usage are dialectically related: lexicographers base their definitions on how people use words (and change the definition when usage changes), and people change their usage based on lexicographers' publications (dictionaries).

    The question should not, I think, be, "Are we changing the definition?" but rather, "Are we changing an essential component of the definition?" Is the "[one] man and [one] woman" component of the definition essential or accidental? For example, we legitimately label as "legs" both four of a typical horse's appendages an two of a typical human's appendages (and would call illegitimate the labeling of a horse's tail or a human's arms as legs) even though there are significant differences between a horse's and a human's legs: we have decided those differences are accidental and the similarities essential.

    To regard the sex of the participants as essential to the legal definition based directly and specifically on any theological or scriptural considerations seems obviously nonsensical.

  4. H5467 for the hebrew, a word meaning 'scorched' and referring to the divine judgement visited upon a certain city.

    The dif between the two eords, as ysed in english is that ' homosexual' is meant to be scientific, non judgmental, and refers to an 'orientation'.

    'sodomite' refers directly back to gods judgement and focuses on the act. Thus it is possible to be a sodomite and not a homosexual, and vice versa.

    1. "Scorched." So, of course, "sodomite." Still, the Bible is nothing if not judgmental.

  5. Vaughn Ohlman,

    1) I was amused by the differential between base or secular words and “biblical words” as if the later has higher significance. Christians create this awesome being—a creature capable of creating a universe including concepts like time, energy and light. A God creating sunsets, love in the spring and chocolate. Then…after creating such a mighty creature…smash it into a box by limiting its capability to a reduced vocabulary of dead languages and the believer’s preferred translation.

    Your concept is one step backward from octogenarians using “thee” and “thou” when praying as if King James English was somehow more holy.

    I say one step backward because at least they can be understood as using familiar language after memorizing and reciting the Bible in King James.

    2) You use “sodomite” since it is more pejorative than “homosexual.” Our society has come to terms with words like “homosexual” and “gay” and frankly…some Christians such as yourself don’t like it. You desire negative connotation…judgment…to be assigned to homosexual behavior.

    You may fool others who share your beliefs; you may fool yourself that you are acting out of some higher spirituality. But we non-Christians see through the sanctimonious justification for what it is—a means to degrade while exalting yourself.

    The reason we know that is because you are incorrect.

    3) The better translation for words utilized would be “homosexual.”

    The whole idea of translating is to take words and euphemisms from another language and then put them in the best communicative form in the new language. For example, Matt. 28:9 states the women, when encountering post-resurrection Jesus, ”ekratesan auton pous podas” which translated literally means “held him by the foot.” Did the Greek authors really mean they rushed up and upon seeing Jesus, found the most important thing was to grab his feet? Of course not—this was a euphemism for respect and worship, to bow down toward another’s feet.

    In the same way, we come across certain words in the Greek New Testament and look for the BEST possible translation (not merely A translation) to conform to words we now use.

    Malakos in 1 Cor. 6:9 would be translated “soft” and could mean a boy prostitute, or adult prostitute or effeminate. Arsenokoites in 1 Cor. 6:9 & 1 Tim. 1:10 is a combination of arsen (“male”) and koite (“bed”) and would certainly be associate with a male homosexuality. Romans 1:26 is describing what we would call “Lesbian” and Romans 1:27 is describing male homosexuality.

    However, you prefer “sodomite.” “Sodomy” in our English language refers to putting objects in the anus for pleasure. It is generally the term used in rape. Both heterosexual and homosexual sex can involve sodomy. Both heterosexual and homosexual sex can NOT involve sodomy. So your use of “sodomy” fails to distinguish in any way between hetero- and homosexual. The better translation to limit the words to homosexual sex is…well…”homosexual sex.”

    But that is not incriminating enough for your agenda.

    P.S. I have no objection to moderated blogs. Not at all—I have firmly stated over and over each person has the right to control comments in any way they see fit. If they desire to limit comments to only people named “Earl”—I fully support their right to do so. However, if I am moderated (one is free to do an advanced google search on Stan’s blog to see my previous comments and my demeanor there) I equally support my right to not comment on that blog anymore. Once Stan started to moderate me (as is his right); I chose to stop commenting (as is mine.) I enjoy reading it because it amuses me.

    1. And the idea of 'sodomy' in english referring to anal sex: i would refer you to the post above and the difference between denotations and connotations. Most people who hear 'sodomite' in english do not think exclusively or even primarily, of anal sex; but of male on male sex, or even female on female.

  6. Interesting that you translate the greek terms instead of the hebrew one i actually was translating. And you disagree with me while agreeing. How... Odd.

    We both agree that the term 'sodom' (and thus its other forms (sodomy/sodomite) are pejorative; reflecting the judgement of god. Since that judgement is what i wish to express, and what the scriptures wish to express, how then is it an inaccurate translation?

  7. Vaughn Ohlman: Most people who hear 'sodomite' in english do not think exclusively or even primarily, of anal sex; but of male on male sex, or even female on female.

    Perhaps. (Not in my profession, but that may be of limited value.) However, EVERY person who hears “Homosexual sex” thinks it means…well…homosexual sex. As I said before, we use the best translation—one that communicates to everyone—not “a” translation—one that only communicates to “most.” Thus making it an inaccurate (or much less accurate, if you prefer) translation.

    I utilized the Greek in the New Testament rather than the Hebrew in Tanakh because to what extent Mosaic law is applicable in this regard is a matter of debate. The New Testament is safer ground, if you will.

  8. Nope. Twice.

    It makes no sense fir you to give your translations of greek words when we are discussing my use of an ot word.

    And if someone hears 'homosexual sex' they will hear 'homosexual' with all of the false connotations of tht word. No thanks, ill stick to 'sodomy'.

  9. LOL! There is very little out there that you won't notice, is there?

  10. I would say that language evolves...but theists tend to not like that word.

  11. Certainly we dislike the word 'evolve', as it represents an irrational world view premise.

    However I would be the last one to deny that language changes. However in this case we are not talking about a mere change of wording, but of the fitness of certain words to describe certain concepts... and even of the concepts themselves.

  12. Grundy (and The Barefoot Bum),

    I was never impressed with Stan’s use of “Definition of Marriage” as an argument against same-sex marriage. He argues repeatedly that “Marriage” is defined a certain way, and any change in that definition is inherently incorrect. (He equally argues, for example, the change in “gay” from meaning merry to homosexual is equally incorrect.) Why a change in definition is incorrect is never addressed.

    I have tried pointing out (as the Barefoot Bum indicated) dictionaries and definitions and language is a reflection of common usage. “Cool” meant a certain temperature 80 years ago. Now it means a certain status as well. *shrug* So what?

    Equally, translations would modify over time. For example, “thee” and “thou” was certainly appropriate for a 17th Century English translation of Greek documents. But now? These words are no longer in common usage. Much the same way “Sodomy” (originally created from the city “Sodom” as a term for homosexual behavior because of the story) has modified.

    Personally, I think “homosexual” is a better translation; Vaughn Ohlman prefers “sodomite” because of the term’s pejorative effect to reflect what he thinks is God’s judgment. *shrug* Let him. It only increases the marginalization of his belief and demonstrates he isn’t really concerned about correct “biblical language” but rather to vent his particular feelings on the topic.

  13. Totally agree, DagoodS

    I'm sure Vaughn hates the sin, not the sinner.

  14. "irrational world view premise": This phrase offends me as an atheist, a scientist, and a writer.

  15. I have always been irritated by the fact that Christians have perfectly good Biblical warrant for the words 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual', but use it for the wrong people.

    Jude 1:7 is usually taken as a reference to sodomy, and identifies it as 'heteros sarx' (strange flesh).

    Genesis 1:24 speaks of marriage as two becoming 'one flesh', echoed by Matt 19:5 and elsewhere in the NT. It would be appropriate to speak of this as 'homos sarx' (same-flesh).*

    As a Christian I saw this as a conspiracy to get Christians to use the wrong words. I suspect as it becomes less fashionable to express views critical of sexual orientations others might well pick this idea up and run with it; holding a 'God hates heterosexuals' sign lets you feel more-Biblical-than-thou and avoid ugly confrontations; that you are almost certainly being taken for a parody or an extreme SJW-type notwithstanding.

    * Though arguably more accurate would be 'miasexual' (mia sarx - one flesh)