Christians – Stop Using Words that No One Else Knows!

can't hear you smallMy Beloved Brethren dwelling in fellowship through the righteousness and loving-kindness of our glorious and only begotten Lord, I declare to you this day the dire need for our confession and repentance from the sins of the tongue. For the sake of our evangelical outreach, witness and testimony, that we might see salvation, redemption and assurance of new birth in the holy spirit come to unreached sinners we must turn away from speaking in foreign tongues without an interpretation.

Translation: Christians – STOP USING WORDS NO ONE ELSE KNOWS!

Seriously, just stop it right now.

Imagine that you were not part of our weird church culture  The words we use on Sunday or in a prayer meeting would make no sense to you. It would be a foreign language. 

Here’s why you should stop using special christian words.

1)  Special Christian words block the way to God

Jesus was constantly angry at the priests because they were keeping people from coming close to God. They required people to eat certain food, dress a certain way and use certain words to worship God.  This made regular people think they could never be close to God. We are doing the same thing!

2) There is nothing special about this language, we are just used to it

Some might object that many of these words are necessary because they have special christian meaning. Wrong. When properly understood many of these words do have a specific meaning that is hard to match exactly in other language, but that doesn’t matter.   

The earliest followers of Jesus knew concepts about God that were easier to express exactly in Hebrew or Aramaic, their native language and the language Jesus spoke with them.   Greek didn’t have the right words.  But they didn’t hesitate to translate the message immediately into simple, everyday Greek. The Greeks would never understand the message in the old language.  New words had to be used.

3) It Messes Up the Way WE Think About God

Using these words creates a division in our brains between what we do for God or at church and our ‘regular’ life.   It makes church and God stuff feel different than the rest of our life. The bible recognizes no such division. When we pray with a bunch of fancy words our prayers easily lose the deep and personal connection that is supposed to be there between us and God.

Often we don’t even understand what we are saying. Take your pick of special christian words we use all the time and ask around at your church to see how many people can tell you what it means. The answer is very few.  I am talking about words we use literally every time we meet like majesty, gospel, holy and hallelujah. I estimate that over half the regular members at our church cannot explain what these words mean. If that is true then what the heck are they doing in worship, prayer or when the bible is being read?!  Not much. They are left out. Only the core, born and bred, older, native English speakers are able to really understand these words. The core worships while the rest sit on the sidelines.

by Isaac Whiting

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5 thoughts on “Christians – Stop Using Words that No One Else Knows!

  1. Dear Isaac, do you really believe that over 50% of our congregation are that stupid? Simple words like that? If so, then, you really do have your work cut out for you, don’t you, Pastor, leader, teacher?
    Your whole paragraph about Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek makes no sense at all. Did you not know that Greek was the universal language of that time? Everyone spoke Greek but not everyone spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. Even the Romans spoke Greek. Did you know that the entire New Testament was originally written in Greek?
    There should be no divisions between our ‘regular life and church life’ as there is only supposed to be one way to live no matter where we are. These simple words you refer to will not create division but lofty attitudes will.
    So dear Isaac, i am waiting to hear of your response to this;
    Regards from Beverly V

  2. Hi Beverly. thanks for your comment and taking the time to read my article thoroughly. I really do appreciate that.

    I think perhaps the tone of my article came across as rather aggressive. I hope that isn’t the case. I didn’t mean it to be offensive.

    I can see that the paragraph about Hebrew and Greek is not well written. I made some changes, but it could still be confusing. What I meant is that the original text of much of the Greek New Testament and in particular the four gospels, are a translation of oral stories told first in Aramaic. The original events and stories of the gospels all happened in Aramaic, the language Jesus and all the disciples spoke.

    It would have been easier for the apostles to write down the stories in Aramaic, but that would have been useless because the point was to send the message to the whole world. Even once they decided to write it down in Greek they could have stuck with Aramaic words, old words, for particular concepts. For example, they could have kept the word Messiah, which had no exact Greek translation. But they did not. They used a simple Greek word, Christ. We are in a similar position today. Many of the words we use are no longer standard English. The gospel must be translated into the English that is used outside the church.

    In response to your other question. Yes, i do think that much of our church doesn’t understand these words or has a very limited understanding of them. I know that may seem amazing to you. To you these words seem simple. In my experience of teenagers and young adults there is very limited understanding of words like holy, majesty, blessed, etc. The problem is not that they are stupid or that they just need to be taught. It is the fact that these words are used only in church. They don’t learn them or encounter them on a regular basis in everyday life.

    Also, consider how many attend our church for whom English is a second language and a fairly new language. Many new English speakers do not understand these words and have a difficult time understanding large parts of our service. And if I am right then you are right that WE have our work cut out for us. Pastors could never overcome this language barrier alone.

    I agree with you 100% that there should be no division between our regular life and our life of worship. They should be one and the same. This is my goal.

  3. Hi Isaac, This is fun!
    My material is found
    I have similiar material at hand but for your sake i have found on the computer so as to read it for yourself.
    I will stick to my story that Greek was the international language years and years before Christ was born. As well as the New Testament being written in Greek because before that there was no written word of it and even the Old Testament was written in Greek over 250 years before Christ.
    As you can see here Aramaic was only one of the languages Jesus and the disciples spoke. And this article is self explanatory of who called Jesus what in each of their languages.
    Also you see the teenagers and young adults having problems with these words. You go into two different categores here. First you say that they are young and then you say that they have English as a second language. Either way the church is a school for learning spiritual things. Naturally they would not use these words if they went to knitting school or Katate school. THIS is the school to learn these words along with the rest of us…… that is how we all learned them. That is why they are coming to Ebenezer and if we, as you suggest, stop using those words , then they will never learn them at all.
    And then we come to the point of who is responsible to teach these spiritual things and words to them…….. don’t pass the buck this way, Isaac. The rest of us never took on the handle of Pastor, or teacher or preacher. You did though.
    I think the people of Ebenezer are wonderfully warm and giving in every area including this one but it is not our responsibility. It is up to those of you who took on the mantle to seek them out and see what they are understanding and what they are not understanding in the work you are doing.
    Sorry Isaac, but personal responsibility is one thing i understand completely and this is yours. Especially since you see the issue as a problem to some at all.
    Now this is the materiali was relating to:
    Was the Bible written in Greek, and why?

    The Greek language was first spread by Alexander the Great after he defeated the Persian Empire in 323 B.C. Because of Alexander’s conquest Greek became the major international language of their time period. Greek became the dominant language of Israel and the world at the time of Christ. God used this to reach out to the Gentiles that did not speak Aramaic or Hebrew.

    The Old Testament was translated into the Greek language 250 plus years before Christ by the 70, Sanhedrin. This Greek translation was first done by Jews for Greek-speaking Jews in Alexandria Egypt. The Pentateuch was first translated, than later the rest of the Old Testament books were added to the translation.

    Long before the time of Jesus, the Jews stopped using Hebrew as their everyday language and kept it for their religious services. They continued to read the scriptures in Greek in the temple, but not exclusively. Aramaic was used as their common tongue, however they lived among those who spoke Greek. All Jews in Jesus day spoke at at least 2-3 languages and the language of the day was Greek like english today- they wrote it to reach the whole world. There is every indication during New Testament times Jesus and the disciples were multi-lingual. When it came time for them to quote the Old Testament in the Greek written New Testament, they preferred quoting from the Greek Septuagint. For example in Romans 3 there is a large quotation from Ps. 14, where there are six whole verses in the apostle’s quotation which are not found in the present Hebrew text, but are preserved in the Septuagint! (from Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

    The New Testament writers – the apostles quote the OT Greek Septuagint more then the masoretic text.

    The existing biblical manuscripts (with the possible exception of Matthew) tend to follow the Septuagint translation, and not the Masoretic Hebrew.

    The use of the Greek name Iesous (Jesus) (Yeshua) was common long before the birth of our Savior. It is found in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scripture. The form s identical in the Old Testament Greek Septuagint to that of the New Testament text. The book of Yahoshua (Joshua) in the Greek Septuagint is named Iseous naus in Greek, meaning Joshua Son of Nun. So it was the Hebrews themselves that used the Greek language before Jesus’ time.

    If you lived back then you would have called Jesus the Messiah- Iesous christos in Greek, and Yeshua ha Mashiach when speaking Hebrew. Jesus would respond to either of these names. The proof is found in the Scripture. The Romans would not actually pronounce his name in the Hebrew tongue, they would speak their own language when they spoke to Jesus?

    The disciples prayed together in Acts 1:24: “You, O Lord, (Kurious) who know the hearts of all,” (Acts 8:24, 5:14, also the Lord.) this is the word they used when they translated the tetragrammaton. This confirms that there is no requirement to speak his Hebrew name in prayer.

  4. excellent work Beverly.

    I want to be clear that I agree the New Testament was originally written in Greek. This is in fact my point. As your research indicates the disciples were multi-lingual, but their native language was Aramaic. They spoke Aramaic among themselves but were surrounded by Greek speaking peoples. Aramaic was the insider language, the language of the heart, the language Jews in Israel spoke with each other. This is the language they spoke primarily with Jesus and the language most of the people in the gospel stories were speaking.

    The website you quoted says the Jews were using Greek and the Greek Septuagint long before Jesus. This is true, but it is true outside of Israel. There is a distinction in the New Testament between Hebraic Jews and Greek Jews, see Acts 6 verse 1. The Greek Jews mentioned are those who were in Jerusalem because of the feast of Pentecost and stayed to join the church. The Jews of Jerusalem and Galilee spoke Aramaic primarily. You can see this is true of the Apostle Paul as well. When God spoke to him on the road to Damascus and wanted to get through to him He used Aramaic, Paul’s first language. See Acts 26:14.

    I contend that the Apostles used the Greek Septuagint in the New Testament for precisely the same reason they wrote it in Greek to begin with. They were not fully comfortable in Greek, not most of them, but they wanted to spread the message. So they used the language of those they wanted to reach. They did this not only by translating their thoughts and stories into Greek, but also by using very simple Greek. If you compare the Gospel of Mark to the writings of Plato or even to the Septuagint the difference is incredible. Mark is simple. A first year Greek student can read it without many problems. Plato or the Septuagint, classical Greek texts, take years of study and even then very few people can read them without constantly looking up words. Mark changed the style of his language so the message could go out. I think this is what we need to do.

    This IS fun Beverly. Your comments on the role of pastors need a longer response than I can give right now. I will write a blog post about the role of pastors soon and we can discuss it in the comments.

  5. Looking forward to that , dear Isaac !
    Also i would like to know which words you think could be used for these over 50%’ers instead of the simple words of majesty, gospel, holy and hallelujah, as you indicate in your blog here. They must have the same punch, me thinks.
    And i pray that you are not thinking that these simple words are the same as your beginning in the blog saying,’ My Beloved Brethren dwelling in fellowship through the righteousness and loving-kindness of our glorious and only begotten Lord, I declare to you this day the dire need for our confession and repentance from the sins of the tongue. For the sake of our evangelical outreach, witness and testimony, that we might see salvation, redemption and assurance of new birth in the holy spirit come to unreached sinners we must turn away from speaking in foreign tongues without an interpretation.’ Because …….
    ‘repentance from the sins of the tongue’ have to do with issues of ‘The Power Of Our Words’ as in…..
    Words – the Key to a Better Life
    “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21)
    Is there really power in your words?
    According to the Scriptures, the tongue has a power. Notice it says here, “the power of the tongue”. Its obvious that the power referred to here is not the physical power of the tongue as a muscle, but the power of the words it produces. I’ve never heard of the word “tongue” used in relation to God Himself. Its a word used of human speech. So we can see that the Word of God is saying that our speech is tremendously important, powerful and significant. So much so that our words are a matter of life and death. Perhaps this is why Jesus declared, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36). “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37). These declarations of Jesus Christ should cause us to sit up and take notice, and consider very carefully what kind of words are coming out of our mouths and why.
    What does the Bible mean by “idle words”? It means that when we speak to others, without seasoning our words with grace to honor the Lord, we have wasted those words.

    and then also ….. when it refers to speaking in foreign tongues it it means………
    All Bible-believing Christians who study the Word of God are in agreement that the gift of tongues is present in the inspired Scriptures. In the New Testament two lists of gifts appear in which the gift of tongues is included. In 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 “kinds of tongues” and “the interpretation of tongues” are said to be sovereignly bestowed gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 “tongues” appears in the list of gifts. We call them “spiritual gifts” from the Greek word charisma, suggesting that the gift is a bestowment of God’s grace. It is not a natural ability that one might develop, but rather a special gift as those appearing in the above mentioned passages in First Corinthians.

    The Holy Spirit is sovereign in the distribution of these gifts. Following the listing of the gifts, Paul adds, “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Corinthians 12:11). No one person has all the gifts, nor are we to seek the gifts. We must be careful that we do not confuse the Spirit as a gift to the believer with the gifts the Spirit gives to believers. Every believer has received the gift of the Spirit, but not every believer has received the gifts which the Spirit bestows.

    The Meaning of Speaking in Tongues

    The term that is used to identify the tongues movement is “glossolalia,” made up of two Greek words, glossa (language or tongue) and lalia (speech). It therefore means speaking in languages or tongues. Glossology is that department of anthropology which has to do with the study and classification of languages and dialects.

    The word glossa appears in the Greek New Testament not less than fifty times. It is used to refer to the physical organ of the tongue as in James 3:5; once in reference to the flames of fire shaped like tongues (Acts 2:3); at least once in a metaphorical sense when referring to speech as in the statement, “my tongue (speech) was glad (joyous)” (Acts 2:26). As far as I understand the remaining usages of the word it always means a language.

    When our Lord predicted the gift of tongues (the only mention of tongues in the four Gospel records) He said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). The adjective “new” (Gr. kainos) can only mean they were going to speak in languages new to them, that is, languages they had not learned or used until that time.

    So we cannot confuse your blog entry at the beginning with these things.

    I , for one, do have the gift of tongues. I use it only when in prayer as it is a prayer language for me and in public only if God would give me the unction. If He gives me the unction then i trust He has an interpreter in place and His will would be said//done for His glory. People who use the gift of tongues in public when they have not been called to are wasting their and God’s time as well as causing others to be upset. Upsetting people in such a way does God no favor.

    So dear Isacc, i will be looking for your blog as you promised, as i have plenty of time for it as i watch my darling Gerry resting and sleeping days and nights as i keep my eyes on him closely to be sure he is breathing well.You know cancer is an hour by hour, day by day changing thing for the sick ones and i need to be watchful. He was up to 120 pounds but has slid back down to 117 again on a 6 Ft. frame.
    So thank you Isacc, i haven’t had this much fun since i was going to Christian lIfe Assembly and had a girlfriend to debate with there. Now my spiritual pleasures are Sundays and Wednesdays when i get my son to be with my Gerry and i come to Ebenezer for spiritual joy and learning that i never get tired of. Blessings to you, friend.

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