Hebrew vs Greek Mindset 4 & 5

Section IV.3 – Impersonal versus Personal

I used the example of describing the chair earlier. In that description, we saw the Greek form of describing as appearance oriented. The Hebrew described the function. In that description we also have a good example of impersonal and personal descriptions. The Greek describes an object according to the object. For example, my chair is brown. The Hebrew, however, describes things in personal terms. “I sit in it.” Because the Hebrew describes function over appearance, Hebrew does not have many adjectives. Also, since Hebrew describes things as it relates to self, the Hebrew language does not have a word for “is”.

In the next unit, we’ll be examining the doctrine of God. There are two ways to do that. One way is to say that we know God is this, because here are several Scriptures. A second way, however, is to describe God through His relationships. When we show God as personal, and we use that relationality of God as the foundation of our descriptions of God’s attributes, we can better define and better discern His attributes. The Greek describes God in terms of “God is love.” The Hebrew seeks to understand God as love by saying, “While we were still yet sinners, Christ died for us.” There is another aspect the describing God through His relationships. He is Triune, and we can thus seek to understand the attributes through the way that He communes with Himself. This is the difference between personal and impersonal descriptions. The Greek mind describes the object by the object, whereas the Hebrew mind describes the object through its relationship to the Hebrew or others around.

Section IV.4 – Passive versus Active Nouns

A noun is a person, place, or thing. The way that we handle nouns can either be Greek or Hebrew. Greek nouns are passive, meaning that they are what they are. Hebrew nouns, however, are action oriented, or dynamic. For the Greek, a mountain is where the crust of the earth is at a higher elevation than other parts of the crust of the earth. For the Hebrew, a mountain is where the crust of the earth has been lifted up above the other parts of the crust. Do you see the difference between active and passive? There is an action associated with Hebrew nouns that the Greeks don’t put upon their nouns.

The Greeks recognize a knee and a gift as nouns, which, alone, have no action. Your knee is located at the center of your leg. A gift is simply an offering, or a present. Yet, we learned from Aaron’s blessing that the word for blessing employs the knee and a gift in a different manner than the Greeks. Nouns in Hebrew come from the same root word when they are related. Thus, the word berak (knee) and berakah (gift) are related. Their relation is found in the action associated with these nouns. Berak literally means “the part of the body that bends,” or more specifically, “the part of the leg that bends”. Berakah means “that which is brought with a bent knee.” The verb form of the root word is barak (to bless), which literally means, “to bend the knee”. The nouns are associated with the verb, and the nouns are related to one another through the performance of the action of the verb.

The word av means father. It comes from two letters: aleph and beyt. The aleph denotes strength, and the beyt denotes a house or tent. Together, they form “the strength of the house.” Figuratively, we can translate it as, “the one who gives strength to the family.” Notice how the understanding of a father is closely associated with function, relation, and action. Likewise, the word for son is ben. Ben is made of the letters beyt and nun. Once again, the beyt represents the home or the tent, and the nun represents a sprout or seed. Figuratively, the nun can mean offspring, as in the seed of the father. It denotes a continuation, or perpetuation of life. Put together, ben is the one who perpetuates the home. Yet, Hebrew would also suggest the definition of a son as the one who continues the family name. The tent is associated with family. The Hebrew doesn’t think either or, but both. Notice again the definition of son is related to his function, relation, and action.


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