I’ve been increasingly interested in words as I’ve studied the Bible.
Being that English is my second language I’ve been aware of the challenges of translating one language to another and this is especially critical as pertains to God’s words.
The Dutch word, "aardappel," or the Frisian word, "ierappel" both being similar to the French word, "pommes de terre," translated literally is, "earth apples." After we have seen, held, or tasted an "aardappel" we can interpret the word to mean to "potato." We have experience.
When dealing with other languages we always face this issue. Translation is easier. Interpretation requires experience. We have to know from experience the particular object or colloquialism to which the word refers. If the Dutch, Frisian, or the French did not show us an earth apple could we know for sure what it is?
In my personal Statement of Faith I’ve written, “I believe the Bible, in its original text, to be divinely inspired, infallible, and trustworthy. I therefore suggest that all translations be used with caution since they are the work of fallible men/women.”
Only the original text is inspired and to the degree that those who copied the original were diligent, and I believe they were for the most part, the original language copies would be inspired, or at least, very accurate.
Between translation and interpretation inaccuracies could be introduced.
This is not an attack on the word of God rather it is an attempt at “accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 NASB unless noted).”
I recently listened to an online message from an out of town pastor. His whole message was based on an inaccurate "interpretation" of a single word. He, in my opinion, did not handle the word of truth well.
With that background I’d like to review the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek words that are translated “Forgive.”
In my experience as a pastoral counsellor, I’ve observed that people have a very difficult time forgiving someone. Difficult, in that they never seem to be free of the hurt feelings and resentment. Rather than being a one time event, it became a repetitive act.
Why is this?
In the OT the words used for forgive are:
In the NT the words used are:
I believe that interpreting these words as forgive is a poor choice.
Forgive in English means “Stop feeling angry or resentful,” “No longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake),” “Cancel (a debt).”
In English, forgive is very much associated with a feeling. In the Hebrew and Greek culture the definitions seem very much to be tied to an action—send away, lift away, cover—rather than a feeling.
Our sin debt was paid for—not forgiven or canceled—by the blood sacrifice of Yeshua being the medium of exchange. It was an action, not a feeling, although love motivated the action (read God Cannot Forgive Sin). Sin cannot be forgiven, it is a debt that must be paid before we can walk away from it.
Actions and feelings are much like a horse and cart. The cart always follows the actions of the horse. Perhaps God is not so much concerned about our feelings as He is about our actions.
Has someone done you wrong? Forget forgiving them, declare it paid and drop it, to walk away from it, leave it behind, throw it away simply because Jesus did that same thing for you. Just don’t get all caught up in your feelings—they will follow your actions. Do something that evidences that act forgiveness using something tangible. Write the offence on a stone and throw it in a lake or out the car window on a country road.
Then, when the feelings try to take over you can recall the act and let those feelings go too.