Who's on First?

Costello: Are you the manager? 
Abbott: Yes. 
Costello: You gonna be the coach too? 
Abbott: Yes. 
Costello: And you don't know the fellows' names. 
Abbott: Well I should. 
Costello: Well then who's on first? 
Abbott: Yes. 
Costello: I mean the fellow's name. 
Abbott: Who. 
Costello: The guy on first. 
Abbott: Who. 
Costello: The first baseman. 
Abbott: Who. 
Costello: The guy playing... 
Abbott: Who is on first! 
Costello: I'm asking you who's on first. 
Abbott: That's the man's name. 
Costello: That's who's name? 
Abbott: Yes. 
Costello: Well go ahead and tell me. 
Abbott: That's it. 
 That's who? 

Listen to the whole bit here.

Mere words mean nothing; words with a brain attached mean something and sometimes everything. All writing is words made up of an alphabet of letters, which are merely squiggly lines, which are merely bits of lead or ink on a piece of paper, which is merely small bits of wood, which is even smaller molecules and atoms, and we could go even further until we come down to energy, little bits of nothingness. In essence, words are not the squiggly lines but something that happens in the reader’s imagination. However, we often do not treat words as such. The squiggly lines sometimes become magic, taking on meaning of and in themselves as if they were a self. Words are the same in all the books in the world; sometimes the squiggly lines making up the letters are different, but words on paper are words and just words. It is what we think of when we are presented with the squiggly lines—the message represented—that is all important! For us in this discussion, the words of the Bible can hold a special, personal Message—how the Spirit interacts with humanity. That is the purpose of this study, to learn a little about how we experience God; how we, individually, interact with God in our lives. We study the words we have from the Bible or from other persons.  These words instruct us in how to interact with each other and God; and the words contain some of the inquestion "answers" we so desperately seek.

I have been intrigued with foreign languages and especially what the speakers of these languages associate with the words they use. Do they think the same thoughts when presented with the same word in their language? I have deduced that they do not and neither do we. In fact, two different individuals seeing the same word in the same language do not think the exact same thing. This being the case today, it was also the case in biblical times. Until I learned a little biblical Greek, I could not appreciate what the early Christians were thinking and by extrapolation, the messages they were experiencing. Of course, I still can't, but perhaps we can come closer knowing something about the language in which the early writers wrote. On the whole, biblical interpreters (all translators are interpreters) of the Bible have done his or her best to faithfully translate the words as they thought they should be translated, and it follows that each interpretation is unique. (See here for my attempt at Bible interpretation.)  Every one of these interpreters is a different person with different experiences and revealed messages; therefore, their interpretations have to be different. From reading the various translations they have produced, it is clear that the same Greek word is translated by different translators using different English words and by definition different thinking in the reader. They sometimes justify this application by stating that English has many different words for the same Greek word and then intimating that they know what words should be used in the interpretation, and for each one of them individually, they do. However, did the early Christian writers think many different things when they wrote a certain word, or did they think different thoughts when a certain word was associated with other words, or did each person think whatever he or she was predetermined to think from his or her experience?  Let’s look at how we think irregardless as to what is causing us to think this way.

Ponder on what you think about when you hear a word—for instance, think these words; sky . . . light . . . love . . . work . . . book . . . see . . . . Your experiences have taught you what to think each time you see each of these particular sets of letters without them being associated with other words. But, while you thought your own thoughts about these words, did the next person reading them think the exact same thing as you? Almost certainly not. However, we can only guess at how differently different persons think? We will never know completely because we are only our self, not somebody else. However, in studying twins who have the same DNA (virtually) but not the same experiences, psychologists have learned how much they think alike, and by inference how much non-twins think differently. Complicating this process is the fact that all languages have words with two or more completely different meanings (although word scientists can often find root meanings that relate them). For instance, the word run (moving fast, hole in hose, and scoring in baseball) has at least three completely different definitions getting their meaning from the associated words.

The early Christians who wrote the Bible had this major quandary: how to explain an inspired Godly message that offered no direct explanation?[1] Each had an inspired part of the message but didn’t know its meaning. They used such words as faith, hope, love, salvation, belief, see, etc. to portray “meaning” that they knew was meaningful to them individually, but they had little understanding and little way to explain them. Today, we have built for 2000 years on their amazing effort. Who is not astounded and overwhelmed at the inspired letters of Paul (actually teachings, extrapolations, and interpretations of Jesus’ messages)? Furthermore, God has worked through many other diverse persons down through the years who have placed their inquestioning contemplations on paper so that we can learn more about our particular messages.

Therefore, just as all the interpreters established their own meaning from the words, we on the receiving end can only individualistically get a personal, not necessarily the exact, message rendered by the author. While there is an ultimate Word and Message,[2] there is no universal message that we mere mortals can discover or even envision; all messages are personal and singular, from God for me and from God for you. Even though many claim it; no individual has the Message. Each of us has his own message, personal bits of the Word from God! These messages—concealed in innuendo; camouflaged in story, parable, and metaphor; contemplated through inquestion; suggested through interpretation; revealed through revelation—are there, ready for me and ready for you to contemplate and master. These messages are a never-ending evolvement by involvement with God. I think God planned it like this to keep us interested (for some of us, fascinated). If He had just laid out the Message for us, we may not value it, and we would not continue to “study to show ourselves approved unto God a workman who needs not be ashamed;”[3] there would be no “need” to fellowship with Him.

[1] Mark 4:11 He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that, "'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!' "Isaiah 6:9 He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."  [2] John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  [3] 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.