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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament

Names of god

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A Translator of the Bible into the languages of heathendom finds his work beset with difficulties at every step. He has to feel about for bare words, and this not merely in such matters as weights, measures, animals, and trees, but in others of far greater importance. He constantly has to pause and consider whether he had better use a native word which but indifferently represents the original, or whether it be preferable to transfer or transliterate a word from the Hebrew, Greek, or some other language in the one case he is in danger of creating a misunderstanding in the mind of his readers; in the other he is certain to convey no sense at all until by oral teaching, or otherwise, the newly-grafted word has become familiar. He wants to speak of the flesh, and can only find a word which signifies meat; he has to speak of angels, and must choose between messengers and genii; he wants to write of the kingdom of heaven, and finds that such a thing as a kingdom is unknown; he has to speak concerning the soul and the spirit to those who are apparently without a conception of anything beyond the body, as was the case with the Bechuana tribes. [See Moffat's South African Sketches. Things are very different among the Bechuan as now.] Thus a version of the Scripture must needs be full of anomalies and obscurities at first, and though the substantial facts contained there in may be plainly set down, a clear understanding of its details will only be arrived at after much study on the part of native readers.

The difficulty of the translator usually begins with the name of God. To us English people this is so much a thing of the past that we cannot understand it; but, as a matter of fact, it has caused perplexity, if not dissension, in the case of many new translations in China the missionaries of the various Christian bodies are not to this day agreed as to the right word to be adopted, and consequently they will not all consent to use the same editions of the Bible. Some approve of the name Tien-Chu, a title which signifies 'the Lord of heaven,' which has been adopted for three centuries by the Roman Catholics; some adopt Shang-ti, the Confucian name for 'the Supreme Ruler;' others are in favour of Shin, which is generally supposed to mean 'spirit.' The controversy between the upholders of these various opinions has been very warm and earnest, and has called forth several deeply interesting essays. The arguments have usually gathered round one question, - Ought we to choose a generic name for God, i.e. a name which represents to the heathen mind a class of beings, or ought we to choose what may be called a proper name, even though that name may present a most unworthy notion of the Deity.


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Bibliography Information
Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Names of god'. Synonyms of the Old Testament. https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/girdlestone/63.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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