What Does That Word Mean? . . . .

born stable pict

Christmas: Born In A Stable?


“Now this word, in the original Greek, is the word _______.”

“In the Hebrew, the word is used to describe _______.”

“This is a compound word made up of _____ & _____.”

“We get the word ______ from it.”


Probably, all those who have had Greek & Hebrew in seminary have made such comments while teaching and preaching.  I know I have and still do.  However, I have become a little more cautious over the years of making reference to the meaning of words for several reasons . . . .

√  Because of a better understanding the very nature of language – whether it be Greek, Hebrew, or English.


√  Because of my limited education in the Hebrew language (3 years in seminary)

Who of us would think we know and understand Hebrew better than those who have spent their lives in the languages of Scripture?  I would rather defer to the linguistic experts (especially in Hebrew) or determine if that there are some other biblical scholars who propose an alternate and reasonable understanding of the passage or word.


√  Because of my limited education in the Greek language (6 years – college & seminary)

Even though the Greek language is far easier than Hebrew because of its similarity to the English language, too often pastors and teachers are willing to make comments about a Greek word which is being used and which actually stretches credulity.  As Dr. Mounce stated, at times he cringed as he listened to some preachers and teachers handle the Greek language.


√  Because of a long time realization that the Hebrew language is much more nuanced and flexible in expression from both Greek & English


√ Because of terrific biblical scholars such as William and Robert Mounce who make effective arguments about the meaning of words.

As he states, the context of the word is the most significant determinate of its meaning! This is true in the English language as well!  We can even run across a word which we have never heard and still get the general meaning of that word by its context.  Anyone who works with language is cognizant of that fact and experience.


√  Because of the strange arguments made by some “expositors” who take some “novel” positions on biblical passages, truths, doctrines, or verses.


That being said, let me provide an example of one the latest NOVEL understandings relating to the Christmas story.


Born In A Stable?

One of the latest “interpretative approaches” in regards to the “Christmas Story”, as recorded in Luke 2, regards the arrival of Joseph & Mary to Bethlehem.

The “interpretative position” which is being more and more commonly heard and argued is that Mary & Joseph did not arrive at a “commercial inn,” but that they stayed at the home of one of their relatives who was living in this – Joseph’s — hometown.

It is “argued” because there are no early church writers, nor pre-1900 writers who have ever maintained this position.   In arguing for such a position, the proponents add all kinds of unsupported speculation as to how it must have, could have, and/or did take place when Mary & Joseph arrived in Bethlehem.

Unfortunately, after a few people “buy into and teach this interpretive approach,” others now also preach this “fascinating interpretation,” without examining the grammatical support, the historical understanding of the early church commentators, or the very nature of the argument which Luke is making.

There are a good number of reasons to question, no less reject, this interpretative adventure.


(Link to PDF of full article)




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