I beleive the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated, copied, and interpreted correctly. In the course of my studies of the Bible, I've discovered that it has a long and convoluted history. So, these are my discoveries and my musings of Christian history and doctrines.

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Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Sources of differences in understanding

Differences in understanding can come from several sources as I see it.

Linguistics
People who even speak the same language often have different understandings as to what the same word or phrase might mean. Indeed, this subject alone is such a complex one that some people like the anthropologist Deborah Tannen, Ph.D., have made careers out of studying it.

Geographical and Cultural Differences
For example, if someone from Britain says to an American that he wants a fag, the American might think he is a homosexual, when in actuality, he just wants a cigarette. Or, a car trunk in the U.S. is called a boot in Britain. A Canada, a couch is called a "shirley". Even within the United States, there are regional differences in language. When I moved to Mississippi from Las Vegas, having lived the bulk of my life in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, initially, I initially had a real difficult time understanding what people were telling me.

Many try to understand the ancient Judean culture from a modern Western perspective. Anybody who has grown up in the USA and then lived in (not just visited) an Eastern culture (or visa versa) can tell you that the difference in the way people think between the two cultures is like night and day.

Changes in Meaning Over Time

Ever try to read Shakespeare without the help of a Professor of English literature? It's not easy, is it? William Shakespeare lived during the 1500's and died in 1616. The King James Version of the Bible was published in 1611. To put it bluntly, the archaic language used in the Bible (the King James Version) make it extremely difficult for many people to understand it today. Many words used in that era have totally different meanings today.

Between the Sexes
Have you ever had troubles understanding a spouse, a boyfriend or girl friend? The fact that Deborah Tannen's book, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation is a national bestseller, attests mightily to difficulties that people of different genders, who even speak the same language, have in communicating with one another. So, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if a woman would get a different understanding from some text in the Bible than a man would.

And then there is the question "Should this verse be interpreted literally or symbolically?" That is a whole can of worms in and of itself - something to discuss some other day.

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