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Son of Man 6: Language


Issue 497

So I sit and write and you are now reading.  We use words to function every week and we take them for granted.  Is it not true to say that language is one of the defining features of who we are?

Dolphins, whales, chimpanzees and many other species seem to have their own language but, without being too patronising, you don’t find dolphin book stores or libraries anywhere do you?

Here’s what we know about the language context of the son of man.  Aramaic was the main language of the people and Nazareth would have echoed to its vocabulary.

The scrolls in the synagogues would have been covered in Hebrew, for that was, and still is the language of the Jewish faith.

Business, commerce, education and literature was conducted in various forms of Greek.  Alexandra the Great had exported that language and it had been adopted as the lingua franca or the common language for over 300 years by the time the living word was walking the roads of Israel.

Although educated Romans preferred and admired Greek, Latin was the language of empire.  Centurions, generals, governors and occupying forces would be employing this language very frequently to impose the will of Rome on the people.

There is much evidence that the son of man would have learned all four of these languages.  People argue over this using choice words in a variety of languages but it is certain that Jesus was multi-lingual.

Let me summarise.  He would have spoken Aramaic with his friends and family.  He would have learned Hebrew to read the scriptures.  Greek was the medium of education and latin the language of power.

Remember we are, with everyone else, looking on in astonishment at this young man growing in wisdom.  Can you see him speaking in four dimensions?  Aramaic from his heart to his friends, Hebrew for his soul to feed on the holy scrolls, Greek to connect with the finest minds and Latin to speak truth to power and strength.

Can you see the matrix of obedience as he acquires words of heart, soul, mind and strength?  It is an astounding labour of love that the word who was in the beginning would learn the syntax of time.

There is a theory that theologians call the kenotic theory.  Based on the Greek word kenosis it concerns itself with the concept that God entered himself to become to son of man.  Like numerous theological theories it misses a point.  What if anything is what part of being God actually means?  What if God’ character includes a loving, emptying and mysterious fusion of human and divine?  Theorise as much as you like, better to watch the son of man, empty and full, knowing and learning, different but with us.  Learning our languages.

But there is another language that this young Jesus was acquiring.  It has no official name but without it every other word is just noise.  While he was speaking to friends, to family, to his soul, to scholars and to power he was acquiring the language of imagination.

The gospels are full of stories, images, word pictures, metaphors, illustrations, observations, irony, humour, hyperbole and countless nuances coming from a man who knew how to speak to hearts, souls, minds, and power.

Learning and language to connect with someone is a labour of love.  The son of man came to seek, to save and to love.  It was such a labour that even now we are still feeding off his words, his stories and his imagination.

But he is at work within you.  Having learned he now teaches.  He has gone from student to teacher.  If you will empty yourself and submit to a teacher (as he did) then you will find within your life who will empower you to speak many languages of love and work.  He will teach you to speak to and from the heart, to and from the soul, to and from the mind and to and from strength.  He will teach you to dream, imagine and connect so that countless good things will flow into and through you at work this week.  Language fails me when I try to describe the complex and profound nature of the inner well spring of words which now reside in you because the son of man has taken up residence in your soul.

I do know, however, that he will teach you to speak.

Bible section

Luke 2:50-52

50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

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Series: Son of Man
Module: 2
Season: -
Daily Guide: No

Tags: communication, language, learning, teaching, translation

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Geoff Shattock

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