Thursday, February 2, 2012

What is the Language of the Church?


            Every religion seems to have its own characteristic language.  For Islam, the classic language would be Arabic.  For western Christianity (as history books tell us), it would be Latin.  What would be the classic language of Orthodoxy?   
One is tempted to answer:  Greek.  The New Testament was written in Greek (the international language of its day); the discussions and definitions of the Church’s Ecumenical Councils were conducted and hammered out in Greek (since those Councils were all held in the eastern part of the Roman Empire); and many of the Fathers wrote in Greek.  Would the defining language of Orthodoxy be Greek?
            Close, as they say, but “no cigar”.  In the defining moment of the Church’s life, on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles did not all speak Greek.  They spoke a variety of languages, languages that were understood by “devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).  The Pentecostal miracle of speaking in tongues revealed that all the languages of the earth would henceforth be equally suitable for the proclamation of the Gospel.  The New Testament may have been written in Greek, but it was capable of translation into any other language, in a way that the Muslims say that their Qur’an is not.  (To this day, Muslims insist that their Qur’an, as the ippsissima verba of Allah, cannot properly be translated from the Arabic, and “translations” of their book do not bear the title, “The Qur’an”, but rather “The Meaning of the Qur’an”.)  Christians, in contrast, have always insisted that the Greek of the New Testament can, and should, be translated into all the tongues of men. 
            Is there then no language that Christians can claim as characteristically their own?  I believe there is.  It is the language of Canaan, and by this, I do not mean Hebrew.  What do I mean by “the language of Canaan”?   Read all about it here, in my article posted on “The Sounding” blog.

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