I am embarking on a new journey. It is not a journey of sight, or of sound. It is a journey of the mind. This… is a journey… into… a project on Faith.
Let me give you a little background:
I am taking a class called The History of the English Language. It’s super interesting. Even so, I didn’t come up with a paper topic until about a month ago. This is unusual for me since I am kind of a search and destroy idea generator. But come up with an idea, I did. With the help of my brother, who runs half this blog.
The next few blogs are not for the sensitive. They are for those of you who like to explore your thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and general qualms and quandaries with this, our American culture.
The project I am about to embark upon is a study of faith. Literally.
I am LITERALLY studying the word faith.
At first, I just knew I wanted to do a word study about an ambiguous topic in the Bible. Who do you call when you have a question about Biblical ambiguity? That’s right. You call Dan.
Poof! I had a topic. Here’s an approximation of what he said:
“Well… why don’t you look into ‘faith’. I mean, it’s a possession, right? But you can’t buy it, or sell it. And you can have a lot, or a little, or none. You can’t see it or touch it, and you can’t even prove that it’s real. Yet somehow, it’s supposed to be able to ‘save’ you, in some way.”
And so I dove in.
Originally, I thought: I’ll look into this business. I’ll find out what it is about ‘faith’ being a possession you can’t actually possess.
And then I started researching.
I went here, first:
The funniest part about this – at lease it will be to Dan – is that the library of congress call number is BS – not kidding.These are Biblical Encyclopedias. They have a lot of great information on the word Faith in them. There’s a bunch of stuff about the translations from Greek and Hebrew, and how many times the word ‘faith’ appears in the Bible.
This is where it gets interesting.
Turns out that the word ‘faith’ comes from the Greek word pistis and it appears in the New Testament (NT) as a verb, or noun over 240 times. It appears as an adjective 67 times. According to someone with the initials L.M., who wrote the ‘FAITH’ entry for The New Bible Dictionary, edited by J.D. Douglas, in 1962, if you have ‘faith + that’, you have a ‘faith’ that is concerned with the facts. However, if you have ‘faith + in + object’, you have a ‘faith’ that accepts something as true. L.M. does not specify whether this is ‘truth’ or ‘Truth’, however, but does say that “there is an intellectual content to faith” – a statement he does not back up with much.
Having learned this, I became somewhat frustrated. Fortunately for me, God decided to write the word ‘faith’ only 2 times in the Old Testament (OT). Once in Deuteronomy 32:20 and Habakkuk 2:4 – in the King James Version – once you step outside the KJV, you get all sorts of shit.
Deuteronomy 32:20 says: And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
Habakkuk 2:4 says: Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
So I began to wonder – as I pulled the books off the shelf and broke the rules and got a study room in the library with less than 2 people:
And I found out that if I’m going to look into why the word ‘faith’ only appears two times in OT, and add to that the fact that there is no Hebrew OR Old English word for ‘faith’, I had better look into the words ‘belief’, and ‘trust’.
The thing I like best about this old research is these old books. They’re kind of pretty:
They tell me lots of stuff about the words and where to find them. And they make me kind of want to hide in a corner with a flashlight. The print is really small and I don’t want anyone to know what I’m doing.
Then I found out that ‘trust’ is also not an Old English word. But ‘belief’ is. Well… sort of. So the English – those crazy Anglo Saxons, they had a word for believe – Yleve, or some spelling variation. And that pretty much took the role of the other two words, ‘trust’ and ‘faith’.
So now I’m wondering – what is it about this word ‘faith’, that makes it so popular among Christians? Why would the very first Bible translation borrow this word ‘feith’ from the Latin vulgate and not use ‘yleve’ instead? Why does it have to be faith?
And thus, my research gets more complicated. You see – in the VERY first English Bible translation, by this guy called John Wycliffe, the word ‘feith’ (pronounced the same way), is also in Proverbs. He uses ‘faithful’ and ‘faithless’ and ‘faithfulness’ all over, but I’m going to focus only on ‘faith’. I found out it’s also in Proverbs 11:15 – “He shal be tormetid with euel that doth feith for a stranger” – and that’s just Middle English. Remember, there’s no ‘faith’ in Old English. That shit sounds like Old Norse.
I don’t know if you can decipher that, but it essentially says, “if you lend money to a stranger, you’re going to get in some big trouble”. Let’s see what the KJV has to say: “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.” WTF, mate??
Let’s try a newer version: The NIV version says: “He who is guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it, But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.” — no wonder my parents would never co-sign for anything. I AM really strange. Might as well be a stranger. It’s IN the Bible, folks!
But why ‘faith’? Why does Wycliffe use ‘feith’ there instead of ‘guarantor’? I don’t get it.
Now – I shall pass this inquiry off to my brother and see what he has to say. Maybe… just maybe… we can get to the bottom of this.
In the meantime – I have dredged up some interesting tidbits to listen to that you religion fans might get a kick out of.