Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Story Time

At a conference I attended this weekend, a speaker made the point that the Bible is history. He doesn't call it a story. He calls them histories. Whenever I hear people arguing about things like that, I get the impression they're stuck on semantics.

It is a valid point to remind people, especially children, that the Biblical record is not a fairy tale. The accounts are not cartoons. Some people go so far as to abstain from vegetable or puppet depictions of Biblical passages. I don't care if you want to go to that extreme. I watched those as a kid, and I have just as realistic an image of the Bible characters as of anyone else whom I have never seen in person. But I agree it makes sense that you would want to make the distinction for impressionable minds.

Just to set the record straight, however, it is perfectly legitimate to call the narratives in the Bible "stories." The online Etymology dictionary entry for story is:

story (1)
"account of some happening," c.1225, "narrative of important events or celebrated persons of the past," from O.Fr. estorie, from L.L. storia and L. historia "history, account, tale, story" (see history). Meaning "recital of true events" first recorded c.1375; sense of "narrative of fictitious events meant to entertain" is from c.1500. Not differentiated from history till 1500s. As a euphemism for "a lie" it dates from 1697. Meaning "newspaper article" is from 1892. Story-teller is from 1709. Story-line first attested 1941. That's another story "that requires different treatment" is attested from 1818. Story of my life "sad truth" first recorded 1938.

In my word- and truth- loving mind, those who change the meaning of a word are accountable for their clarity, not those who retain the original intent.

1Ti 6:4
He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,

2Ti 2:14
Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.

Etymology is the study of the origins and descents of words. It is a fascinating study. JRR Tolkien developed a lot of Middle Earth by musing about the origin and relationships of words. The study aids in spelling, identification of languages, and choosing the best word in a composition. Any etymologist will tell you that the study of language is inseparable from the study of literature. I exhort you to both.

And don't argue about words. Defend truth. Simply state that Jonah and the whale actually happened, that every Word of God is true and trustworthy. Say that. Live that. Kids will catch on.

To God be all glory.

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