I think I just read one of the most helpful explanations of what biblical apocalyptic language was used for:
If you had been a journalist in AD69, what language owuld you have used to describe the Year of the Four Emperors? Probably the same kind of cosmic, apocalyptic language that was used after September 11, 2001. ‘The End of the World’? Well, naturally. But it wasn’t of course. It was simply the end of a world order in which certain things had been assumed to be fixed and unalterable, and which were now discovered to be frail and vulnerable. Of course, highly charged metaphors about the sun, the moon and the stars invest such events with a particular significance, just as journalist language does when it speaks of an election in terms of a ‘landslide’ or of a new campaigning politician as a ‘tornado’.
– N.T. Wright (2013), Paul and the Faithfulness of God, p165-6.
Emphasis in the original.
Controversial, I know, but I’m adding it to the pile of ideas anyway!
[Warning: I don’t normally swear on this blog but this post includes some swear words. Just letting you know if you need to prepare yourself!]
‘It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justifcation is there for a word which is simply the opposite of another word? A word contains the opposite in itself. Take “good” for instance. If you had a word like “good”, wehat need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just as well – better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning; or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already, but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words – in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that? …Don’t you see the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?‘
1984, Chapter 5
Language is a subjective thing. What counts as a swear word? The memory of my adolescent self is still apologizing for saying ‘damn’ so much here in the early days. I had no idea it was that offensive in North America until a few years ago.
What counts as a curse word seems to be constantly changing, dependent on time and place. And for Christians there are a range of different views on what kind of language we should be using, supported by a hundred different arguments and counterarguments (many drawn from the bible) to back up whatever position we’ve taken:
– “Don’t take God’s name in vain, people!”
– “I only use swear words when things are really bad – when they really express something!”
– “The bible says ‘let no filthy talk come from your mouth’. And swear words are filthy. So logically…”
– “Some people might be offended by those words, but that’s not what I mean when I say them.”
– “They’re just words – they have no power.”
– “You’re quoting the bible out of context.”
– “Those words are demeaning to women, we shouldn’t be using them.”
– “I am free in Christ to express myself.”
– “I use my freedom in Christ to sacrifice my self expression for the sake of others.”
I’ve heard them all.
This is not what I’m writing about today.
I’m at work, transcribing interviews about post-prison services, being hit by a wave of smug everytime I correctly spell the word “gaol”.
That is all.