Tuesday, June 06, 2017

A fun nuance of Bible translation

Spend any significant amount of time around fundamentalists, especially of the Baptist variety, and you will hear quite a bit about the problems of "sensuality."  More or less, as dear sister Elspeth notes in the comments of this post, anything that is particularly enjoyable to the human senses is described as "sensual" in the context of verses like Romans 13:13, 2 Corinthians 12:21, and the like.

Well, just for giggles (and perhaps edification), I went and took a look at the original Greek, and it turns out that Strong's #766 has its closest parallel in a Greek word meaning "brutal."  A very interesting portion from Thayer's lexicon is there as well, indicating it may be a simple negative of the perceived character traits of a certain city in Pisidia, where citizens were renowned for strictness of morals.

Now in its context, and in its usage, it does tend to be used in the context of sexual immorality, but it appears, in my view, to denote specifically such cases where ordinary restraint is not practiced; that the behavior is no more human, but perhaps might be better described as "brutal". 

In other words, it doesn't mean that anything that appeals to the senses is wrong. One can drink the wine Jesus made, eat wonderful foods from a Michelin-starred restaurant, take your wife dancing, make exuberant love to her as Paul commands in 1 Corinthians 7, and not fall afoul of Paul's command to avoid "sensuality."  The problem comes, rather, when there is a lack of restraint that drinks to drunkenness, eats in gluttony, and exchanges pure marital love for fornication and adultery. 

It strikes me that the word "sensuality" in the NASB is somewhat unfortunate, as it can, in our "low study" culture, give us the wrong idea of what is being described.  Thankfully, God gave us experts in Greek, not to mention John 2:1-11, the Song of Songs, 1 Cor. 7, and the like to set us straight if we will listen.


Elspeth said...

I should be more scholarly, like you Bike, LOL.

Thanks for the additional insight.

Bike Bubba said...

Nerd at your service, dear sister. :^) Thanks for the plug at your site, too! (in my "defense", doesn't putting in a video of Chic count for something?)

BatteredRPSheep said...

Interesting even in patriarchal Israel that the husband's response to the wife's initial rejection in SoS 5:3 is not to force himself on her, or even plead with her, but take her no as a no.

Bike Bubba said...

Agreed--one might also note that if a husband were to do so, we might question whether he was being gentle with her as Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3:7, and Colossians 3:19 command. Count me emphatically among those who believe rape is possible in marriage for that reason, and thanks for the visit!