English blog

to be or not to be?

25-01-2012 - Posted by Andre Piet

Hebrew, the language in which the first part of the Bible was written, has no verb “to be” (I am, you are, he is, we are, etc.) The Greek language in which the second part of the Bible was written, knows this verb, but it is significantly less used than in our language. In many cases, the Greek language omits this verb. For instance, John 1:23 reads, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness”, but in the original text the word “am” is missing. When it is used, then this is because of the accent. For example, when Paul speaks to his people and says: “I am a Jew …” (Acts 22:1). With that, he expressly identifies himself with them. The verb “to be” puts an is-equal sign between two things. But unlike in mathematics (3 × 3 = 9), it is rarely literally true. Without that understanding, the difference between fact and opinion easily escapes us. “The movie is fun”, “the girl is nice”, etc. Also the use of the verb readily leads us to generalizations: “he is aggressive”, “she is depressive”, etc.* The verb “to be” identifies and, therefore, often indicates a representation. “The field is the world” (Mat.13:38), “this is my body” (Mat.26:26) or “the candlesticks are the seven churches” (Rev.1:20). In all these cases, the one thing stands (as a representation) for the other thing. About the verb “to be” the lexicon of the Concordant Version mentions:

It’s presence usually indicates that the statement is to be understood “in a sense”, not literally.

————————————————– *In the English-speaking world there is a trend called E-Prime, which states that the verb “to be” almost always distorts information and is, therefore, harmful to our communication and thinking. ——————————— translation: Peter Feddema