When Dictionaries and Concordances Lie

As you will know, if you read this blog regularly, I like running. However, in case you aren’t sure what running is, here is the Cambridge dictionary definition:

of people and some animals) to move along, faster thanwalking, by taking quick steps in which each foot is lifted before the next foot touches the ground:

I hope that helps. When I run, I move more quickly than I do when I’m walking and there is a point in each stride when each foot is off the ground.

However, there is more to it than this. The dictionary also says that run can mean to flow as in this example:

The river runs (down) to/into the sea.

So, not only do I move faster than walking with both feet of the ground, I do so in a flowing motion. My running is as smooth and effortless as a river winding down towards the ocean.

And there is more:

Keep clear of the machines while they’re running.

So not only is my running faster than walking, smooth and effortless it is also constant and powerful. I’m like a machine, I can go uphill and downhill without any trouble.

I hope you’ve got the picture now. My running is something to behold; fast, smooth and powerful; like a cross between an Olympic athlete, a gazelle and a top of the range 4X4. You would be amazed to see me run.

Except it’s all tripe. I’m a slow, late-middle aged bloke who enjoys running but there is very little smooth, effortless or powerful about it. Just because run can mean flow, it doesn’t mean that it does and you can’t take the idea of a machine running and apply it to a bloke out for a jog.

However, this is just what a lot of preachers and Bible students do. They pick and choose among the possible definitions of a Bible word in order to support the point that they want to make. All of the major English translations may have decided that a word means “x”, but they look in the dictionary and decide that it means “y”, because that fits with their sermon. However, just because a Greek word can be translated by a specific English one in some contexts does not mean that the English word is always applicable. In order to accurately translate a word, you have to look at the whole sentence or paragraph that it occurs in; it’s not enough just to look in the dictionary to see what the word could mean and take your choice.

If you’d like a good example of how to look at a fairly common Greek mistake, there is a good example here.

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