CHAPTER TWO: WHAT’S IN A WORD?
What’s in a word? A lot, apparently. Words have the ability to identify things, relate facts and feelings, affect ideas and emotions, quiet a troubled child, or stir up a revolution. In fact, according to the scripture, words are so important and powerful that Jesus said people will be “justified” or “condemned” by their words. (Matthew 12:37). He also said that the words He spoke while on earth were “spirit and life.” (John 6:63). And Proverbs 18:21 says clearly that the very “power of life and death is in the tongue” (the words people speak). Wow! It seems that choosing the “right” word each time one speaks or writes is indeed crucial.
So what happens – with an ancient book like Job – as with many other ancient manuscripts — if a truth revealed centuries ago must be translated into another language, and new words have to be found that will relate that truth correctly? Well, if there is only one definition of a word, that task is relatively easy. But if a word in one language has multiple definitions, the translators have to be very careful to select the definition that abides by the original author’s intent and purpose.
Bible readers frequently wonder why, once in a while, they come across a verse or passage that sounds as though God has acted out of character or as though the writer of one book is directly contradicting the writer of another. The Book of Job abounds with those kinds of problems, but a few other scriptures frequently cause concern as well. However, the original Author of the book has the answer to that question. His answer is to point the reader to the person of Jesus Christ. How wonderful to realize that all of the answers human beings need are still in Jesus – always have been – always will be.
Now, it’s a simple fact that in order to reach the highest level of faith in God’s Word, people need to understand it. God Himself gave the key to doing that, but unfortunately, so much of the world – even a large portion of the church – has lost sight of the simple technique prescribed by the Author Himself.
If Christians want to fully comprehend God’s Word to them – including the book of Job — so that they can put it to work effectively in their lives and in the world around them, the first principle that they need to know and understand is this: all scripture — all scripture — must be interpreted and understood through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. Every word in the book must be understood through Jesus Christ. This formula for interpreting all scripture sets people free from nagging doubts and fears that they can’t understand God’s Word for themselves — or that someone else can lead them astray by false teaching.
Anointed Bible teachers can help people understand meanings of words and phrases by taking them back to the original languages and correctly defining words for them. But even without ever looking at a word or passage of Greek or Hebrew, the Bible reader can tell for himself if the point made or the picture portrayed in a passage of scripture matches Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament, of course, must be interpreted and understood through The New. But even the New must be interpreted and understood through Jesus and what He showed mankind while He was on the earth. It makes understanding God very simple, and it helps the Bible student clear up some things that may have seemed like discrepancies or disagreements between scriptures.
There are multiple scriptures that will verify this foundational point. John, chapter one, verses 1-3, (NAS): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Verse 9: “There was the true light, which coming into the world enlightens every man.”
There’s a part of a verse in the Christmas carol “O Holy Night” that says, “Long lay the world in sin and error, pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.” That’s so very true. When Jesus came, the soul of the human race finally recognized its value and its worth. They had fallen into sin and its curse, and had lost the correct perception of God and themselves. Their awareness was of their own sinful, fallen state, and they were in misery. Jesus brought light and revelation because He came to show just how far God would go to restore mankind.
The fallen human race had had a covenant with their Creator, but until Jesus came, bringing that covenant to fullness and bringing that light, humanity did not truly realize what they were worth — not until they saw Him and the sacrifice He was making for them.
“Long lay the world in sin and error … pining” … until Jesus came … and then God’s creation realized what they were all about and how valuable they were.
But go on to verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” V. 16: “For of His fullness, we have all received, and grace upon grace, For the law was given through Moses. Grace and Truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No man has seen God at any time. The only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. “
The Amplified Bible says in verse 18 of this passage: “No man has ever seen God at any time. The only unique Son, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. He has revealed Him, brought Him out where He can be seen. He has interpreted Him, and He has made Him known.”
Now, if a person wants to know what God’s like, and wants to know what the Godhead is like, there’s only one person to look at to find out: The One who brought God out; the one who interpreted Him. The Only-begotten Son has brought Him out where He may be seen.
The gospels are full of confirmation of this fact. Jesus Himself kept saying throughout His earthly ministry that it was not He who was working, but the Father. He said whoever had seen Him had seen the Father.
Then in Hebrews 1:1-3 (Amp.) the Lord gives another confirmation: “In many separate revelations, each of which set forth a portion of the truth, and in different ways, God spoke of old to our forefathers in and by the prophets. But in the last days, He has spoken to us in the person of His Son, whom He appointed heir and lawful owner of all things. …He is the sole expression of the glory of God; the lightbeing; the outraying of the Divine, and He is the perfect imprint and very image of God’s nature.” New American Standard says, He is “the express image of God.”
So Jesus alone is the total perfect imprint — the very image of God’s nature. To know what God is like, one must look at Jesus Christ.
Now in John, where it says the law was given through Moses and “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ,” that statement represents a huge leap forward for man’s understanding of his supernatural God. The word truth that is used here is from the Greek and it’s precise definition is “reality.”
So what John is saying, as well as Hebrews, is that through all of the Old Covenant, God was always trying to give His people some idea of what He was like and what he had in store for them. He tried to give them an idea of what His plan was to work out their salvation so that they could be brought back into the bosom of the Father. So that they could start over as the family that God originally wanted. So He spoke to them in what the Bible refers to as types and shadows, and that’s what they had in the Old Testament. Here in Hebrews it says He spoke to them in many separate revelations, which set forth a portion of the truth, and spoke to them through symbols and types of Jesus Christ and shadows of what was going to come to pass.
God set up the Old Covenant so that they could understand sin and understand the sacrifice that was necessary to pay for sin. They saw that a lamb had to be given to take away the sin and atone for what they had done. And God continued trying to help them understand. He set up the tabernacle in the wilderness so that He could explain through various parts of that tabernacle what the relationship was between God and His people, and what He wanted that relationship to be.
But when Jesus Christ came – in the fullness of time as Galatians describes it — when Jesus came on the scene, mankind no longer needed types and shadows. The human race no longer needed symbols. They didn’t need somebody to draw them a picture anymore, because here He was! WILL THE REAL GOD PLEASE STAND UP?
He has. The real God stood up and made a spectacle of Himself for all of the world to see and understand. The real God stood up in Jesus Christ. There is no other picture. There’s no need for any other picture. The real God stood up in Jesus Christ, and said, “Now, beloved, you don’t need symbols , or animal sacrifices, or the tabernacle, or any of this other stuff. Now you can get to know the “real” Me, because now I’m able to get up close and personal.”
And that’s what Jesus came to do. He was “reality.” Grace and reality came with Jesus Christ. The world didn’t have to wonder anymore what God was like. Jesus said when you’ve seen me you’ve see the Father. In other words: “What you see is what you get.”
Why elaborate so much on that point? Because the church at large accepts that idea mentally, but not in actual fact. So often, when people get to where the rubber meets the road – actually applying God’s Word to specific circumstances; knowing what they have faith for; knowing what they can stand against; knowing how long they can stand and fight the battle and not give up; knowing for sure what God’s will is and what it isn’t — in the hard places — the church, for the most part, fails to stick with what they see in Jesus.
They let go of the fact that Jesus is the “real” God and that what we see in Him is the final word. And even though they say they believe – and do believe at the level of their minds — they don’t really believe deeply enough to live their lives according to that fact. In the times of serious trouble, they tend to revert to the traditional teachings based on well-worn scriptures – poorly translated scriptures – that seemingly don’t line up with what Jesus demonstrates in His life. And because most of those scriptures have been accepted by the majority of Christians and handed down for generations, they somehow seem true and even holy. So most Christians base their faith on those passages rather than choosing to hold tight to what they see in Jesus.
So what does one do about those passages that seem to portray a God unlike Jesus? How does the average Bible reader get to the real truth in those scriptures? There is a simple method. In fact, it’s the method used in this study of Job, but it applies throughout the Word:
Step 1: Recognize that every passage of scripture must be understood through Jesus Christ, who is the only true picture of God.
Step 2: Recognize that any scripture that appears to be contrary to something Jesus exemplified in His life on this earth, has a problem, either with the translation or the interpretation of that scripture.
Does that mean the Bible’s wrong in certain places? No. The Bible is not “wrong.” However, some passages have been incorrectly translated to say something that the original Bible manuscripts did not say.
When the reader comes across passages that seem to show God saying something, doing something, or handling things in a way that doesn’t line up with exactly what Jesus did or refrained from doing in His life, a closer look at the words of that passage in the original language will bring the solution to light. Sometimes the problem lies in the fact that punctuation was not included in so much of the original work, and each translator’s own choice of usage can easily alter meanings. However, most of the time the problem lies in the definitions of words.
In the vast majority of cases involving those questionable passages, the reader will come across at least a word or two that, in the original language, has two or three different definitions. In other words, that word – and therefore that passage – could have been translated several different ways.
When the translators changed those passages to English, they chose one of those several definitions. Sometimes that method can work out just fine. But occasionally there’s enough difference in those definitions that it changes the picture completely. And when that happens, the reader has to look at those definitions and ask himself which one of them lines up with what Jesus showed the world in His life. It should go without saying that the definition that matches Jesus is the only one that can be correct.
Why were alternate definitions chosen at times? Often it was because certain words actually meant something different hundreds of years ago, when so many of the translations were being written. The meanings, especially the connotative meanings, have changed considerably. Other times, there was a space problem to be dealt with. One definition may have been available in a single English word, while the others would have required three or four words to render the meaning clearly.
One classic example of such a need to use multiple English words when translating from Hebrew is with Psalm 23. In the original Hebrew, that psalm contains only 55 words, whereas, the English translation, in order to be completely accurate, contains 115.
There may have been other reasons for choosing one definition over another, but discovering all of them is not the purpose of this teaching. It will suffice to say that Jesus Himself made it clear that unless what people believe lines up with Him, they are not believing the truth about God.
So, returning to the story of Job, the Bible student must ask himself if the picture he sees of God looks like the picture Jesus exemplified when He was here in the flesh. If it does not match Jesus, then it is time to look deeply into the original language and find the true meaning of the words – the meaning that does match Jesus Christ. The correct words are there – within the original language. The reader just has to want the truth enough to find them.
This fact is worth repeating: the correct words are there. That’s the beautiful thing about God’s desire to reveal Himself. He always provides the right words to do so.
In the following chapters, two specific examples of this problem in the book of Job will come under scrutiny, along with some other seriously misunderstood aspects of the life and experiences of this ancient believer.