(Editor's Note: Special thanks to Morrison Lee for permission to post his article here. We offer this material as a brief excercise in hermeneutic education which will greatly aid in the proper interpretation of Scripture. Enjoy!)
The Semantics of Biblical Language
'The Sea.' A Case Study.
by Morrison Lee
Introduction 1) Background - Mindset Preparation
2) Semantics - what is semantics?
Meanings, especially logical relations
3) Method - studying with a concordance
Body Case study - The Sea
Conclusion The implications of semantic studies in the prophets
biblical writings are very, very old. The New Testament documents were around
long before cars and long before electricity. They were old long before Australia
was discovered by Cook. They were old before good King Sejong ruled Korea. They
were old before the age of navigation and before man discovered oceans. They
were old before Genghis Khan went forth to conquer and before the Renaissance
of Europe. They were old before the Middle Ages, and already nearly 1,000 years
old when Chinese culture reached its height in the Tang dynasty.
Old Testament documents are far older. They were old in the days of Hellenistic
civilization. They were old before Alexander began his mission to spread Greek
culture. They were old before Socrates was ordered to drink hemlock and before
Plato wrote about it. The first five books of Moses were old in 1,000 BC when
Assyrian culture was at its height, when colorful winged kings adorned the
walls of temples in Nineveh, its bustling capital.
great antiquity of the biblical documents should warn us moderns against
reading the bible our own modern terms. This may seem obvious, but the bible
cannot be read like yesterday's newspaper. The modern world and the biblical
world are thousands of years distant in time, in thought, in culture, in ideas
and in geography. While it is true however that preaching the gospel is a
modern living activity, and an
important one for Christians, understanding the bible is a different activity,
one that requires a careful study of the ancient world of the prophets by
understanding the meanings of their words. This brief case study is intended to
show two things:
. how to
locate the biblical meanings of biblical terms
biblical terms are not limited to a simple always-literal meaning.
2. Meanings of Words:
is the study of words and meanings, especially the logical relations between
words. How does one word relate to another? What is the connection between one
word and another, and how do they combine to form patterns of meaning?
meaning of a word is located in the way it is used: usage makes meaning. Find
out how a word is used and you find out its meaning, or meanings. Here is a
simple example. How is meal related
to a gym, and how are meal and gym related to brick?
Consider the word ‘squash.' Squash is
a fruit, as in ‘This squash tastes nice.'But squash is also a racquet sport.‘I
like to play squash.' And squash is also a verb as in, ‘His toe was squashed by a brick.' These three sentences use the
same word differently, and each meaning is located in a different logical
context. A semantic explanation of squash
might look like this -
ripe squash tastes nice.
#1: + ripe + edible + tasty = food -> meal
like to play squash at the gym.
#2: + game + indoor = sport
toe was squashed flat by a brick.
Squash#3: + action + crush = flattening
in this example three unrelated things; meal,
gym and brick are related to the
term squash. Studying how a word is
used is standard practice in lexicography. Compilers of modern dictionaries
determine the meanings of words by their usage - find out how a word is used
and you discover its meanings. Semantics is the discipline that explains the
meanings, and especially the logical relations between words.
3. Method - studying
with a concordance
bible concordance is a book that lists bible words and cites the places they
are found. It often quotes a small piece of context. It makes finding bible
terms very convenient. An exhaustive concordance shows the location of every
bible term. Take for example just three occurrences of the term sea in Exodus. (King James Version)
stretch your hand over the sea Ex 14:16, 27
Sea to go
back, made the sea dry Ex 14:21
blow, the sea covered the Egyptians Ex
locating the terms with a concordance we observe how the word is used by
reading the context of Exodus 14-15. What can we infer from the context? This
kind of observation + thinking is called inductive
thinking. It begins from observing the biblical facts then making a
probable inference from them. It is differs from deductive thinking, which first begins from the idea that something
is already true; eg. (1) X is literal.
(2) It says X, (3) therefore X must and can only mean literal X. The problem here is that we must assume(1)is always and only the case. On the other
hand inductive thinking does not guess, but observes first. Induction was the
foundation of the scientific revolution of Copernicus. He didn't simply guess
that because the sun seems to go around the earth it truly does, but compared
the movement of the planets as well. This was more reliable because it began
from observable facts, not human reasoning. Induction begins from close
observation and moves to a generalization. Studying from a concordance works in
the same manner. It has three steps.
we read the narrative. In Exodus 14:15 we observe that Moses (the man of faith)
stretched forth his hand over the sea. This resulted in the sea parting for the
faithful in Ex 14:21. In Ex 15:10 the text says his Egyptian pursuers (without
faith) were drowned in the sea and perished.
we can observe the use of the term the sea.
How is it used and what can we infer?
Here the Red Sea . the
sea is a large body of water
Moses' faith parted the waters . faith
has power over the sea
- The faithful uninjured
. the sea has no power over faith
Egyptians drowned .
the faithless are powerless over the sea
we generalize a concept. In the case of the exodus the sea was:
. a trial for the faithful
. an agent of punishment for the unfaithful
a concordance is very useful for finding words and comparing usage. A brief
comparison allows simple conclusions for further testing. What do we find when
we consider all of the other three
hundred and eighty-nine occurrences of the term the sea in the King James Bible?
CASE STUDY. THE ‘SEA' IN THE BIBLE.
uses of the term sea (Heb. Yam, thalassa in the LXX Greek) in scripture
The term sea compasses large rivers as well
as large bodies of water.
. The Red Sea -
. The Great Sea -
Josh 15:12 (Mediterranean Sea)
. The Sea of
Galilee - Num 43:11
. The Salt
Sea - Josh 3:16 (Dead Sea)
. The Nile
river - Is 18:2,
. The Euphrates river. - Is 21:1; Jer 51:36
To the Jews
the sea was a large body of water, whether inland or coastal. Alexander Cruden
in his concordancewrote this comment about their knowledge of the sea:
The Hebrews knew little if anything about the
ocean as we understand the term. The largest body of water known to them was the
Mediterranean sea, which is probably referred to in Duet 11:24 and several
other places. Any great collections of waters, as the Nile, Isa 19:5, and the
Euphrates, Jer 51:36 some places called ‘seas' in the bible" Cruden, A.
properties of the sea.
the Hebrew the sea was literally and figuratively an unfathomable
mystery by its physical properties. It is liquid, unstable, and changeable by
nature, able to be blown into a fury by the wind. The Mediterranean Sea excited
terror because of the unknown dangers in its mysterious, dark depths. It was
unknowable because it was so vast. It was all powerful because of the great
natural forces associated with it. The Red Sea held memories of bondage when
they were in Egyptian slavery. Of the other local bodies of water the Sea of
Galilee was subject to tempests and fickle winds that made it unpredictable and
treacherous. The Dead Sea was literally a lifeless pool of death, an alien
environment of no interest to be avoided at all costs.
The Jewish attitude toward the sea
Hebrews were never (and still are not) an aquatic or maritime people. You never
read of the Jewish Olympic swimming team, or the Jewish surf-life-saving club,
the Jewish surfboard riders association or the Jewish navy. Israel was and is a nation founded upon a
land promise, and located on a strip of territory hemmed in by a desert on one
side and surrounded by unfriendly nations on the three other sides.
maritime knowledge stopped at the Mediterranean. Ancient peoples did not have a
‘global' view of the world like we moderns. They had no actual experience of
the waters outside the Straits of Gibraltar, which in ancient literature is
called vaguely, ‘the outer sea.'
The idea of oceans (ookeanos
in Greek) that joined continents was unknown before the age of exploration in
the 15th century.
sea in Jewish history: a disintegrative theme
theme of the sea in scripture is disintegrative and divisive. The sea separates
the righteous from their blessings and appears at times as a threat and a
menace to the Hebrews. It was the enemy in a physical and spiritual sense, a
barrier and trial, and often the agent of judgment and destruction. Consider
their historical records. What destroyed the ancient world of Noah? the waters
of the sea. What separated the Jews from the blessings of God in Egypt? the
waters of the Red Sea. What separated them from taking possession of the land
after forty years of wandering? The waters of the Jordan River. What separated
them from the promised land whilst in Babylonian captivity? The waters of the
mile wide Euphrates river, also called a sea. The sea was a
threat to the people of God.
land as blessedness: an integrative theme
the other hand the term land is an
integrative theme in scripture. (It serves the opposite function of the sea).
The land combines the concepts of blessedness and stability together in
positive ways. To ancient and modern Jews the land was (and still is) of
first importance. It contains the blessing. The sea was almost an irrelevancy
except at times it separated them from the blessings in the land. God
gave Abraham a land promise. (Gen 12) They were to be blessed in the
land. The Jews had a relationship with God - not, in the sea, but - in the land, especially in Jerusalem and even more especially at the sacred and
holy site of Solomon's temple where Jehovah first gave Abraham the promise of a
land and a nation and a blessing. (Gen 12) It was through the
covenant in the temple the Hebrews were in relationship with God. (1 Kgs
Jehovah promised to dwellin the land in the
Jerusalem temple, (1 Kgs 8:12) a house where He put His name (1 Kgs
8:16) where He made His covenant (1 Kgs 8:21) where He promised to hear
the prayers of His people and forgive (1 Kgs 8:29-30) where He had a relationship
with Israel (1 Kgs 8:39) where He promised to offer mercy in times of defeat
(1 Kgs 8:33-34) where He promised to protect His people (1 Kgs 8:44)
where His name was and where He where His ‘eyes and heart would be
forever,' (1 Kgs 9:3) but all this was dependant upon their faithfulness.
(1 Kgs 9:6-9) They were children of God in the land of promise.
be separated from their temple was to be separated from God and His
blessings. Ps 137:1 is a pathetically moving picture of the effects of the sea.
The waters of the ‘Rivers of Babylon' (the Tigris and Euphrates) were to
Babylonian Jews what the Red Sea was to Egyptian Jews. Picture in your mind a
large group of people standing under date palms on the banks of a river in a
foreign land. They are all facing West overlooking a river. The golden disc of
the setting sun touches the horizon in the distance at its going down. They are
Jews. Their heads are covered with ashes and their clothes are torn: see their
arms raised to God, hear the sounds of their wailing above the waters that
frustrate their ardent hopes. Between them and freedom on the opposite bank is
an un-crossable expanse of water over one and a half kilometers wide. Their
leader cries out in holy prayer to the God of Zion amidst their weeping. David
records the scene in these sad words:
"By the rivers of
Babylon there we sat down, and there we wept, when we remembered Zion."
is the tearful lament of a people in exile separated from the promises and from
their God by a sea of water.
The sea as a threat to
Another recurring concept of the sea in
is as the source of evil. The sea is the abode of evil forces in the prophets.
Theologically the sea was the dwelling place of evil as early as Job. Satan,
as Leviathan the twisted serpent, dwells in the sea. (Job 41; Is
27:1) The exilic prophet Daniel saw ‘four great beasts coming up out of the
sea' (Dan 7:3) and in John's vision on the island of Patmos ‘the beastcame up out of the sea.'
(Rev 13:1). To the Jew the sea was a place to be feared and avoided. The
apostle Paul speaks volumes when he laconically mentions the fact he ‘spent a night and a day in the deep' in his
service for Christ. (2 Cor11:25) One can scarcely imagine the anguish of his
mental state during those thirty odd terror-filled hours.
the antithesis of the stability and solid security offered by the land. The
wicked are spoken of in changeable and liquid terms as wild waves of the sea
(Is. 57:20; Jude 13). Lawless Gentiles, restless, capricious, unstable,
unprincipled and separated from the promises of God are spoken of as Islands,
(Is 49:1)insulated(Latin: insula, island), literally islandised from the shores of
blessedness by their sins. Conversely the nation of Israel is spoken of
as sand upon the seashore,a nation brought to the dry land of blessedness but
sometimes in the sea of strife. (Gen 22:17)Invading armies of Gentiles
threatening the nation were spoken of as a sea (Is 59:19) The sea
was the place where the disobedient and unfaithful went to escape from God.
is the sea not water? Ten non-literal uses of the term sea in scripture.
Are biblical words always literal? This is
an incorrect assumption and cannot be proven. Following are ten non-literal
meanings related to sea /waters/the deep/ flood/waves in the prophets. The term
the sea can mean; a foreign nation, the people of a city, God's
judgments, a period of trial, the wicked, the crystal sea, Solomon's brass sea,
death and the second coming, the second death.
1. When is the sea
not water? The sea is not water when it is a foreign nation
gentile nations as a sea
- 2 Sam 21:19-22:5; Is 5:30; Is 59:19
2. When is the sea
not water? The
sea is not water when it is a city under judgment.
people/city under judgment as many waters
- Rev 17:1; 15-16
is the sea not water? The sea is not water when it is a judgment of God.
God's judgments a great deep - Ps 36:6; 88:7; 16-17
is the sea not water? The sea is not water when it is a period of trial.
A period of trial as a sea - adversity - Ps
is the sea not water? The sea is not water when waves are wicked men.
The wicked as wild waves - Is 57:20;
6. When is the sea
not water? The sea is not water when it is death or a sea of fire.
Second death as a sea /lake - Rev 20:14
is the sea not water? The sea is not water when it is made of crystal and located in heaven.
The crystal/ glass sea / sapphire pavement - Ex 24:10-11; Ezek
1:22; Rev 15:2
is the sea not water? The sea is not water when it is a brass laver
is the sea not water? The sea is not water when it separates life from death (afterlife)
after-life (Hades) as under the waters - Job 26:5, Ezek 31:15, Ps 139:8-9
When is the sea not water? The sea is not water when it is the second coming
second coming of Jesus as a flood - Mtt 24:39
Synonyms of the sea:
waters, the deep, flood, waves, the second coming.
idea of the sea is also related to a
number of synonyms. In the days before submarines and bathyspheres the deep was
a mystery and enigma. The deep
implies something unknowable.‘Thy
judgments are a great deep'. (Ps 36:6) God's ways are as unfathomable to
humanity as the deepest trench in the sea. ‘My
ways are not your ways,' declares the Lord. The same connection between a
large body of water and judgment is present in waves. In Ps 88:7; ‘Thy wrath
lieth hard upon me, and Thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.' Here
waves are trials and afflictions. And again; ‘Thy fierce wrath goes over me, thy terrors have cut me off; they came
round about me daily like water..' (Ps 88:16-17) Here water -in large
quantities - is seen as a destructive element closely related to Gods
anger. Jer 47:2-3 combines these
separate elements by relating them to the Egyptians: ‘Behold waters are going to rise from the North and becoming an
overflowing torrent, and overflow the land..the city and those who dwell in
it...and they will wail because of the galloping hoofs and stallions and the
tumult of his chariots, and the rumbling of his wheels..' The theme is that
of judgment. The term flood is
related to an irresistible force. The agent of God's justice upon the
Philistines are ‘the waters' of the
Egyptian hordes, their horses and chariots the instruments of destruction and
thus purification of the wrongs committed. Similarly Jesus' second coming is
also paralleled with the waters of a flood; ‘The
coming of the son of man will be just like the days of Noah,' (Mtt 24:37ff)
a sudden, irresistible, and epochal judgment.
Rivers. The theme of rivers offers a
contrast to the sea. Waters in
moderation are benign in effect. With smaller bodies of waters there is a
positive element as in Ezek 47:9b, where it mentions fresh water that gives life, an echo of Jesus' reference to ‘living water' when speaking to the lady
of Samaria. (Jn 4:11) Likewise His saying that out of the belly of true
believers shall flow rivers of living
water, (Jn 7:38-39) was a promise of the Spirit that was to come upon them
in Acts 2. However rivers is a
separate case study we leave for another time.)
modern commentators assume sea in the
scripture naturally means ocean.
Biblical facts do not allow the modern idea of oceans. In fact the
modern idea of oceans that connect continents is excluded in the bible for the
1. Oceans were only ‘discovered' in the age of exploration c.15th
The notion of continents separated by vast oceans of water was unknown to the ancient biblical writers.
3. The word ocean
comes from Greek OOKEANOS. This word does not appear in
4. The simple literal understanding of ‘sea as oceans'
does not fit the following passage.
Cf. Rev 20:13; 21:1,2a
‘And I saw a new heaven and earth...and there
was no more sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem...'
. Why does the sea/ oceanpass away
only after heaven and earth pass away if
it is an ocean? How can an ocean remain after the earth and heaven
that support the ocean have been removed?
. Why is the
sea/ocean used in the singular - and there was no longer any sea - if it
refers to the oceans of the earth?
. How is the sea/ ocean related to a heavenly
city new Jerusalem in Revelation?
better explanation is that sea here
is the idea of a crystal sea or sea of glass (Rev 4:6; 15:2) a kind of
mysterious separating influence between man and God seen by Ezekiel (Ezek 1:22)
and John, (Rev 4:6; 15:2) said by some to be God's glory or holiness. Man is
separated from God's holiness by sin. Through Christ's holiness man is
permitted to enter the presence of God and see Him face to face.
connections of the sea: key explanation
purpose of proposing theories is to unite information and predict new ideas.
What is the common semantic thread that unites all of these particular facts?
What is the central and most basic idea that explains the logical relations
between all these particular uses?
is suggested here that the key idea of the term the sea in its
non-literal sense is also that of separation. As the physical
waters separate man from his blessedness, so also does the term sea in its figurative senses. The most
general explanation of the sea is that of separation.
.The sea separates by distance.
It is vast and uncharted
.Gentiles were separated because they were ‘far
off' from the promises of God and without a hope, therefore are they spoken
of as Islands. Is 49:1. (In the Messianic time the Law was promised to
the ‘Islands' in Is 42:4)
.Trouble separates us from God's
.God's judgment's separate because they
come between man and his blessedness
.The wicked separate the righteous
because they come between man and his blessed
.The crystal sea separates God's holiness
from man's sinfulness
.Sin separates us from God because it is
against our nature and His justice
.Death separates life from the after-life
between literal and non-literal senses of the sea.
physical sea is unstable, deep, restless, powerful, unpredictable and turbulent
in character. The ungodly (Gentiles and the wicked) share these
characteristics. (Is 57:20, Jude 13) Conversely the righteous are spoken of in
terms of stability: for example as a tree
firmly planted by rivers of water, (Ps 1:3) rested and peaceful, led beside
quiet waters. (Ps 23:2).
The unfaithful have no
power over the might of the sea. The sea was the instrumentof destruction for the
unfaithful of Noah's generation. (2 Pet 3:6) The Egyptians perishedin the Red Sea (Heb
11:29). Unfaithful Jonah was yielded up to the sea as justice for his disobedience. (Jonah 1)
Gentile nations flooded Israel at times of her disobedience. (Is17:13; Dan 9:26)
Christians are the
children of faith. Doubters and those wavering in faith are spoken of as‘waves of the sea
driven with the wind and tossed' (Jas 1:6). No distinction is made between the doubtful and
the guilty. (Jude 13). Both lack the vital element of faith. The faithless are victims of
life's vicissitudes and run a circle of grief alienated from God and themselves,
circumstances that follow when we choose to depart from precept and principle.
If this view of the sea
as the general concept of separation - as opposed to the particular idea of oceans - is correct, it should
logically follow that the integrative function of Faith has power over the sea. Thisis easily
demonstrated from any number of notable examples in the OldTestament.
Consider how faith has power over the sea.
.Gen 7:16ff By faith Noah floated above the
waves of the flood to settle on dry earth.
. Ex 14:22, Heb 11:29 By faith Moses crossed the
Red Sea ‘as on dry land'. Joshua parted the waters of the Jordan
by faith, as did Elijah and again later by Elisha . 1Kgs 2:8.
. Judges 7:7 By faithGideon turned
back the sea of Gentilearmies that arose against the Hebrews with a
handful of faithful men.
the New Testament: the same pattern of faith over the sea may be observed.
. Mtt 14:25-26 Christ's divinity and the supernatural
power of faith is seen when Christ walks
on the sea, and Peter also.
. Mtt 14:29
Physically this demonstrates Christ's divine power over the natural elementsof creation and typologically
over the supernatural elements of the sea that
threaten God's human creation. (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15, Col 3:10, Jas
The lesson here is that Faith and adherence to principle, not blind
chance, control man's eternal happiness.
is a great semantic distinction between supernatural faith and man's own
efforts. The view of the sea as separation also unites more
evidence of the opposite kind by explaining the relationship between faith and
works; the efficacy of the former and the impotence of the latter. Man's
efforts cannot conquer the sea just as man's efforts can neither resolve his
sinful state nor gain him eternal life. (Mtt 8:24-26) The disciples tried in
vain to row against the rage of the sea. They pulled on the oars with all their
human strength to bring the vessel to the safety of shore. Might and main are
impotent against the forces of wild winds, towering waves and powerful
currents. Even big ocean liners cannot withstand the titanic elemental forces
encountered in the heart of the deep far from land. Man's strength has no power
over the real problems of life, which are spiritual firstly. It is only by
faith that waves of trouble are calmed and the sea of strife stilled,
especially by the faith of Abraham, (Rom 4:13) as seen most powerfully in
Christ. (Mtt 8:27) In the same sense human talent and ‘religious' effort cannot
substitute for real faith. The pretence and duplicity of the Pharisees was
exposed as a system of impotent and faith-less works by Christ. (Mtt
23:13-14). Likewise to prophesy, cast
out demons or do miracles are worthless acts in themselves if not accompanied
by faith and obedience. (Mtt 7:22-23).
we offend against the balances of justice we must reap the consequences. (Gal
6:7-8) One might sow the wind with vain pleasures, but beware the whirlwind
that follows as surely as night follows day. (Hos 8:7) It is vain to trust in
man. Faith is the victory that overcomes
the world. (1 Cor 15:57; 1 Jn 5:4)
The sea is a powerful object lesson.
It's a simple and intuitive analogy from the natural world to the spiritual
realm illustrating graphically the principle of salvation which states; we
are saved by Grace through faith and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.
Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:8-9). All of the bible in
precept and example goes to demonstrate this one great imperative: ‘the just
shall live by faith'. (Gal 3:11)
this inductive case study we have consulted all three hundred and ninety-two
references to the sea. What then may
we say generally? We may say that faith has moral power over the sea of
life's circumstances. Faith robs the sea of its power. Thus faith empowers
God's chosen to:
.Be saved from shipwreck, as Paul 2 Cor 11:25
.Be saved from the deep, as Jonah Jonah 2:10
.Calm the sea, as Christ Mk 4:39
.Calm the waves of His wrath Ps 88:7
.Conquer a seaof
enemy troops, as Gideon Judges
.Conquer the sea of death Rom 8:38; 2 Tim 2:10
.Divide a body of waters, as Moses Ex 14:21
.Divide a river of water, Elijah 2 Kgs 2:8
.Emulate great deeds, as Elisha 2 Kgs 2:14
.Float over the waters, as Noah 1
.Float safe on the sea, as baby Moses Ex 2:6
.Overcome the waters of His anger Ps
.Pass through God's judgments Ps 36:6
.Walk on water, as Peter Mtt 14:29
in God is supernatural and omnipotent:
Faith in God has power over the environment
Faith in God has power over fact and
Faith in God has power over weakness
Faith in God has power over time
God has power over space
Faith in God has power over sin and death.
Faith in God has power over the wicked
Peter's' little faith' made him doubt and sink, God worked with Jonah's little
faith to bring about great things for the Gentile ‘sea' of Nineveh. (Jonah 4). ‘Even in the sea' of his own
making Jehovah was able to bring Jonah to the safety of dry land. Opposing the
divine will creates the sea that drowns us. We create our own adversity by
elevating self over sacrifice and desire over discipline, and bring upon
ourselves life's great judgments. The bountiful mercy and kindness of God
reaches out His right arm to Jonah when he is beyond all human help, sinking in
the sea of his own wrong-doing: "I know
that for my sake this great tempest is upon you." (Jonah 1:12) Only by
casting out the Jonah of our old natures can we find peace and calm the raging
of our hearts. So they took up Jonah and
cast him into the sea, and the sea stopped her raging. (Jonah 1:15) Christ
said "Come unto me all ye that are heavy
laden, and I will give you rest." (Mtt 11:38)
is God alone who measures the quality of faith. Paul in Romans wrote we ought
not to judge the quality of faith of another's servant, for: ‘to His own
Master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up; for God is able to
make him stand' (Rom 14:4). The widow's mite sufficed the faith of the
widow. Supposed ‘objective' judgments upon others are really subjective.
God weighs the human heart. Those of great faith might sail their ship all the
way to the shores of blessedness, but others of less faith, even those ‘on planks
and other various parts of the ship... may be brought safely to dry land'.
greatest cause for wonder in the lesson of the
sea, I think, is Christ dying for mankind... ‘while we were yet sinners' .
To bring us from a sea of sin to the dry land of heavenly blessedness Christ
Himself had to sail life's adverse seas. He too suffered like as we do so as to
partake of our experiences. God's grace is able to reach out to us even when,
like Jonah, we are undeserving of salvation. Man has no ability to save himself
when beyond human help. Here is unlimited grace for sinner and saint. We are
all like Jonah sinking into the deep, cold darkness and surrounded by waters
without hope and far from land. The measure of God's love toward man is that while
we were yet sinners, -even in the
sea - Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
Christian has no personal merit of which to boast. Spiritual gifts come from
the Giver of gifts. Humility preserves faith. Christ is our merit; for by grace
are you saved through faith, not of ourselves, it is the gift of God: not of
works lest any man should boast. (Eph 2:8-9). Grateful humility is the
appropriate response for gifts received.
The implications of
semantic studies in the prophets
has to do with meanings, and especially the logical relations between terms.
Presuppositions, mere ascription and guesses as to the meaning of biblical
words are not reliable bases for determining meaning. This brief case study is
intended to show two things:
. how to
locate the biblical meanings of biblical terms
biblical terms are not limited to a simple always-literal meaning.
Here no more meaning is permitted than what
the facts allow. This study has been inductive and connotative, sifting every
particular instance of the term sea
to understand the broad generalization that underpins every instance.
The standard rule in lexicography is that usage makes meaning. In
scripture it is prophetic usage that determines the prophetic
meanings of prophetic terms. How the prophets used a term holds the
accurate key to its meaning.
bible is a document remote from us: in time by thousands of years, in distance
by thousands of miles, entombed in a dead language, and foreign to us by a
forgotten culture and an unimaginable cosmology. Ancient Hebrew and Greek are called ‘dead'
languages precisely because the worldview that gave them meaning has passed
away. The ancient Hebrew had a far different worldview than we moderns can
think or imagine.
this mean the Old Testament cannot be understood or is irrelevant to us
nowadays? Not at all! It is vitally relevant. Because the meanings of a dead
language cannot change, they are fixed in time, unlike a living language. The
very great value of the Old Testament is that it always remains a kind of ‘dictionary'
for the understanding of Old Testament terms repeated in the new: it shows us
how these prophetic terms were used.
his work Biblical Semantics James Barr writes ‘.... grammatical
structure of language reflects the thought structure of those speaking it'.
(Barr, J. Semantics) It is only by
studying and understanding the meaning of a term as defined by its use in
the Old Testament that we may form a reliable basis for properly
understanding the full thought structure of Messianic terms and concepts. In
this paper it may be seen that:
1. the sea
is a trial for the faithful
2. the sea
is God's means of punishing the unfaithful
natural way to understand terms used by New Testament writers is to first study
the Old Testament usage of those terms. This seems reasonable. Moses,
David, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, John, Paul and Peter all spoke by the same
spirit. 2 Pet 1:20-12. This method first fixes the prophetic meaning by
relation to prophetic usage. In this context the words of Albert Schweitzer are
pregnant with meaning;
‘There is deep significance in the fact that
when ever we hear the sayings of Jesus, we tread the ground of a world view
that is not ours .... for .... Jesus lived in the eschatological Messianic
thought world of late Judaism'.
"If, on a Quiet Sea."
on a quiet sea, toward heaven we calmly sail, with grateful hearts, O God to
Thee, we'll own a favoring gale
should the surges rise, and rest delay to come, Blest be the tempest, kind the
storm, which drives us nearer home.
shall our doubts and fears all yield to Thy control; Thy tender mercies shall
illume the midnight of the soul
us, in every state, to make Thy will our own, and when the joys of sense
depart, To live by faith alone.
Morrison O.G.T. Lee.
Biblical Semantics. Routledge 1992
Beck, S.D The Simplicity of Science. Pelican 1964
Cohen & Nagel. Logic and
Scientific Method, an introduction. Routledge /Kegan Paul 1961
Cruden, A. Concordance. Nelson 1992
Hale, J.R. Age of Exploration. Time-Life 1985
Hummel, C. The Galileo Connection. InterVarsity Press 1986
Joy, R. (ed), Albert Schweitzer, An Anthology. Adam and Charles Black
King James Bible. World Publishing Coy
Maimonides, M. Guide to the Perplexed. Dover Reprinted 1956 ed
New American Standard
Lockman Foundation, Collins World 1995
Newton, Sir I. On the Language of the Prophets.
Newton, Sir I. Observations on the Book of Daniel and The Apocalypse of St John.
Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine 1991
Popper, Sir K. Conjectures and Refutations. 5th ed. Routledge
Biblical Words and their Meaning. Zondervan 1983
Synonyms of the New Testament. Hendrickson 2000