What is Biblical Lexicology?

LEXICOL’OGY, n. [Gr. a dictionary, and discourse.]
The science of words; that branch of learning which treats of the proper signification and just application of words.

Greetings and salutary felicitations of the Christmas season,

I am a Biblical lexicologist and a semantic purist. I study the proper uses and meanings of words, phrases, colloquialisms, and cliches with a Biblical perspective and set of beliefs. I believe that we ought to examine our speech and our listening to discern whether what we are saying coincides with what we are trying to say. Surprisingly, it is rare that this actually occurs. It is a fine art to articulate effectively. And it is an art that needs to be learned, especially by Christians.

Lexicologists are many times associated with the utilization of profound, obscure, gargantuan, and intimidating words. Sometimes this is true, but the actual fact of the matter is that lexicologists do not strive to use big words merely: they strive always to use the correct words. So do not be afraid, gentle reader, I will not attempt to impress you, but to teach you a little of what little I know of the art and science lexicology.

Every language has a set of definitions. Every language has a different set. There are definitions and meanings that might be in one language and not in another. Some languages have whole parts of speech and grammatical differentiations that are completely absent in other languages. This is because each culture governs the language, and each culture has a unique set of ideas and priorities that are integrated into its vocabulary.

Every language has a set of words. Every language has a different set. Every language has a system of grammar. Every language has a different system. There is never a perfect one-to-one relationship between the definitions and the words, though. Many things prevent this, and I will not go into them now, so suffice it to assert that it is true. Each word has several variations of meaning, and each meaning (generally) has several words that can represent it in slightly different ways. These variations work with idiosyncrasies, exceptions, accepted norms, and rules of grammar to create a dizzying situation calculated to incite confusion in communication.

Now, this situation also creates unimaginable opportunities to communicate uniquely in each language and dialect of language. Each language has its own signature, if you will, of how and when you say certain things to get across certain ideas. These must be examined and learned if we are to communicate effectively for the glory of God.

Many things change these patterns of language over time. Common usage, clashes with alternate languages, and technological innovations are but a few of the currents that mold the riverbank of language. Sometimes we need to deliberately make an alteration in the lexicon to provide for a dramatic transformation in the prevailing thoughts of a community. Sometimes we need to go back and revive a dying set of verbiage to recall a worldview and mindset that is likewise dying. Sometimes we need to clarify and separate the meanings of multiple words that clash with each other, rendering their use dangerous to effective communication. Sometimes we need to make new words entirely, because we have discovered an entirely new concept.

All of these changes can be good, or they can be bad. They can be used for evil, or they can be used for the glory of God. Our duty as Christians is to combat the bad and champion the good. Therefore we need to discern these. Therefore we need skilled lexicologists, and a thriving community of Christians with a heart of semantic purity.

Half of any debate is defining the terms. Each word has a specific meaning in a specific context. Each conversation or article or book has a unique context which determines what each of its words mean. If a worldview controls the definitions of a community, that worldview in effect controls that community’s communication, which means that it controls its effectiveness and output.

If we let the world control our definitions, we let the world control us. Therefore, we as Christians need to take back the lexicons and dictionaries of our world, and champion the definitions and meanings advocated in the Bible. The devil has calculated to eliminate our effectiveness as witnesses and warriors for Christ, and he has partially succeeded by neutralizing our language so that we are tied hand and foot when it comes to talking to anyone. We need to fight back and redefine our terms, on our terms (pun intended).

Therefore, I will be posting a series on Biblical semantics, analyzing the meanings of several words that are key to several areas of the Christian life. Pray for me that God would grant me the insight and the wisdom to discern and articulate effectively.

With joy and peace in Christ,

Jay Lauser aka Sir Emeth Mimetes


10 Responses

  1. I could use a little lexicology! I am always accidentally saying things I wasn’t trying to because I chose the wrong words. >_> That sounds more useful than Algebra 2! lol jk

  2. Well, the first step is to read the dictionary in your spare time. It is an extremely rewarding and enjoyable pastime!

    For extra motivation, remember that your level of intelligence increases in direct proportion to your vocabulary. Meaning: the more words you know and use, the smarter you get.

    Another tip: once you use a word three times in ordinary conversation, it becomes integrated into your ready vocabulary.

  3. Wonderful post, Jay!

    I’ve been thinking about this as well recently. So many times people will say “awesome” when it’s usually said in the context of “awe-right.” (I choose not to say that word very often unless attributed to the Lord – who is awesome!; but I digress…)

    Sometimes I feel that this dulling of vocabulary and definitions is partly due to the technology boom. With all the social networking, we call so many people “friends” (including those we don’t even know) without considering the true qualities of friendship and those who actually deserve that term. With texting, people tire out so many shorthands such as “LOL” or “ROTFL”, which I highly doubt anyone does when they say that.

    Language certainly does shape a civilization and our thinking. Christians especially need to be attentive to the words they use since we are to communicate God’s light and word into the world. And if we only have a mediocre view of the message we are sent out to deliver, how will that effect the world? How will that effect us?

    Again, wonderful post! Can’t wait for the series! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you Rebeka,

      I also try to avoid tiring out phrases. Many were originally intended to carry much more power than people give them nowadays. Your examples are perfect and accurate. Thank you.

      Muddled thinking is indeed the first thing that needs to be changed if the language is to be changed. If we cannot understand or figure out what we are trying to say, how are we supposed to understand or figure out how to say it right?

      I can’t wait either, I hope and pray it will turn out alright. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Excellent and entirely explicit enunciation! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Right, but I needed another “e”. ๐Ÿ˜€ And it’s close enough… if you read it hearing the voice in your head it’s almost like someone is speaking to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • True, true. But realize that using the word enunciate would only imply that I spelled my words correctly, and thus enabled you to read it to yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps you wanted ‘elucidate’? ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Sure! I’ll take that. ๐Ÿ˜€

    “Excellent and entirely explicit elucidation!”

    Also, admirable and apprehensible articulation!

    (For some reason I am liking alliteration lately, in case you haven’t noticed.)

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