Storytelling and Truth Shouts

This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.

Psalms 34:6

Most readers are not capable of getting the meaning of the text from the simplest of sayings. Even when the saying is a single clause such as “I shall not want” (Psalm 23) the difference between drama and the expression of fact, being a basic feature of the Hebrew language seems to have been ignored as inconsequential. The major translations (or versions) of the Bible are complicit in this substandard word-handling. Most translators might say they were interested in being simple, but it is better to translate based on the actual words and the context.

The actor’s “I will bless”

The difference between a promise (there is no Hebrew word for promise corresponding to the Greek epaggelia) and a plea is completely avoided. “I will sing” in the Psalms makes people lie in public. The verb shir in the imperfect aspect (often treated as a future tense) is not a pledge. “I will sing” and “I will play” appear more often than not in their cohortative aspects of the verbs. No-one but an angel ceaselessly utters thanksgiving or adoration. None of the psalmists are angels. They all use their mouths for other things and saying “Bless God” or “Hallelujah” often does not cut it. The practice of peppering one’s speech with words that might reflect blessing or praise is barking up the wrong tree. The cohortative is more a plea for permission (may I please) and an expression of determination (I only want to) than a prediction (I will).

The more time we spend approaching the word of God as a treasure for which some careful digging – like an archaeologist – is required, the more secure our witness and our lives become. Getting the meaning of a saying from a Bible dictionary or a lexicon is a preliminary exercise, and this is what many interpreters do to show that there is commendable word handling in progress. Knowing the meaning of words (Hebrew and Greek) ought to lead to examining the critically important matters of word order, the various aspects of the verbs, and the host of idiomatic expressions (blessing I will bless = I will most certainly bless, dying you will die = you will definitely die).

So here we are, in the age of increasing deception, shallowness, and laziness, creating illustrations and fanciful applications of important statements of facts. The obsession with storytelling is destroying the transmission of healthy doctrine. We ignore the difference between indisputable conclusions and drama to the catastrophic destruction of our houses. We build on reliable conclusions about God’s completed actions and promises not stories.

““Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

Matthew 7:26, NASB