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Key 3. Concrete and Abstract Meaning for Biblical Hebrew Words
Understanding Concrete and Abstract meaning for Biblical Hebrew words opens your mind to more profound and mature spiritual comprehension.
How would you express the word hand’, on a piece of paper or stone? How would you help someone blind to know what a hand is? You’d draw its outline, and you would take a person’s hand and put it on your hand. This is very concrete. But now, how would you represent the concept of success, or the idea: you accomplished a task with success? Well, you could use a sign or symbol of something concrete to denote the notion. Traditionally, we use the thumb-up gesture 👍 to convey success. Concrete and abstract meaning happen when we use the former to reveal the latter. Children never know the difference between concrete and abstract. You can talk about love, read them poetry about love, show them films about love, they won’t understand. Take them in your arms and cuddle them. Fondle them, play with them, help them, be there for them. It takes a lot of concrete acts for kids to incorporate the notion of love.
With concrete and abstract, the former precedes the latter. The former leads to the latter. By drawing a heart ❤ we express the sentiment of love. Today we use a light bulb 💡 to depict a bright idea or that aha, eye-opening moment.
Pictograms and smileys are the ultimate of concrete and abstract. Also called emoticons or emotion icons. Today we use thousands of pictograms, icons, and smileys to express our emotions and feelings. Short forms to relay our deep sentiments. With a simple image, we can convey our feelings around the world instantly. With two keystrokes, we can produce a smiley :). I need not say anything. The concrete symbol transmits the abstract feeling directly to your mind.
We think this is a modern form of expression. In fact, it goes back to the origins of written language itself when the formation of alphabets began. Biblical Hebrew goes back to those origins when letters and words represented concrete, tangible, visible items like a hand, house, or a head.
Your language and Biblical Hebrew are replete with concrete and abstract notions. The concrete expressing the abstract. It is so natural to each of us in our native language that for another language, or old English for instance, we don’t apply the principle. We witness such expression mainly, even only concretely. Such a shortcoming is a drawback to profound understanding.
The third key to unlock Bible meaning is to master the fact Biblical Hebrew is overpoweringly concrete and abstract.
Here’s a Biblical example and exercise revealing concrete and abstract meaning in the Old and New Testaments. Take the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and find the concrete words used to express what the Israelites were not to do.
- (No other) gods (small ‘g’).
- Name (in vain)
Continue the exercise. You can express each commandment with one central concrete word. Here it is a thing or action. The point being, it doesn’t take rocket science to grasp the meaning of the Ten Commandments. It’s physical, you can put your hand on it, so to speak.
Now take Matthew 5 and the Beatitudes, and do the same exercise. These words have abstract meaning. There’s nothing material about them. They are notions, concepts, and ideas. These are virtues of the mind.
- Poor in spirit
The New Testament addresses its message to totally different people. They are not children, but grown-ups with minds, and the Holy Spirit, who understand the spiritual abstract meaning.
There are various ways to consider the creation story in Genesis.
- Myth or unbelievable. These people have yet to begin their spiritual journey.
- Concretely, as a series of events that took place exactly as the Bible relates them. They take the words at FACE value., that’s concrete. They know and believe God established the light, dark, sun, moon, water, earth, flora, fauna, and humans. That’s a start, but their comprehension stops at this level.
- Now, add the abstract understanding. Answer the WHY questions. Why did God create? Why is God a Creator?
- Understand that Light represents Christ, the truth, and righteousness (John 1).
- Dark = lack of understanding, this world, and sin.
- Sun and moon = calendar and seasons for planting and harvesting representing the plan of salvation.
- The material creation of humans leading to their spiritual creation.
- How physical life symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil leads to Tree of Life.
- The physical and spiritual reasons for humankind on Earth.
This is the abstract meaning of the physical creation so vital for profound comprehension. It’s all in Genesis. God reveals the end from the beginning for those with a spiritual mind to understand the abstract meaning. The book Origin of the Universe elaborates on this subject.
We shall see that one loses at least fifty percent, if not a lot more, of comprehension. And the lost fifty percent is spiritual comprehension, which means an entire aspect of understanding, the most important, is thrown to the wind. See that last phrase, it illustrates concrete and abstract. We need to come out of the dark (another abstract term) into the light. Key 3, concrete and abstract meaning of Biblical Hebrew words, points us in the right direction.
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