Friday, February 23, 2007

Astonishing notions

I learned three remarkable things today, and none was in a class.

English poet William Blake always capitalized the word "Imagination" because, to him, Imagination was the Holy Spirit. (Apparently the role of Imagination was an overarching theme of his, counter-cultural to the rationalism of his day. Perhaps I would have known this if I had had more and better exposure to British lit.)

I learned that during an appearance by Eugene Peterson, author and translator of the Bible into The Message. Peterson said many wonderful things about words, particularly those in the Bible. The most joyous part for me was hearing him tell how the translation work was influenced by his ministry with real people dealing with real struggles and how, therefore, he can read a given word or phrase from a passage in The Message and see and name the person whose life influenced the words. Amazing. And amazingly beautiful. (In my own self-interest, I also enjoyed his emphatic assertion that "The Church should ordain writers.")

And, through my own stumbling attempts to write a manuscript sermon to preach in Big Church on Sunday on Luke 4:1-13, I discovered something that I'm surprised I'd never seen before. Staring at the page with unfocused eyes, trying to find meaning or at least clarity among the sans-serif text, I saw the word "devil" and what jumped out at me was "evil". I had never noticed that the word "devil" contains the word "evil". I have yet to do either the exegetical or etymological work that might shed more light on this. I'm just delighting that my own notion of the devil is defined within the word.

Evil is the devil.

Imagination is Holy Spirit.

The Word is God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Thanks be to God.


molly said...

OK. My OED is in my lap, and here are a few things I'm finding:
I don't see explict a direct connection in the words "devil" and "evil" come from, though they maintain spelling similarities in all the old english variants.

Evil variants: yfel, ifel, efel, yfell, etc.

Devil variants include: deofol, deofel, de(o)fell.

The first listed definition of "devil" is: In Jewish and Christian theology, the proper appellation of the supreme spirit of evil, the tempter and spiritual enemy of mankind [sic], the foe of God and holiness, otherwise called Satan.

(For kicks, other name possibilities include Beelzebub, Lucifer, Apollyon, the Prince of darkness, the Evil One, the Enemy of God and Man, the Arch-enemy, Arch-fiend, the Old Serpent, the Dragon, Old Nick, Old Simmie, Old Clootie, Old Teaser, the Old One, the Old lad, etc.)

Definition 3b of "evil" is: Evil angel, spirit, etc. Also, The Evil One: The Devil.

Most surely connected, tho' not always.

It also names the origin of (the word) evil as being from Gothic or Old Teutonic word for "up, over;" the primary sense would be either "exceeding due measure, or overstepping proper limits."

"Devil," it says, comes straight from Greek, "diablo" or something like that. It does, however, note that in Old High German and Old English it was masculine when given gender--in OHG, it was sometimes neuter in the plural and in OE it was sometimes neuter in the singular.

(We all know that Sophia was feminine, right?)

And did you know that "devil" is also a term for a writer's lackey?

karen said...

Of course Wisdom is feminine!

Thanks for the good word sleuth work, Molly!!!!