Monday 21 March 2016

Mark 2:5 Bible Goggles on Faith

Sometimes I get angry. I get angry about what Bible Goggles have done to our ability to think. I often want to use words like "faith", but I cannot because the meaning of the word has been destroyed. Faith used to mean "proof based on evidence", but it has been changed to mean "just trust me without evidence." The word "faith" is a victim of "Newspeak:"
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought -- that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc -- should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words." (George Orwell, "The Principles of Newspeak", appendix to "1984", emphasis added)
By reversing the meaning of faith, the supernatural believers have made it impossible to talk about what the Bible says on faith.

Faith is a translation of the Greek word "pistis". When the Bible was first written, "pistis" had a perfectly clear definition: it meant proof, based on logic and evidence. Aristotle wrote the definitive text on "pistis" in his book "On Rhetoric". I do not read Greek (except with a great deal of hand holding!) so I defer to an expert commentary:"A Note on the Meaning of Pistis in Aristotle's Rhetoric" by Joseph T. Lienhard (The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 87, No. 4 (Oct., 1966), pp. 446-454). Lienhard analyses Aristotle's use of the word "pistis" argues that, while some people say pistis can mean either the state of mind in the hearer or the means by which that state is produced (i.e. the argument) it cannot mean the state of mind, as Aristotle uses pistis to mean "to demonstrate something" not "to convince somebody". The article concludes that while pistis may have a range of meanings, but the fundamental idea is proof:
Therefore, in its five significant meanings, the word pistis refers in one way or another to the proof, which is simply the means of inducing belief in the audience. [...] the meaning varies enough to allow separate definitions, but not enough to lose the note of "proof" in any of the occurrences.
So pistis means external proof, the opposite of the later religious meaning of belief in the absence of evidence.

"But wait!" you say, "Aristotle was writing around 350 BC, and on a technical topic, perhaps the meaning changed by the time of Jesus in AD 30?" Then I turn to Plutarch (AD 46-120), who often used "pistis" to characterise a woman's relationship to her husband. A woman knew her husband better than anybody, so she was working on proof, not illusions. A memorable illustration of pistis as proof comes in Plutarch's story in his book "on the bravery of women":
When Chiomara, wife of Ortiagon of Galatia, was taken prisoner at the defeat of the Galatians by the Romans in 189 BCE, she was first raped and then ransomed. At the point when she was handed back to the Galatians, she incited one of them to cut off her captor's head. Wrapping it in her tunic, she brought the head to her husband as a tropy. Plutarch captured the horror of the man for whom good faith between enemies is at least as important as that between spouses: 'Woman, pistis is a precious thing!" "Yes," says his wife robustly, "but it is even better that there should only be one man alive who has slept with me." (Roman Faith and Christian Faith: Pistis and Fides in the Early Roman Empire" By Teresa Morga, p. 48)
The man is a good example of those who changed the meaning of pistis. here we see pistis as both blind acceptance and harsh proof. And harsh proof is the real thing. Those in power, like the husband in the story, want "pistis" to mean blind acceptance. They tell us that women and followers should "have pistis" and not make waves, just accept things, however bad. But that is not real pistis. The true, original, greater, higher, original pistis means proof, even when that proof shocks and discomforts people.

Bible goggles reverse the meaning of pistis ("faith"). When we take off the goggles and see its original meaning then the Bible becomes a completely different book.

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