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Monday, December 15, 2008

Clean and Unclean Wordstudy

Mickey asked a while ago: 
"I wonder, though only if you have the time and inclination (or anyone with a bit of skill for that matter), if you would present a review of the usage of the Greek in these scriptures respecting the words "common" and "unclean". The reason I ask is that someone at UCG gave a recent sermonette online (yes, I was silly enough to listen in - what can I say but curiousity) and presented his argument from the Greek usage of those words."

Sure! ...but I don't know what level you would like someone to go into. I'll go the simple route, then. If anyone is interested in doing their own wordstudies, here is a nice howto from I really do suggest you read through it if you're not very familiar with how to use a Strong's Concordance. I'll give you some really important info to keep in mind. In Strong's, this symbol ": -" (minus the quotes) separates the definition of the word from the translation of the word. The definition is what the word means, the translations are words the author thinks fit it well. Don't think that just because there is a transliteration, that it is a really good substitute for the word. Like a thesaurus, not all words really fit.

I would guess, Mickey, that this person you heard basically opened the Strong's Concordance and tried to become an armchair linguist. I would about guarantee his goal was not to understand the Bible, but to get the Bible to say what he wanted. Time and time again I've seen the COGs wallop the truth with a creative application of information from Strong's. Ron Weinland uses it often to try and transform Jesus into a created being. Keep in mind that the definition of 'clean' will be what it is, no matter what, and 'unclean' will be what it is. The question is - does the entirety of the evidence in the New Testament support or reject the keeping of food laws? I believe the answer is a resounding 'no'.

I would like to bring up what a commenter named Purple Hymnal reminded us of a while back: 
"In the interest of complete balance, I quote Wikipedia on Strong's Concordance:"
"Strong's Concordance is not a translation of the Bible nor is it intended as a translation tool. The use of Strong's numbers is not a substitute for professional translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English by those with formal training in ancient languages and the literature of the cultures in which the Bible was written.
"Since Strong's Concordance identifies the original words in Hebrew and Greek, Strong's Numbers are sometimes misinterpreted by those without adequate training to change the Bible from its accurate meaning simply by taking the words out of cultural context. The use of Strong's numbers does not consider figures of speech, metaphors, idioms, common phrases, cultural references, references to historical events, or alternate meanings used by those of the time period to express their thoughts in their own language at the time. As such, professionals and amateurs alike must consult a number of contextual tools to reconstruct these cultural backgrounds. Many scholarly Greek and Hebrew Lexicons (e.g., Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, Thayer's Greek Dictionary, and Vine's Bible Dictionary) also use Strong's numbers for cross-referencing, encouraging hermeneutical approaches to study."

I'm not knocking Strong's Concordance. It's great! But these words are true. So take what I'm about to do with a grain of salt, because I'm about to list some words and their entries from Strong's. I will also link to some Lexicons to help round them out. These are some important words in regards to the meats topic.

Old Testament

[Strong’s 2889, Heb. Tahor, adj., from 2891]: pure (in a physical, chemical, ceremonial, or moral sense):- clean, fair, pure (-ness).
  [Strong’s 2891, Heb. Taher]: to be bright, i.e. (by implication) to be pure (physically sound,
  clear, unadulterated; in Leviticus uncontaminated; morally innocent or holy): be (to make,
  make  one’s self, pronounce) clean, cleanse (self), purge, purify (-ier, self).
(LEV. 11: 47)

New Testament

[Strong’s 2513, Gr. Katharos, adj.]: clean (literally or figuratively): - clean, clear, pure.
(ROM. 14: 20)

[Strong’s 169, Gr. Akathartos, adj.]: impure (ceremonially, morally [lewd], or specifically [demonic]): - foul, unclean.
(ACTS 10: 14 & 28; ACTS 11: 8; II COR. 6: 17; EPH 5: 5)

[Strong’s 2511, Gr. Katharizo, verb]: to cleanse (literally or figuratively): - (make) clean (-se), purge, purify.
(ACTS 10: 15)

COMMON (also Unclean in ROM 14: 14)
[Strong’s 2839, Gr. Koinos, adj.] common, that is, (literally) shared by all or several, or (ceremonially) profane: - common, defiled, unclean, unholy.
(MARK 7: 2; ACTS 10: 14 & 28; ACTS 11: 8; ROM. 14: 14)

COMMON (also Defile in Matt. 15 and Mark 7)
[Strong’s 2840, Gr. Koinoo, verb]: to make (or consider) profane (ceremonially): - call common, defile, pollute, unclean.
(MATT. 15: 11 & 18 & 20; MARK 7: 15 & 18 & 20 & 23; ACTS 10: 15; ACTS 11: 9)

So, really all we have is two Greek adjectives:
1) Katharos
also see for the Greek New Testament Lexicon entry for Katharos
2) Koinos 
also see for the Greek New Testament Lexicon entry for Koinos

The other words I listed are either the negative or a verb form of these.

This should go a small ways to answering your question. Correct usage and meaning are very difficult to grasp from Strong's. I've seen false prophets twist Strong's a thousand ways from Sunday and generate all forms of distortion from it. But if we can manage to get the agenda out of the way, it's going to come out better.

Now for my typical pontification.

Part of the idea of cleanliness that absolutely must be grasped, but is not by Armstrongism for some unknowable reason, is that the Jews were given the idea of ceremonial cleanliness (and uncleanliness) in order to separate them from the Gentiles, and to be a lesson to them on distinguishing holy from unholy. Meats were a big part of this separation (there were other separators, like the prohibition on intermarriage). Now, in the New Covenant, those partitions must by necessity be taken out of the way. Even the veil to the Holy of Holies is torn in two. Jesus Christ made a reconciliation. If man is not separated from God, how can we separate man from man? Christ fulfilled every last portion of ceremonial cleanliness. It is done. Meats are not a health issue, as Armstrong claimed. Never are they associated with health. I admit that at the time there were health benefits, but that does not make a thing spiritual; this is no different than circumcision. These physical shadows simply have no place in the New Covenant other than as an example to help us wrap our minds around the spiritual reality. What separates now is the presence of the Spirit. Armstrong tries to grasp this, but he refused to accept the shadow is not equal to the substance.

The number one argument I've heard from my former association is "the Lord changes not". This is an easy out, of course. Are we to think the Word did not change from God to man to dead to God? Of course He changed! It is the essence of the Lord - His goodness and mercy - that 'changes not', or else we would be destroyed. His requirements for us do change. The ceremonial laws are a great example. They were instituted, kept valid for over a thousand years, fulfilled, and left in the past where they served their purpose. While Armstrong loved to say 'the Lord changes not' in order to promote legalism, he overlooked that if 'the Lord changes not' actually applied to the law, then they wouldn't have been instituted in the first place.

What I noticed is by far these words for unclean and common appear in reference to demons. That should be a good example of what unclean is. Clean, on the other hand, is the state we find ourselves in. We are not sinless, just under grace. We are cleansed by the blood of Christ that takes away our sins. Certainly the blood does not make us perfect, or what would be the point of this life? We still need to grow and build character. Meanwhile, Jesus takes on our sins and credits us His righteousness for our faith. In Jesus we are cleansed.


xHWA said...

btw... sorry this took so long, Mickey. I completely forgot that you asked for this. A little voice in my head told me I was forgetting something. It took me a while to scour the comments for your request.

Mickey said...

Not a problem xHWA. It wasn't an urgent matter. I just wanted to throw it out there to see if anyone had any thoughts on how to approach the matter.

I appreciate your comments, and intend to study into it further.

Thanks so much!

xHWA said...

You're very welcome, Mickey. Glad I could help.
If you want something different than what I put here, lemme know. I'm not claiming to be the ultimate authority or any such thing, but I'd sure like to go over anything with you that you want to know more about. It helps me out too.