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Imperfection and Trustworthiness

Humans are imperfect. We have accidents; we make mistakes; we believe and say things that later turn out to be wrong.

We say things we don't mean; we mean things we don't say.

This is all part of our human imperfection, yes, but some people seem to use that imperfection as an excuse. If you explicitly quote them and point out a contradiction, they insist they obviously didn't mean that or say things that don't actually address what's under discussion, often flipping things to claim what you've been saying all along, as if they've been the ones saying it and you haven't, and often providing evidence that doesn't actually prove your point.

Some folks make such accidents because they don't actually understand how words work together, and it's tempting to give folks the benefit of the doubt…and the benefit of the doubt…and the benefit of the doubt…

But I keep remembering Matthew 10:16 and Genesis 3:1 and John 8:44 and Matthew 7:16.

When Satan lied to Eve, it was subtly—and he actually started with a question, "Did God really say…?" and then essentially fed her what would appeal to her, what she would want to hear.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Genesis 3:4–5, KJV

It's subtle.

And it started out with something that wasn't even untrue. It was just a question.

We as Christians are told to be sly as serpents (Matthew 10:16), so obviously we're not to shun subtle communication. We're to use it.

But to use it, we have to understand it and be able to recognize it.

And far too often, we are pressured—by others or by our own consciences—to ignore things that signal fruits in others, while they take things like a problematic typo (that we apologize for and seek to avoid) as evidence that something's wrong with us. Or if we actually do point out or respond to someone's fruits, we're being "unChristian" or "unloving" (and the verses referenced don't actually say what those making the accusations claim they say).

There are tactics of communication, ways to make things insidious and to hide arguments and to push points on folks' minds while burying them so they're less likely to be consciously noticed. Such people often—but not always—also misuse words, sometimes only in ever-so-slightly wrong ways. Sometimes it's just "wrong" in that the phrasing has particular implications that actually sabotage the point rather than support it.

(Note that it's entirely possible to actually argue against something by ostensibly arguing for it.)

I'm seriously considering pointing out an explicit example of what I'm talking about, with an overall true and solid post I happened across that has some extremely troubling tidbits, with how the logic fallacies are worked in and with what certain phrasing indicates. I want to think it's an accident, but the structure and phrasing isn't something that can naturally happen on accident.

And yet, if I point it out, I know I'll get heckled and my trustworthiness questioned over my own imperfections and the way I make allowances for multiple possible answers—which will be misinterpreted by some as me saying "This is what the Bible is saying here!" when what I'm actually saying is "This could be what the Bible is saying here".

That twisting of words seems common, among folks who use certain communication tactics and are confronted on it…enough so that, perhaps, using those tactics at all might be an indicator.

And there are multiple verses in Scripture indicating that we as Christians are supposed to watch for those subtle clues…so are even well-intended sheep of Christ so quick to dismiss such attention as "unChristian"? Perhaps such acknowledged attention to nuance is a sign of trustworthiness, even when it's a nuance that says, "Oh, you're right. I did say X. Oops! Not what I meant!"

And perhaps folks slipping logical fallacies, misused words, and outright falsehoods into an otherwise true discussion is a signal that they aren't trustworthy.

Another Look at “Desire” (Teshuqah)

I considered the word teshuqah ("desire") in Genesis 3:16 in a previous blog post, and the manner in which I did so should be checked against how the word is used elsewhere in Scripture, to see if it is consistent with how the word's used elsewhere in Scripture. So let's take a look at that.

If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Genesis 4:7 (original)

I [am] my beloved's, and his desire [is] toward me.

Song of Solomon 7:10 (original)

Now, these are the only two uses of the root word in Scripture, and they do match each other, but they are a slightly different form of the word as it appears in the original of Genesis 3:16. I don't know what specifically that significance is, but I'm going to presume that both words are functionally synonymous across Scripture. If this assumption is incorrect, my suggestion about Genesis 3:16 still holds validity—that particular form of the word is unique in Scripture—but this assumption being correct doesn't in itself validate my suggestion, either.

In other words, for readers who don't know the jargon of formal logic, my suggestion for how the word teshuqah should be read is just that: a suggestion, not the only possible way to read that line. I do think my suggestion fits the original phrasing better than the current punctuation. It's worth noting that my approach to the punctuation also fits with the argument that teshuqah is supposed to mean "turning", not anything lustful.

Now, the way I looked at the word was to assume the added verb was just that: an addition that was overriding some meaning that was already in the text. I checked if the "thy desire to thy husband" could actually be tied to the clause before it rather than the one after it, insofar as sentence structure goes. So let's apply that to the two other reference.

Let's start with Genesis 4:7. It's the same book and very close to Genesis 3:16, so it's most likely used in the same way. It's also probably the same human author, even if you don't think Moses wrote all the Pentateuch. (A case can be made that Moses was not the only human author, but that's irrelevant here.)

Genesis 4:7 presumably has an "and unto", which affects the parts of speech involved—but if I look at the original word used there, it's a preposition, usually translated "to", "into", or "towards". It isn't an "and" (which is a conjunction)—which just strengthens the argument that it's supposed to be part of the "sin lieth at the door", rather than a new clause altogether. Prepositions are used in phrases, not clauses.*

*clause
a sequence of words in a grammatical construction that does have both a noun and a verb
phrase
a sequence of words in a grammatical construction that does not have both a noun and a verb
original KJV:

If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

modified to account for parts of speech and actual on-page words in the original:

If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door[,] its desire towards you, and thou shalt rule over him.

The "it" refers back to "sin"—it's the meaning that makes sense, although the English construction adds another possible meaning—so this adjustment actually keeps the meaning in the original translation that added words. Cadence was a bit clearer to follow in the original translation, per English construction, but this is evidence supporting the methods I'm applying to focus on actual original text rather than words that have been added later.

So now let's look at teshuqah in Song of Solomon. There is no clause in Song of Solomon 7:10, so we'll have to expand that reference.

I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;

And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth [down] sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.

I [am] my beloved's, and his desire [is] toward me.

Song of Solomon 7:8–10

This one starts talking from the guy's perspective and then shifts to the female…but at what point does the perspective shift? The added words and where the transitions divide the context put verse 9 in the man's mouth.

However, notice what, precisely, verse 9 says. The English could have been said by either the man or the woman, plus it being said by the man means the woman speaks in verb-less sentence fragments for verse 10—and, if you look at the original text, the word choice and genders in verse 9 indicate that it was actually spoken by the woman, not the man.

But the woman also displays a willingness to build off what the other person says. (Which are quite common in conversation, frankly, and that's how they're used here.) Look at verses 8 & 9 again:

Man:

I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples

Woman:

And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth [down] sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.I [am] my beloved's, and his desire [is] toward me.

Song of Solomon 7:8–9

Aren't flattery and compliments back and forth a major part of fondness and romance?

So the context is the man and woman flirting, and it builds together into verse 10—which, from looking at the original has the grammatical components of being a continuation from verse 9, rather than a new line in itself…and looking into some of the words, the "towards" is added altogether (not included in any other verses with that specific word form).

In this case, though, there's still an omitted verb—and the context suggests the implied verb is go or speak (which seems to have a quite different literal definition from how it's translated, but the imagery conveyed is comparable).

original KJV:

And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth [down] sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.

I [am] my beloved's, and his desire [is] toward me.

modified to account for parts of speech and actual on-page words in the original:

And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goeth [down] sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak. I, of/for/to my beloved and his desire towards me.

Song of Solomon 7:8–10

The comma after "I" is called a "comma of elision" and indicates a word has been omitted and must be defined by the context.

Multiple possible correct meanings is common in some forms of communication, and Song of Songs is an example of two such forms: poetry and flirtatious back-and-forth. It's quite possible—perhaps even likely—that multiple meanings were intended, whether or not any of the word play is double entendre. So while although I can't give a strict 1:1 suggestion for what is meant by the reference, the context itself indicates that a direct or strict 1:1 meaning is unlikely.

Putting all three references together only supports my suggestion that words and punctuation might have been added to the original text withoutsufficient reason , and some of the other-than-KJV translations of the verses containing teshuqah also demonstrate that. So, as of yet, my method of double-checking the accuracy or necessity of words added is still working.

What do you think of this manner of looking at these verses? Do you see other potential meanings or implications that I missed?

An Interesting-and-Pertinent Blog Post Series

A bit of background:

I first found this series back in 2011. I read it then, found it interesting though I didn’t agree entirely. At the time, I was trying to open a dialogue with my parents as a reasonable adult, since they and everyone was saying it was normal for parents to struggle with seeing you that way when you still lived with them. (Never mind that they actually got worse as I got older, but I think we all understand why, at this point.)

Anyway, I sent a link to my father, saying it was interesting. His response made clear 1. that he believed I agreed with it 100%, and 2. that he hadn’t actually read the series—he’d just seen the intro and made assumptions, shutting down any discussion with a “proof” that didn’t actually counter the series.

I tracked down that link in my e-mail and have read through it again, and it sounds much like commenter Muddleglum Smith…and has me thinking of and through some implications that I will, Lord willing, speak of in the future.

Can the common conflation of conditional and universal statements be accidental?

You know how folks will sometimes take something like “X can lead to Y” and insist you’re saying “X necessarily leads to Y"?

I’ve witnessed it used a lot by folks who display other fruits consistent with abuse and manipulation, so I’m leery of it when I see it. Depending on context, it can be equivocation, a non sequitur, or a straw man argument—but always logically fallacious.

What’s bothering me is how prevalent it is in some circles, how if you make an illustration that’s demonstrating a conditional connection you’re described as seeming to make a universal point—or how if you point out flaws in an argument, you’re necessarily disagreeing with it.

My habit is to assume the other person just doesn’t know any better, but…

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Matthew 7:18, KJV

and

Therefore by their fruits you shall know them.

Matthew 7:20, KJV

So when it’s a habit for someone to conflate conditional and general statements, and particularly when the person denies doing such a thing when it’s pointed out, might that be considered a fruit we’re to recognize? Or is the denial itself the fruit we’re to identify?

What I’m mulling on, today. :-)