Greek we should know, i.

There’s some Greek we should all know—
some Greek words with which we,
particularly as people of faith,
should be familiar.
Because the meanings of them,
and the implications of their meanings,
are so important.

The word hermeneutics, for example,
comes, etymologically, from the Greek,
to interpret or to translate—
in and of itself a good insight—
the identification of translation with interpretation.

A popular etymology goes back to the Greek god Hermes,
the messenger God,
the mediator between the gods
and between gods and humans,
inventor of language and speech,
also known as a liar, trickster and thief—
another good insight—
revelation and obfuscation are so close.

In any mediation between the divine and the mortal,
veiling and revealing always happen concurrently.

Hermes was god of transitions and boundaries,
and hermeneutics helps us navigate
those tricky boundary areas,
not just between God and human beings,
but also those transitions through which God calls us
in our thinking about God
and our experience of God.

Hermeneutics has come to mean
the interpretive lens through which an individual sees.
So someone approaches you wearing a hoodie,
and you tense. You’re afraid.
You have a hermeneutic of suspicion.
Someone approaches you wearing a hoodie,
and you think to yourself, “My ears are cold, I wish I had one of those—”
less suspicion.
Hermeneutics are the interpretive filters
through which you see and understand.

Our world and our culture teach
a certain hermeneutic of suspicion—
foster and cultivate it.
We call it being careful.
Not all bad, certainly.
“Please report any unattended baggage.”

Often goes too far though,
creating the very environment it claims to respond to.

Naming a hermeneutic,
a map of our boundaries,
allows us to frame a series of questions,
often more important to ask
than to answer.

Where are my boundaries?
And why are they there?
What are they based on?

In the mediation of the divine
into my being and conceiving,
what boundaries do I bump into
and what transitions do I need to make?

What do I acknowledge as veiled,
and what do I believe revealed?
What can I not see?
And what keeps me from seeing more than I do?

Naming a hermeneutic,
a map of our boundaries,
allows us to consider whether to,
well, reconsider
those boundaries.

And not to know your hermeneutic
is to, dangerously,
ignore unattended baggage.


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