Monday, July 03, 2006

Hoc Est Corpus Meum

I forgot whom, but somewhere along the line, I head a preacher or teacher discussing the words of institution. Somehow I remember him saying that in the original, there was no equivalent of of the word "is", no "est" like in the Latin: Hoc est corpus meum. The teacher was saying that "I am the door" was a similar construction, and clearly none of us believe in Christ's literal door-ness.

Today I finally looked it up, and there staring back at me on page 102 of my Greek New Testament are the words, touto estin to soma mou. Now, it's been 6 or 7 years since I studied Greek in college, but I remember that estin is an eimi verb. So, I went Googling for what in the world I was recalling. Turns out that some have argued that since Aramaic has no connecting verbs, and since Jesus must have been speaking Aramaic in the upper room, he didn't intend what the gospel author's imply with their Greek constructions.

The psychological principle here is called source monitoring error. The danger of misinformation is enhanced when the information is encoded, but the source is not. Behavior can be changed, in this case, some residual doubts about the Real Presence, based on hearing information from dubious sources. You remember that "somewhere" you heard thus and such, but you can't quite remember where it was that you heard it. In the laboratory, researchers have shown that information from even very non-credible sources (think Pravda), can change attitudes and behavior.

Could this teaching that I was exposed to have come from a Christian who held high regard for the Scriptures, but was overcome by a tempting fact (lack of "being" verbs in the Aramaic) that supported his theology so well? Given that the Church of the East is in communion with Rome (if I can trust the "collective ignorance" of Wikipedia) then I don't think that they use this argument about the words of institution, despite their use of the Peshitta. (Some Aramaic primacists in the CotE claim that Aramaic is the language of the monographs of the N.T.).


Blogger solarblogger said...

Nice post.

It took me a little work to follow (and I LIKE reading Psychology). Let me add a little info for readers who may not know the jargon.

When you say "encoded" you mean encoded in memory. So the information was encoded into memory, but the source was not encoded into memory. You remembered the theory, but not where it came from. (If any of your readers are not familiar with the term "encoded" in this context, they might wonder what kind of code the information was in.)

I also think that people tend to accept grammatical arguments from authority a little too easily. Granted, if they don't know a language, they can hardly look this stuff up for themselves, but they should probably treat it all as rumor. At the level of what they hear on infomercials. Sure, it sounds plausible, but what doesn't when you don't know about a field?

If they want to trust experts they can trust their English translators, and decide that even if it doesn't work perfectly, their English Bibles are probably a better guide to meaning than someone's gas about the Greek. (So long as they use a fairly literal translation and not the Nearly Inspired Version.) Though I think Lenski does a decent job of explaining the Greek, and his English translations are careful, even if not always pretty. If the experts are Lenski or F.F. Bruce, it's probably safe to listen.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Kletos Sumboulos said...

Thanks, Solarblogger. When I teach Intro to Psych, I tend to give visual cues to the class when I use jargon - pointing at my head when I say 'encoded.' I'm also pretty good at reading the expressions on various faces and adding examples to clarify. Minus those blank expressions, I can go awry.

Encoding is a technical term that refers to storing information, while retrieval refers to "remembering" the information. Other processes go on as well. For instance, factual information is stored with a kind of "time stamp" albeit not quite so exact.

9:20 AM  
Blogger solarblogger said...

No problem. That's how jargon tends to work, especially if it's good jargon like this. It allows you to save a lot of time during in house discussions. But when you switch audiences, a term like this can still slip out unawares.

Feedback in the form of facial expressions would be helpful. I think we would need some new emoticons. And they would have to work involuntarily. Wait! Stop! I'm having flashbacks from "A Clockwork Orange"!

1:24 PM  
Blogger Bob Waters said...

The argument- a common one among the small-r reformed- is also based on an implied denial of the inspiration of Scripture.

Aramaic may not use the copulative verb-
but Greek does! The biblical text is the commentary of the Third Person of the Trinity on what the Second Person meant!

7:41 PM  
Blogger Bob Waters said...

Also, I think the "Church of the East" referred to in Wikipedia is (are?) the Uniate churches, not the misnamed "Orthodox."

7:42 PM  

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