Lightish

Heddal stave church
The 13th century Heddal Stave Church is a fine example of the old Christian tradition in Norway. The Christian influence continues in our modern language.

I think my friend Jay feels a bit deceived. I have promised her a bit of “light writing” or “light reading” for her part. I promise you I start out with the best intentions, but then my mind goes astray and I end up doing something that has a greater potential than I intended. Having found a chance for friendship I thought I missed years ago, I naturally don’t want to disappoint and literally mess it up. I want to keep promises, so here I go again. This is I once again trying to offer my friends a bit of light reading.

I have engaged in several discussions, on my blog, with atheists/net trolls about the influence of Christanity in Norway. My opponents have wrongly assumed that we owe everything to Greek philosophy and humanism, and they also assume that these are pure atheist ideologies. I see no hope for that kind of reasoning, but I’ll leave that for another post.

My point today is that there are many signs of how strongly Christianity has influenced Norwegian culture. We may think that Norwegian culture is pagan and completely removed from religion, but our own language gives us away. Most people use words and expressions from the Bible without knowing it. In fact, there are so many of them, and they have become such cliches that we repeat them automatically. You hear them constantly from sports commentators, news anchors and in every day speech.

I couldn’t give you the whole list. There are too many words, and I don’t know all of them myself, but these are some of the most common ones.

The writing on the wall
A hand appears out of nowhere and writes a prediction of the fall of the Babylonian Empire on a wall. Today it’s a sign of doom or defeat (Daniel 5).

Dancing around the golden calf (Exodus 32)
The people got restless while Moses was climbing up the mountain to get the tablets with the commandments. They wanted something physical they could worship and gathered all the jewelry, melted it and made a golden calf. When Moses came down and saw what the people had done, he was so angry that he accidentally broke the tablets and he destroyed the calf. Dancing around the golden calf is a metaphor for cultivating mammon and striving for wealth, and frequently used in media.

The worker deserves his wages (Luke 10:7)
The disciples are almost at the end of their internship. Jesus knows he’s going to die, and he prepares the diciples for the work, the same work he has been doing. I think he meant that the things people gave the disciples were not gifts or charity. It was the salary they deserved. I suppose it means the same today. If you work you deserve to be payed for it

The great flood (In the latest edition of the Norwegian Bible we have the same word, but it’s the old translation used for this expression. That literally means flood of sin).

I live in a part of Norway that has a lot of rain, and sometimes we have weeks of neverending, heavy rain. During a period like that you can hear this expression as a joke.

Laban
My daughter loves Laban, which is our version of gummy bear, except that they are people. I grew up with Laban as just men, but in our days of equality we get to eat women as well. I think this word has been lost and I’m not sure people would understand it anymore.

If you read Genesis you get the picture. Jacob had to work for his future father-in-law for 7 years before he could marry Rachel, but he was tricked into marrying the other daughter, Lea. That meant he had to serve Laban for 7 more years. Jacob left after that, but Laban didn’t let him go willingly.
Today the word Laban means an untrustworthy character.

The black sheep
The meaning is quite obvious. You stand out in a very negative way, at least from the majority’s point of view, such as in a family. It’s not clear where this comes from, but it is possible the story about Laban was the inspiration.

To be filled with the Holy Ghost (literally the spirit) Acts 2:4
This is a very common expression for finding inspiration, like if I finally do the things my wife asked me to do a while ago

Thorn in the eye
I’m not sure where this comes from, but I wonder if it could be a combination of Numbers 33:55 and Matthew 7:3. I don’t think the Bible actually says thorn in the eye anywhere.

Numbers 33:55 is one of the things I find problematic with the Bible. According to the people that wrote the Old Testament God frequently told the Jews to massacre their enemies, or inflict pain. I suppose Genesis 15:16 is believed to be a promise God gave to the Jews.

Here is a comparison. We have a small indigenous population in Norway. The Sami people are spread out over parts of Norway, Sweden, Finnland and Russia. I don’t think it would be any dfferent if someone decided that everyone living in these areas, who was not Sami, would have to leave. People tell me it’s not the same at all. I think it is, and I don’t think every word in the Bible is God’s word. Just as Israel today do things that were probably not sanctioned by God, I believe the people writing the Old Testament used their religion to justify atrocities.

But I digress. I’ll save that for another post, and I suspect people have a few opinions on this particular topic, but it doesn’t make any sense to me that God wants his people to wage holy war, basically a Jewish version of Jihad. What makes even less sense is how Christians today feel they have to defend this so vigorously. I think I see another post coming as I seem to have moved somewhat away from light, or maybe I did move towards the light?

To get back to the point, what God supposedly said was that if the Jews didn’t get the inhabitants of this land out, they’d become barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides.

Uria’s post/position
This is a much used expression in Norwegian. David was a favourite of God, if we are to take the Bible literally. He still did a lot of questionable things. One of them was sending Uria to the frontline, and he instructed his soldiers to abandon Uria where the fighting was the fiercest. David did this because he wanted Uria’s beautiful wife Bathsheba.

Having a uriapost/position today means having a dangerous or exposed position. You see it being used in media a lot, for example when a politician has to deal with an especially difficult issue.

Here are a few more. Can you identify where they come from?

The 11th hour, 13 people for dinner, alpha and omega, after seven years of abundance there’ll be seven years of famine, ramacry (mentioned in the Christmas story), stand like a pillar of salt, David against Goliath.

I do hate to disappoint you, my readers, and especially Jay, Heather and nomemoleste. This has the potential to be anything but light. I’m not especially intelligent, but I usually don’t find meaningless conversations about the weather interesting. But if I add some fascinating science or history, then we are making some progress. That may have been what I did this time as well.

Maybe I should just give up trying to write something without any content?

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9 thoughts on “Lightish

  1. Definitely keep your promises!
    Just don’t obligate yourself to write fluff when you obviously have something more worthwhile to say 😉

    Besides, I’m not seeing any reader complaints about your choice of topics…

    I’m going to be busy today, but hope to return to revisit your ideas and perhaps contribute to the discussion.

  2. I suppose it won’t be a surprise that I really liked this consideration?

    We are literally swimming in a sea of grace as we interpret the world around us.To those who are willing to accept it, it isn’t difficult to recognize the pervasive nature of Judeo-Christian influence in pretty much every culture that has been introduced to the faith. It is always encouraging to encounter other individuals who recognize this.

    Our American understanding of culture and history has also experienced a bit of re-interpretation from the humanist/atheist sphere of thinking. Religion is often held up as “the whole problem” with society today. And, it is probably true that there have been less-than-honest individuals who have co-opted the Christian religion as a means to further a selfish end.

    And yet…

    The fact that people have forgotten to credit God for any good things we human beings have done…this does not negate the reality that He alone is responsible for our very ability to learn and apply knowledge in a beneficial manner.

    The biblical Testimony which we have been given has indeed been firmly woven into the very fabric of our everyday existence.
    As you observed in your post, some will see this as a very good thing while others will work very hard to ignore it.

  3. John,

    I am flattered! No one has ever written an article just for me before! 🙂 However, please do not feel constrained concerning your topics. I couldn’t refrain from teasing you about your “light writing,” and I saw the similarity to my “short comments.”

    I am very puzzled about the whole “Laban” gummy people thing. I didn’t know Norwegians were so strange….that is even stranger than leaving young children unattended near bodies of water.

    Please, please tell us the story behind this strange cannibalistic confection that you Norwegians ingest. How on earth did it acquire such a peculiar name? What possible connection could there be between Laban in the Bible and this strange gummy thing (oops person)?

    Of course, the origin of these poor creatures is probably lost in the dark mists of Viking history, so perhaps you could write someday a “light” piece in which you create a “creation story” for the origin of this peculiar confection and its even stranger name. That is….if you are needing a break from the heavier topics. As always, I find them all interesting.

    1. I have such a difficult life with you and Eva teasing me. 🙂

      I think I’m driving Eva crazy in return with my neverending supply of very silly comments, and now I’m showing you my silly nature as well.

      That’s a welcome break from the things I don’t want to think about. I must admit I like eating both sweet and sour people. It’s all a part of reducing the surplus population. Norwegians strange? Are you saying I’m strange too?

      A creation story. That would be an intrtesting challenge. I have to see how I feel tomorrow. If I can outrun my enemies, apathy and moody, and concentrate on the task that would be fun.

  4. John,

    I’ve never heard Eva complain about your silly comments. Here, all this time I thought you were this “serious” guy……

    I hear you on the “welcome break from the things I don’t want to think about.” I have A LOT of those myself right now. Unfortunately…or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, for me they are all things I really can’t do anything about. So, all I can do is turn them over to the One who specializes in doing the impossible, because I can do nothing.

    As for the Labans….I didn’t realize they came in both sweet and sour! The sour ones sound better to me. As far as Norwegians being strange…..you all are probably no stranger than we Americans in the south must have seemed to you several years ago. 🙂

    So may your feet be fleet and your feet sure as you run..and remember that somewhere in the Bible it says that the race is “not to the swift.” I just wish I remember the rest of that one. May be Heather does.

    1. Ecclesiastes 9:11 (WEB)
      I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

      🙂

    2. I usually need one… And am much appreciative of those who have put in the work to make it available!

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