When the King James translation of the Bible was published in 1611, it rendered the Greek word elpis as “hope.” (Colossians 1:5 for example) The King James Version became the most widely published English Bible translation in history. As the English language has evolved in the 400 years since that publication, the word “hope” has taken on a primary meaning that is somewhat different than the meaning of elpis. When we use the word “hope” today we commonly mean “grounds for believing that something good may happen.” We also tend to attach the idea of possibility to the word “hope.” For example, we may ask, “Do you think there is any hope for our survival?” This question implies that survival may or may not happen.
When used in the Bible the Greek word elpis has the connotation of “expectation” or even “confidence.” In fact, the word is often used to describe the belief in something that, although not seen, is real. (Hebrews 11:1) In other contexts it refers to events that have not occurred but which are confidently expected.
These differences in interpretation can lead modern Bible readers to believe that the Greek scripture writers possessed less than full confidence in the events that they hoped for. In fact, when they used the word elpis they were expressing the full expectation of their occurrence.
It is not my intent to set out a proof of this hypothesis here. In fact, it is by no means original with me. A quick internet search of the phrase “Christian hope” will reveal hundreds of articles and sermons that support it. My intent is to provide a foundation for a Christian discussion of hope and expectations that distinguishes the general modern linguistic understanding of these terms from the Biblical usage. I think that this foundation is important because our current culture views very few ideas as settled, or determined. The modern usage of the word “hope” tends to take on this view. When we “hope” something we want it to be true, or to happen, but we don’t view it as settled.
Natural science reinforces the idea of an unsettled universe, as well. It speaks in terms of probability, chaos, entropy and uncertainty when describing the behavior of the universe and social systems. Ethics follows with “relativism,” and “situation morality.” I am convinced that it is precisely at this point that we make an irrational jump. Natural science is appropriately described in the terms mentioned above, but ethics and morality are not. Unfortunately, we are so immersed in relativism that the notion that scientific knowledge is relative while morals are not seems completely backward to most of us.
“Political correctness” plays the role of deceiver in our culture, as well. We are told that we should respect all beliefs and lifestyles, as if they are all equally valuable, or true, or correct. That is absurd because: 1) It isn’t true and, 2) No rational person actually believes it. It cannot be respectful to tell someone that you believe that they are right when you believe that they are wrong.
So… this is your introduction to My Piece of Pi. I hope you have been a little bit stirred up to talk more about hopes and expectations. More is sure to follow! I want to respond to your interests and feedback. Please use the comment form to send them to me!
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