The Hebrew vs the Greek Worldview
There is a two-fold problem trying to understand the “Greek Mindset”
1) it is so all-pervasive that it lies below the threshold of our daily assumptions
2) the very attempt to define it is a function of the Greek mindset itself
There is an extremely basic foundation that must be laid to understand Spiritual Authority. It is the “Hebrew – Greek Mindset”. We live in a Greek Culture and it is this culture that must be understood. It helps create the disrespect to authority for the Believer
Let’s make some comparisons. Hebrew thinking and Greek thinking are not the same, yet it is the Greek thinking that influences today’s society and impacts many of our English translations of the Bible. Their concept of truth can be divided into 2 parts:
• In the Hebrew world, the reality is the Word.
• For the Greek realty is the Thing
Use of Senses
The most important senses in Hebrew are hearing and feeling creating a dynamic, intensity, and a mood or feeling. This is what we expect when we read the Hebrew Scriptures. For the Greek it is sight. This creates visible things, static, or images. These images have form and objectivity
How it relates to God
In the Hebrew Culture, there is only one God, one source, one measuring stick, creating a foundation for moral behavior – producing a clear right or wrong.
In Hebrew thinking, God does not change and works in cycles.
In Greek culture, they have many gods. This makes right and wrong unclear. It is called “relativism” today.
How it relates to the Nature of Man
To the Hebrew, man has three parts – it is a unity of spirit, soul, and body. He tries to be righteous, redeemed, and sanctified.
The Hebrew will search God’s word to find out how to live the righteous life.
What a man trusts and follows determines what he does. He searches for instructions for the heart, guidance for his soul, and directions for his body.
His #1 question is “HOW DO I…?”
In Greek thinking, the gods are always changing. Because of this, life in their view is seen as linear.
To the Greek, man has two parts, the flesh, and the soul. The soul is considered eternal.
It is knowledge and what the Greek believes that is the most important reflection of how he is.
• Knowledge and right-thinking or doctrine feeds the soul.
• Morals and ethics are concepts that are for the soul.
This is why the commandments and laws from scripture, which deal with the physical man, are irrelevant to the spiritual man.
His # 1 question is “WHAT DO I…?
Concrete thought expresses concepts and ideas in ways that can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted, or heard. All five of these senses are used when speaking, hearing, writing, and reading the Hebrew language. In Psalm 1:3, it reads: “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, and whose leaf does not wither”
The writer is expressing his thoughts in concrete terms such as a tree, streams of water, fruit, and leaf
Abstract thought expresses concepts and ideas that cannot be seen, touched, smelled, tasted, or heard. In Psalm 103:8, it reads: “The LORD is compassionate, and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”
The words compassion, grace, anger, and love are abstract words that cannot be experienced by the senses. This forces a question: Why are there abstract words in a passage of concrete thinking Hebrews?
These are English words used to translate original Hebrew concrete words. If the translators used the original Hebrew words, it would make no sense when translated into English
Example: Anger (alp): literally means “nose”, a concrete word. When a person is incredibly angry, he begins to breathe hard and the nostrils begin to flare. A Hebrew sees anger as “the flaring of the nos (nostrils).” If a translator literally translated the above passage, it would read “slow to nose”. The English reader would not understand this
Function versus Appearance
Hebrew thought describes objects in the relation to its functions, using verbs and nouns (Dynamic)
Greek thought describes objects in the relation to its appearance, using adjectives (Static)
An example would be a pencil.
Hebrew thought would say “I write words with it”
Greek thought would say “it is Blue/Black and about 6 inches long”
Congregating a Verb
I Am …. You Are … He is ….
He is … You are …. I Am ….
The "Greek" mindset imagines a tattoo or something similar on the thigh of Yeshua (Jesus) when he returns as "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:11-13,16).
(Verse 12) "His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself".
They do not connect this with Leviticus 19:28 which reads “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD”
The Hebrew mindset sees something more realistic: The tzitzits (braid/knots/tassels) of Yeshua's tallit (prayer shawl) falling across his thighs when He returns to earth atop a white horse!
Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value. (Ex: Gematria - “666”)
The knots of the tassels on the four corners of a tallit spell out Words
• The Sephardic tie the knots in windings of 10, 5, 6, 5 which spells out the numeric values of "YHVH" (the Name of God)
• The Ashkenazic use windings of 7, 8, 11, 13 which, adds up to 39, which is the numerical equivalent of Deuteronomy 6:4 which cites the Shema
In Greek, the day starts from “Midnight to Midnight”. The days of the week are named after Pagan Gods
In Hebrew, the day starts from “Sunset to Sunset” (Genesis 1:5)
The days of the week are known as “first day”. “second day”, “third day”, “fourth day”, “fifth day”, “sixth day”. “The Sabbath”.
Greek (Western) Approach Hebrew Approach
|Life analyzed in precise categories.||Everything blurs into everything else.|
|A split between natural & supernatural||Supernatural affects everything.|
|Linear logic||Contextual or "block" logic|
|"Rugged Individualism"||Importance of being part of group|
|Equality of persons||Value comes from place in hierarchies|
|Freedom orientation||Security orientation|
|Competition is good||Competition is evil (cooperation better)|
|Man-centered universe||God/tribe/family-centered universe|
|Worth of person based on money/material possessions/power||Worth derived from family relationships|
|Biological life sacred||Social life supremely important|
|Chance + cause & effect limit what can happen||God causes everything in his universe|
|Man rules nature through understanding and applying laws of science||God rules everything, so relationship with God determines how things turn out|
|Power over others achieved through business, politics and human organizations||Power over others is structured by social patterns ordained by God.|
|All that exists is the material||The universe is filled with powerful spirit beings|
|Linear time divided into neat segments. Each event is new||Cyclical or spiraling time. Similar events constantly reoccur|
|Oriented to the near future||Oriented to lessons of history|
|History is recording facts objectively and chronologically.||History is an attempt to preserve significant truths in meaningful or memorable ways whether or not details are objective facts.|
|Change is good = progress||Change is bad = destruction of traditions|
|Universe evolved by chance||Universe created by God|
|Universe dominated and controlled by science and technology||God gave man stewardship over his earthly creation. Accountability to God.|
|Material goods = measure of personal achievement||Material goods = measure of God’s blessing|
|Blind faith||Knowledge-based faith|
|Time as points on straight line ("at this point in time…")||Time determined by content ("In the day that the Lord did…")|
|What Do I …||“How Do I…|
The distinction comes from the difference between doing and knowing.
The Hebrew is concerned with practice, the Greek with knowledge.
Right conduct is the ultimate concern of the Hebrew, Right thinking that of the Greek.
Duty and strictness of conscience are the paramount things in life for the Hebrew.
For the Greek, the spontaneous and luminous play of the intelligence.
The Hebrew extols the moral virtues as the substance and meaning of life.
The Greek subordinates them to the intellectual virtues
The contrast is between practice and theory, between the moral man and the theoretical or intellectual man.
(To be continued in Part 2)