Hebrew/Greek Words, No English Equivalent

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Puritan Board Professor
This question is for those who are real familiar with Hebrew and Greek - something that I've often wondered. After you've learned the alphabet, much of what's involved in learning the new vocabulary is simply memorization - this means that. Its pretty straight forward (though difficult and time consuming, I'm sure).

At times in the past, and it may have been more in the Hebrew than in the Greek, I've heard it mentioned of words or ideas in the Hebrew/Greek language that had no equivalent words or ideas in English. You couldn't just say this means that. It seems like it would be extremely challenging to learn words or thoughts for which you didn't have a known point of reference in the English so you can log the new word into your brain. How do you go about understanding words that don't have English equivalents? How do you assure yourself that your understanding of the thought is correct?


Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member

Usually what is meant there is that there are several English words that come close, but none of which hits the nail on the head. So it is not like something that has no concept at all.


Puritan Board Freshman
For example, the Hebrew word [i:ee87ead76f]chesed[/i:ee87ead76f] is translated in many ways: mercy, kindness, lovingkindness, goodness, unchanging love, loyal deeds, deeds of devotion, favor, love, steadfast love, compassion, covenant love (to name just a few). You are able to get the general idea of the word (and can memorize it as a vocabulary word), but none of these words nails down [i:ee87ead76f]chesed[/i:ee87ead76f].



Puritan Board Junior
My favorite meaning for chesed is covenant faithfulness. It goes along with the concept from WCF VII, paragraph 1. If God shows mercy, He does so because He condescends by way of the covenant. And when you think about it, many times in the OT where mercy is shown, it is because of a relationship between the one who shows mercy, and the one who receives it based upon his family or his people.

It is a neat word.

In Christ,

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