Recently I posted an update to my Facebook page about the fact that the word for “Sword” in Greek was feminine.
I have here decided to write the blog post to explain why this filled me with so much joy.
Firstly, there is absolutely NO spiritual significance, and I am definitely not going to preach a sermon trying to create doctrine from this fact. Sometimes, sadly, people do this with the Bible, and try to create doctrines from genders and verb forms etc. Eg, in the original Greek it says… then they create all manner of inferences from the fact that for instance, “sword” is a feminine word. Actually, it would be good if they went as far as the original Greek. Many people I’ve heard doing this create new doctrines from the words as they have been translated into English. I can only listen and cringe, because I know that for instance many words that do not actually exist in the Greek would have been added to the English translation for the sake of understanding, and then someone will try to construct a doctrine on the verb form or the tense of the word that the translator has added, that does not actually exist, technically speaking, in the original text. I often think that pastors create new doctrines, or try to cultivate forced “revelations”, because they do not consider the message of the Bible sufficient. They do not think that the message of Christ’s sacrificial death for us on the cross, and redemption through His blood, and hope of eternity with Him is enough. They feel that the whole message needs a little “pizzazz”, so they add it themselves, through these “radical” – but totally erroneous – Biblical analyses.
OK, so this is why I am excited about the “Sword” thing.
This story goes back a long way, right back to when I was a university undergraduate.
At the church I attended back at uni, there was a baptism service, and a number of people were baptised. Now our story concerns two of these people in particular, and one member of the congregation. Now, let me please make it clear that I was not in any way one of these three people. It was definitely not my own baptism, I was just looking on. The connection between these three people was only that the same member of the congregation received pictures for these two people who were baptised (out of a total number of about 8 -10 people who were baptised). Now nothing really “happened” as such, except in my own mind; what I picked up was probably not noticed by anyone else who was there except me, and the people concerned have probably long forgotten about their baptisms
What is important in this story is the gender of the people being baptised. Person 1, who was baptised was a woman. Person 2, the congregant, was also female, (although her gender was less relevant); Person 3 who was baptised was a man.
And so Person 1 was baptised. And Person 2 received a picture from God. (A picture in this sense is a kind of prophecy given by God in visual form). Her picture for Person 1 was that Person 1 was to be a pretty sunflower, unfurling her petals…plus a little bit more of the same kind of thing. Now, let me emphasise that Person 1 was a grown woman, a few years older than I, a student – a medical student, I believe (if I remember correctly). Listening on, I was thinking “hmmm”.
A few more people were baptised inbetween, then Person 3, a man was baptised. And then Person 2, the same congregant, received another picture. The picture was a little different in his case. He was to be a sword that God would use mightily to assert His kingdom, to destroy strongholds of darkness, to establish truth and light and love and so on, and so on. Listening on, I thought “Really?!” And I was so glad that it was not my own baptism. If it had been me she had been talking about as person 1, I fear that I may have been rude enough to interrupt her, and assert my own vision for my life, which extends beyond being “a sunflower”. I thought to myself – “Please, let no-one ever receive any “nice” pictures about me, or on my account – or I suspect that I will just contradict them – yes I will!” Yet what can you do? She received this picture from God. I suspect that what people receive as “pictures” from God is sometimes dependent on their faith. To be blunt, I think Person 2 received this picture of a sunflower, because she (not God) thought that that was all Person 1 would be capable of. (Or does God in His word call anyone to be flowers?! Actually ethnicity could also have been a factor – but don’t worry, I’m not going to go there! )
I don’t like letting my future be defined by other people’s expectations – perhaps their assumptions of what I might be capable of. I know that words are powerful, which is why I will always open my mouth to assert my own vision for myself, so that no-one else’s words can be allowed to “stand”.
I would hate to be compared to a sunflower, as opposed to, for instance, a sword, because a sunflower is so relatively passive (although I guess you could talk about turning its head to the sun, producing oil (when squeezed) etc. Except that this woman Person 2 did not speak about oil. All she spoke about was petals). So in essence, Person 1 was going to sit there looking pretty, Person 2 could expect to be used mightily. It was at that point that I made up my mind that girl or no girl, I was definitely going to be a sword in the hand of God, or be used as powerfully as anyone could expect to be used. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with being pretty – swords can be richly decorated, with intricate carvings etc and adorned with precious stones – but the point is that swords are highly functional, if you know what I mean!
So all of this then was the reason I was very happy to discover that “Sword” in Greek is feminine.
So you see, it has no spiritual significance, but it does make me smile in a certain way! And I’ve just checked, this is also the same feminine word “macharia” that is used in the phrase “the Sword of the Spirit” – Ephesians 6.17 – Hallelujah!
PS: With all this talk about a sword, I would like to make it clear that in Christianity this does not involve killing people or any physical combat. It is a metaphorical thing. The Bible makes it clear that we as Christians do not engage in physical, but rather spiritual combat, largely through prayer, and living out God’s instructions for our lives.
PPS: Since then, a number of people have tried to foist their “Sunflower-sized” expectations onto my life. To which my response, either directly or indirectly, tends to be “You’re joking, right?! That’s S-W-O-R-D, thank you very much!”
Final note: I don’t know the word for “Sunflower”, but as it happens the word for “flower” in Greek is masculine “anthos” – (or at least that is what I thought from the “os” ending – turns out it is actually neuter…!)