Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Throwing Things At Each Other

It was an aside, one of those remnants that come with surprising frequency whenever I putter around in ancient languages as part of my sermon prep.

It was the story of Jesus going out to be tempted in the wilderness, to be tempted by "the devil."

Only the transliteration got all literal, and presented the Greek word diabolos not at the word "devil," but as its prefix and root.

He was tempted in the wilderness by the "thru-caster," it said.   Huh, I thought.

So I looked up the root of the word "devil," and found that it comes from the root word bolos, or "to throw," and dia, a polyvalent prefix meaning "through" or "between."

The "devil," then, is the personification of relationship projectiles.  It evokes a throwing-between, not in the "friendly game of catch" sort of way, but in the "I intend this to hurt you" sort of way.

Taken that way, the word speaks to both distance between souls and violence directed towards another, as we stand at a remove and lob hatred at one another.  That can be physical, or it can be verbal.

Diabolos can also mean "throwing through," which reminded me of the verb "to defenestrate," the act of hurling an enemy--or an object--through a window.

Again, it is the personification of violence, inflicted upon or directed towards an object of hatred.

Either way, it seems like a fair description of the heart of our blighted world's unpleasantness.