Every language is laden with idioms and euphemisms. When we are unaware of their presence we will find ourselves in a state of confusion because their “literal meanings simply do not make sense.” Native speakers learn those meanings and subconsciously recognize them by the contexts in which they appear. Idioms are just part of the way they think. Below are a few idioms native English speaking Americans easily recognize and understand. The idioms are underlined:
(1) You blew it this time so you better get ready to face the music.
● In literal terms “blew it” means “to blow air out of your mouth.” The meaning of the idiom is “to made a big mistake” or “to do something wrong.”
● In literal terms facing the music means “to turn your body to the direction of the music and stand in front of it.” The meaning of the idiom is “to face reality” or “to deal with the reality of the situation and accept all the consequences” (usually “bad”).
● “You really made a big mistake so you better get ready to deal with the reality of the situation and accept all of the consequences.”
(2) It’s time to hit the sack!
● The literal meaning of “hit the sack” would be “to physically hit or beat a sack” (a large bag usually used for carrying things). The actual meaning of the idiom is “to go to bed.” Another popular idiom that has the same meaning is “hit the hay.”
● “It’s time to go to bed.”
Yeshua used idioms in his teachings. However, as we saw in our previous studies – From Yeshua to Jesus and It’s Yod – NOT a Jot ot Tittle -- his Hebrew words were first translated into Greek and later into Latin. Most English translations are usually translated from Greek manuscripts made by Greek translators that did not know they were translating Hebrew idioms. This created nightmares for readers of their translations. Two Hebrew idioms are found in Matthew 6:22-23a (New King James translation). The idioms are underlined:
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.
Take a minute to let those underlined words sink in. They don’t make any sense to “American thinking” English speakers. That hasn’t stopped Bible translators from coming up with all kinds of imaginative translations of their own. Below are examples how different groups translated them:
● eye be single & eye be evil (American Standard Version)
● eye is true & eye be evil (Bible in Basic English)
● eyesight is good & eyesight is bad (Weymouth New Testament)
● eye is sound & eye is evil (World English Bible)
● eye may be perfect & eye may be evil (Young's Literal Translation)
The correct literal English translation the idioms Yeshua used are good eye and evil eye. He was repeating idioms that are found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Christian Old Testament). The first idiom is found in Proverbs 22:9.
He that has a good eye shall be blessed;
for he gives his bread to the poor.
This verse is written in a type of Hebrew prose called a parallelism, which helps us easily discover the meaning of the idiom. The idiom appears in the first part of the parallelism and the second part defines it.
good eye = gives his bread to the poor
Therefore, a person with a “good eye” is “a generous person that helps the poor.” The second idiom “evil eye” is found in Deuteronomy 15:7-9.
If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you.”
This verse is also written in a parallelism. In this case the meaning of the idiom appears before and after it.
hardens heart or shuts hand from poor brother = evil eye = gives his him nothing
A person with an evil eye is “a stingy person with a harden heart or closed hand that does not help the poor.” Also note that this is a sin. Now let’s update our “reconstruction” of Yeshua’s words so we can “think what he thought”:
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore if you are a generous person that helps the poor, your whole body will be full of light. But if you are a stingy person with a harden heart or closed hand that does not help the poor, your whole body will be full of darkness.
Yeshua was teaching about how people respond to the needs of the poor they encounter in their normal course of life. We will reconstruct Yeshua’s complete teaching in a future study. The point I want to make today is that Yeshua used Hebrew idioms when he taught and that reveals that he not only spoke Hebrew – Yeshua thought in Hebrew and so did the members of his audience.
An important part of BHC’s Real Yeshua Project is to help you view Yeshua’s words through his eyes, which means “helping you think like Yeshua thought” too!
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