”How do you get your systematic theology if it is not at first driven by understanding the language? In order to get your systematic theology, you first have to get to the meaning of the words. It cannot be the other way round for the obvious reason: it would imply that systematic theology is developed before you understand the meaning of the words in Scripture.”
Dr. Ian Hodge
Australian Theonomist and all round great guy
Dr. Hodge’s formulation is lacking my estimation. Language doesn’t come to us disassociated from a meaning that is driven by theology. Language is not a free floating independent category that can be worked out in terms of meaning without that meaning of the language being informed a-priori by some theology. What I am insisting here is that the search for meaningful language requires a theology of language, and if we must have a theology of language before we can rightly understand language then clearly there is some sense in which theology is prior to language.
In terms of the “meaning of the words in Scripture,” it seems fairly obvious that the different conclusions (and so different translations) that people come up with in terms of word meanings reveals that language is theology (worldview) dependent. People will have disagreement regarding the meaning of language and at that point we begin to see that theology is the reason for that disagreement on the language.
I would argue that the particulars (language) and the wholes (theology) condition one another at every step of the way. I do agree with you however that paying attention to the language is key.
We might say that language without theology is blind while theology without language is empty. They need each other and are equally ultimate.
One thought on “The Relationship Between Theology And Language”
Of all the religions in human history only Christianity theology states :”and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, other religions around the world have the words of their gods, from their ancestors and prophets, but they do not have a savior that was born as the living word of God sent to reconcile the world. Christ did not come to unite the world but to divide it with the word of God.
The last words of Christ on the cross has been misrepresented by so many, he taught Psalms 22 while hanging on the cross so as to prove to the people that God’s word had become flesh to reconcile the world and heaven to God’s love.