Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, November 17, 2008

Let's not lose "Behold!"

Here in Toronto where I am teaching for a term, a fellow faculty member (Leslie Demson) who teaches Hebrew is in league with me to recover the English word "Behold" when reading Scripture. Most modern translations use "see" or "look" or even "here is" (as in Pilate's "here is the man" instead of the long-hallowed "Behold the man"-- ecce homo).

But "see" and "look" don't perform the same linguistic function. Marilyn McCord Adams has explained that there is one form of language for human agency, and another for divine agency. If preachers, readers, and teachers of Scripture don't understand this, we are impoverished. Prof. Demson says that "behold" is a revelatory word indicating a different order of reality. I say it is a word of wonder, a word of awe, a word that opens up another dimension. ("And lo!" serves the same function.)

So this Advent, let's say with Isaiah, "Behold your God!" (You don't have to give up your modern translation. Just say "behold" instead of "look.")