19 May 2010

Suffer the little children...

definition of the verb 'to suffer':

  • to undergo (something painful or unpleasant, as injury, grief, a loss, etc.); be afflicted with
  • to undergo or experience (any process, esp. change)
  • to allow; permit; tolerate
  • to bear up under; endure: now chiefly in negative constructions, e.g., they could not suffer opposition
Meanings of words tend to evolve as the years roll by. Such are the benefits of a living language! A good case in point is the verb 'to suffer', which in our modern day world tends to denote pain or discomfort in some sense. One drawback to this is the way that it tends to distort some time-honoured phrases, clouding their meaning. One example is the words of Jesus that are recorded as 'suffer the little children' in the King James translation of Matthew's Gospel. A lot has happened to the English language since this translation was completed in 1611!

Ever keen on the obvious play on words, journalists often use this as a banner headline when it involves children suffering in some way, but this is of course not what was meant at the time the Greek words were translated. A quick look at a Greek Interlinear Bible makes things a bit clearer, or ideally a more modern translation ...

Matthew 19:14 (New International Version)
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

The words of Jesus are always worth studying - however, let's remember that we need to dig a little into what is being said... let's not let the passage of time keep us from hearing God's word to us today.

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