“Exodus”: now, then (in the Bible), and then

Kurk, the question is not how were words used before, but how are they used now? Evidence of prior non-religious use … won’t tell us the current status of a word.
Dannii Willis

… the NT has heavily Semiticized Greek….  One can of course ask the question “how can one best adapt the Bible into everyday English”

There’s a good post and discussion on questions of (Christian) Biblish jargon over at BBB, questions such as:   “How many English words have become technical religious jargon?”  and “how should we translate what was clearly jargon to begin with?”  Dannii likes and repeats a rather rhetorical question of a self-identified pagan (a “Quaker Pagan“) named Peter Bishop:

If the Greek “baptizo” had been translated as “submerse” from the beginning–or if it were adopted now and became the accepted standard for a few centuries–wouldn’t “submerse” come to have the same technical meaning that “baptize” does today?

Here at this blog, I’d like to continue the thinking, the questioning.  And yet, I want to focus on another particular (Bible) word, another Greek one.  It’s not clear that this one is so peculiarly “New Testament.”  Can Christians today, nonetheless, do without it?  Should English Bible translators replace it with a “non-Biblish alternative” that would more “communicate clearly”?

The word?  Exodus.


This isn’t the end-all statement of the current status of exodus, but it’s a start.  I begin looking at how most of us English users in the world on this very day use this word (ostensibly naturally) by googling it.  Here’s what shows (and note the associations with Christianity in the top 2 of this initial baker’s dozen):

  1. The web page for “Exodus International – freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.”
  2. The wikipedia entry for “The Book of Exodus … the second book of the Torah and the Christian Bible.”
  3. The promotional web page for the heavy metal rock band “Exodus … [announcing their] March of Brutality Tour 2010h … [and this as their] Official site, with biography, discography, news, tour dates, merchandise, pictures, message board and links.”
  4. The link to the Internet Movie Database entry for the film “Exodus (1960) Directed by Otto Preminger … [and] Starring Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb … [in which] The theme is the founding of the state of Israel…. [and] The action begins on a ship filled with Jewish immigrants…. “
  5. The link to the MySpace site for the heavy metal rock band named “Exodus” (linked already at entry #3 above).
  6. An amazon.com promotion of the once hugely popular novel by Leon Uris, which he entitled “‘Exodus’ [which] isn’t the kind of book you read for literary merit…. [and whose] joyously pro-Israel strains … will probably now draw more cynicism than ….”
  7. The biblegateway.com link to “Exodus 1 – Passage Lookup – New International Version … [from which google culls this preview/ overview:] Exodus 1. The Israelites Oppressed. 1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who … Exodus 1:5 Masoretic Text (see also Gen. 46:27 Dead Sea Scrolls and ” ….
  8. something for coders called: “exodus – Project Hosting on Google Code… [more specifically]: A client that is developed as a successor to winjab, [for] it aims to be a end user client with a smaller interface.”
  9. The link to an online “fm” radio station offering free listening of the music of the heavy metal rock band named “Exodus” (linked already at entries #3 and #5 above).
  10. Two links to video clips from the American tv show “Lost,” respectively entitled “Exodus, Part 1” and “Exodus, Part 2.”
  11. Three news stories linked (from the Jakarta Post, from Reuters, and from The Stony Brook Press), with promises of “related stories” to the headlines, such as “‘Idul Fitri exodus reflects better economy‎’ [posted] – 4 hours ago [from the first time I googled.]”
  12. Links to three books entitled Exodus, that one by “León Uris – 1958 – 626 pages” as linked in entry #6 above, the second by “Terence E. Fretheim – 1991 – 321 pages,” and the third by “Carol L. Meyers – 2005 – 311 pages.”
  13. Links to and previews of 5 images labeled “Images for exodus” – the first from a children’s education website showing an illustration of “the Trip” made in the Bible story of Exodus, the second another illustration of the same story from a blog, and the last three images photos of the heavy metal band called “Exodus” already heavily promoted by google entries #3, #5, and #9 above.

Well, what can we English users say today?  Exodus, the word, is very contemporary, with some echoes from the Bible, from perhaps before the Bible.  I’m out of time for now.  This post, then, will have to continue later.  What we’ll look at next, I hope, is exodus in the “New Testament” and then in the Hebrew Bible as a whole.   Finally, we’ll find exodus as Greek before then.  Maybe, we’ll see where that leaves us.

As a teaser of things to come here (from the past to the present), I only want to exit this post with the following intriguing quotation from David Rosenberg’s recently published book, An Educated Man: A Dual Biography of Moses and Jesus (page 209):

…..What Judeo-Christianity returns to our consciousness is not only the Jewish history that Jesus himself studied, but the Jewish emphasis on recording history back to its root in a single Creation for all humanity.  Judeo-Christianity represents an exception to the universalism of the old Christian belief in forgetting the origin of human history and neglecting all that came before Jesus of Nazareth.  In place of one revelation, Judeo-Christianity provides one origin.
…..Moses’ story is an Exodus of the mind as well as the body.


4 responses to ““Exodus”: now, then (in the Bible), and then

  1. Looking forward to what’s to come!

  2. Pingback: “Exodus”: Heavily Semiticized (NT) Greek | Mind Your Language

  3. “Exodus” just means “departure.” The departure from Egypt has come to be the “quintessential” departure in terms of literary allusions. A “holocaust” was a type of sacrifice where, instead of just being barbecued and then eaten by the offerer, it was completely burned up. It came to relate to any large scale massacare. But since the calamity of the Jews in WWII, “The Holocaust” refers specifically to that calamity (which the Jews now prefer to call “The Shoah” – which is Hebrew for “calamity”).

    So common words come to have specific referents.

    • Thanks, WoundedEgo. One of the first “holocaust” references is in Xenophon’s Anabasis (Book 7 chapter 8 section 4 line 3). Here’s the English translation by H. G. Dakyns from 1890; I’ve reinserted the Greek:

      Now when the Lampsacenes sent gifts of hospitality to Xenophon, and he was sacrificing to Apollo, he requested the presence of Eucleides; and the latter, seeing the victims, said: “Now I believe what you said about having no money. But I am certain,” he continued, “if it were ever to come, there is an obstacle in the way. If nothing else, you are that obstacle yourself.” Xenophon admitted the force of that remark. Then the other: “Zeus Meilichios (2) is an obstacle to you, I am sure,” adding in another tone of voice, “have you tried sacrificing to that god, as I was wont to sacrifice and [ὁλοκαυτεῖν, holokautein] offer whole burnt offerings for you at home?” Xenophon replied that since he had been abroad, he had not sacrificed to that god. Accordingly Eucleides counselled him to sacrifice in the old customary way: he was sure that his fortune would improve. The next day Xenophon went on to Ophrynium and sacrificed, offering a holocaust [ὡλοκαύτει, hOlokautei] of swine, after the custom of his family, and the signs which he obtained were favourable.

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