More on Glory

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Some years ago we wrote a newsletter on the Kwong word kømø that we have begun to use for "glory"  - a very important word for our Kwong theology since (as the Puritans taught) theology begins and ends and is saturated with the glory of God. If you can't talk about "glory" in your theology, you might as well hang it up. (You can read about our theology of glory on this website. Click here.)

Well, in what has to be a classic example of the elasticity of language and the utter foolishness of those who think we can cram an African language into a King James mold, we made new discoveries of this wonderful word that forced us to rewrite a lot of material.  Here's what happened - we think at least some of you will find it interesting.

First, Moses the Younger pointed out that the original use of the word kømø was not as a noun, such as we use "glory", but as an adverb, as in "gloriously". The proper way to speak in Kwong is not "we see the glory of God", but rather "we see God gloriously." This is an amazing linguistic restatement of the old adage "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". In the same way that beauty only becomes beauty when it is seen, God's glory becomes glorious when other members of the trinity, we humans,  and angels perceive it as such. In a remarkable stroke of insight, fundamental Kwong grammar and semantics reflects this. 

So back to the drawing board - is it, as Moses the younger suggested, impossible to speak of "glory" in any objective, nominal sense in kwong? What about all the times  we wrote "the kømø (glory) of God"? Things weren't quite as restrictive as Moses made them out to be, though we still weren't saying what we thought we were saying. In further discussion with Laurrent and François, we discovered that in fact, every time we said "the kømø (glory) of God" people understood some kind of glorious, miraculous something out there in the world which God had made or done, and not, as we intended, the excellencies of the soul of God - gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love, etc.  

Back to the drawing board again. Was there no way of referring to these excellencies of the soul - the true glory of God? Kwong syntax held the answer. It turns out that there are two ways of possessing something in Kwong, as in most African languages - a distinction which does not exist in English or the Biblical languages (another reason the KJV mold doesn't work). They are called, respectively, alienable possession, and inalienable possession. Alienable possession means basically you own something - your house, your ox, your food, etc. Inalienable possession means you basically you are stuck with something - your head, your hand, your soul, your relatives(!), and your anything else that is part and parcel of you. When we fabricated the phrase "the kømø (glory) of God", we did so using the alienable construction - so that God's "has" glory in the same way he "has" the universe - something outside himself. So it was not surprising to hear that people thought of his glory principally in terms of the miracles he does and not what he is. So, we wondered, would it work to speak of God's glory in an inalienable sense? If so, what would people understand, if anything? 

We went back to Laurrent and François and they confirmed that while no-one has every spoken of glory in quite this way before, they would interpret it immediately as something deep within the heart of God - something inherent in him. Bingo! That was exactly what we wanted.

So now we have three ways using three different syntactical forms to refer to the glory of God, depending on the shade of meaning associated with the context. If we are speaking of the glory of God as revealed, for example, at the Red Sea, we use the old standby "the kømø (glory) of God" since it refers to a miraculous thing that God did outside of himself. When however, we refer to the excellencies of the character of God - who he is - we use the the inalienable construction which in Kwong works out to something like "God's kømø-of-him". And when we speak of all mankind seeing his glory, we use the adverbial form "and all flesh shall see him kømø-ly (gloriously)". 

We have been fascinated by the evolution of this concept and word in Kwong, and thought that at least a few of you might be interested to understand some of the complexities that go into translating the Scriptures into an African language. Also, bear in mind that we first discovered the word kømø 4 years ago - which was 8 years after Mark arrived in Kwongland, and that it has taken another 4 years to work out the intricacies of the word. And people wonder why Bible translations typically take a missionary's entire career!

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Last modified: August 12, 2014