January 26, 2021

If an Idiot Falls in a Forest

Word studies are often bad. Or done badly. Or a bad idea to begin with.

I am fond of words. The world is upheld by the word of Christ’s power (Hebrews 1:3). God created by speaking into existence (Hebrews 11:3). Jesus Himself is the Logos, the Word (John 1:1). God gave us His Word, and He gave us words, with form and function and meaning and history.

It’s easy enough to hear surface connections between words, or see simple derivatives, and make conclusions that are wrong. For example, dynamite comes from the Greek word dunamis, but when Paul said that the gospel is the power (dunamis) of God to salvation” in Romans 1:16, the apostle did not mean that the gospel will explode and blow up our sin. Or, another example, for as much as we can appreciate compound words, the English word butterfly” is neither a fly made out of butter or butter with wings.

That said, I recently came across the root of the word idiot. I have a pretty good idea of what idiot means; I have been called one, I have met more than one. It usually works fine as a synonym with fool, as one who makes it known that he is not in the know.

What I came to know is that it grew from the Greek word idios which means ones own,” or private.” It developed over time as a reference to one who couldn’t be bothered by what other people had to say, and described someone who was unskilled or inexperienced because of not being able, or willing, to learn from others.

That may seem like a lot to pin on just a word. Fine. So consider the corroboration from these inspired sentences.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

And that really stands out after reading the previous verse.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)

Or as the NKJV translates, he rages against all wise judgment.”

One could be an idiot like this geographically, or argumentatively, or even silently, smugly judging how stupid everyone else is, just in your own head. Oh how wise it is to not be alone, and to listen to those who offer life-giving reproof (see Proverbs 6:23).


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