Two more names for God
7 May 2003
In Chinese class this evening, we were looking at a translation of the beatitudes; and maybe it was the jazz band rehearsing in the next room that led us into the ways of temptation, but the conversation slid away from the text, via the way that Protestant and Catholic missionaries had adopted completely different Chinese words for God - 'Emperor Above' for the Protestants, and 'Heavenly Master' for the Catholics, both of them entirely avoiding the actual Chinese word for a god, presumably on the grounds that it was tainted by association, or else that its use would make their god indistinguishable (I actually typed 'indeistinguishable' there, which is neat, I think) from the local pantheon - and so to a broad discussion of the Vulgate and Greek originals, and how the French Catholics used to call God 'Vous' while the Protestants would always tutoyer, and there was just something about it that made me very happy to be there and sharing. Languages and theology will always punch my buttons, I suppose, and I'm always impressed by other people's knowledge; there's a part of me that still pines for the life of academe. That Peter Wimsey thing about restoring a lost iota subscript. I never had the patience or the integrity to be a scholar, I like things quick and cheap, but that doesn't stop me pining.
© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.