I don’t follow anything specifically religious on Twitter, but today these were some of the first words I read during my Twitter check-in. God, are you speaking to me through Twitter?
“Never retaliate when people say unkind things about you.Pay them back with a blessing..& God willl BLESS YOU!”1 Pet.3:9” (Tweeted by an elementary music organization.)
“There’s only one rule I know of, babies — God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.” (Tweeted by Kurt Vonnegut.)
“God will not look you over for medals, degrees, or diplomas, but for scars.” —Elbert Hubbard (Tweeted by Post Secret.)
“Actually, that’s not in the Bible. http://on.cnn.com/kyjuH6” (Tweeted by CNN.)
This last article is what interested me the most. The author, John Blake, speaks with several college religion professors about commonly misquoted “Biblical” phrases. One surprising example is the fact that yes, a serpent tempted Eve to take the apple from the tree, but that serpent is never referred to as the Devil. (This story appears in the Book of Genesis, found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which may have been written in the last century BCE until 70 CE. [source] That’s important later.) One of Blake’s sources claims, “Not only does the text not mention Satan, the very idea of Satan as a devilish tempter postdates the composition of the Garden of Eden story by at least 500 years.”
The comparison of the Devil as a serpent appears in the Book of Revelation, which was probably written sometime between 68-95 CE, likely after the Book of Genesis. [source]
Every day when speaking with others, our minds piece their words together and we get the gist of what is being said. But sometimes we don’t realize the importance of words. One word may seem similar to another, like “border” and “boundary,” but underlying connotations have different meanings and — more importantly — change over time.
If we apply different connotations, we can change the entire definition of the words and get the wrong gist. We could assume the word “serpent” to symbolize “devil,” which would give us a different idea of the context than if we think “Western diamondback rattlesnake.”
The internet, I believe, has severely changed how we think of words. The connotations words have aren’t usually considered before they are spewed into cyberspace. HTML doesn’t know the difference, and neither does the greasy keyboard, but it’s easy to forget that other human beings read what’s written. (I probably think about it too much, which is why it takes me weeks to write a single blog post… and even then I am still nervous about what readers think!)
Maybe I’ll just stick to Mark Twain’s advice when it comes to writing (who I also follow on Twitter), “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”