I've almost finished writing my second chapel speech, which I will give November 25. I decided to write it about sacrifice because a sermon at church recently was about the Passover and the message really hit home for me. This was an important event because not many sermons lately have "hit home."This is because 1) the sermons at the church I attend are roughly and simply translated into English on paper and are therefore usually lacking in substance and 2) I've been in a spiritual "funk" for over a year now. But this sermon was different. It was about the Passover-- not really about sacrifice at all, but about the significance of the bitter herbs and the wine and unleavened bread. But my mind took off on sacrifice and I started thinking about how Abraham's "almost" sacrifice of Isaac and God's covering the Israelites with sheep's blood at the Passover all portend Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Anyway, what I wanted to share was what I found in the Japanese characters for "sacrifice."

Kanji are often very complex: one character may actually contain several characters that have been compressed together. A simple example is the word for "good:"
This character is actually two characters pressed together: the character for "woman" (女) and the character for "child" (子). It may be interpreted, then, that this character means that a woman with a child is a good thing.

The word for "sacrifice" is much more complicated. It includes a radical: a squished character that can be found on the side, top, or bottom of a character.
The word for sacrifice looks like this:
This word is composed of two characters, each of which have two or more characters pressed together. The first character (犠) has three parts. On the left side is the radical for "cow" (牛). On the ride side are two characters: one on top of the other. I think the top one is derived from "Lord" (主). The bottom character is a formal kanji for "me" (我). So the first character could be interpreted like "The Lord is over me [through the use of, with, because of] a cow." The second character is not so complex. It also has the cow radical on the left. Next to that is the character for "life" (生). This character could mean something like "life [from, with, alongside, because of] a cow." The two characters together mean "sacrifice," which I roughly interpret to mean: "The Lord covers me through a cow's life." When I came to this conclusion I was amazed.

Keep in mind that Japanese kanji are derived from Chinese script, which is one of the oldest written languages in the history of the world. According to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, the earliest form of Chinese was first used during the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC-256 BC). I couldn't find any approximate dates on Wikipedia as to when the first Hebrew Bible was canonized, or when the Bible was first introduced into China, so I can't be sure about this, but I wonder if these characters were created by the Chinese before they read the Bible. Here's another way to say the same thing: when the Chinese created their characters for sacrifice, they probably did so without understanding the biblical concept of sacrifice; yet their characters express roughly the same idea. Does this mean that God was at work in the creation of the Chinese (and ultimately, Japanese) language so that His Word is embedded in it? Please know that this idea is not original. I first read about it in a Randy Alcorn novel. But it fascinates me, nonetheless. This word, "sacrifice," is not the only word that may contain a biblical allusion. Alcorn also mentions the kanji for the word "creation" as possibly having a biblical connotation. I intend to look for more.


written by Ruthie @ 12:17 AM  
2 thoughts:
  • At 11/08/2006 1:05 AM, Anonymous Betsy said…

    wow, that is really interesting! i had no idea about any of those things about japanese/chinese characters. thanks for teaching me :-)

    in other news...i should be studying...but i'm not. i'm reading people's online journals. oh well.

    i miss you ruthie! i think about you often and hope that things are going well! (it seems that they are ;-) hurray!)

  • At 11/08/2006 6:06 PM, Blogger Tracey said…

    This is amazing stuff! I'm so excited to hear what else you discover. What a blessing to be able to learn and grow so much within a culture...and to teach us even more about the big picture. I miss you kiddo. Take care!

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Name: Ruthie
Home: Japan
About Me: I want to know who God is and what his truth is. I love getting lost in beautiful music and cloudless star-filled skies, especially in the fall. I hate being bored. I like big cities. I want to travel the world.
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