Understanding Jesus – Part Two:
It’s Raining Cats and Dogs
I’ve had the privilege of traveling to dozens of countries and cities around the world. The more I travel, the more I am amazed at how diverse we are as a people. We may all be a part of the human race, but we differ in our behavior and customs, depending on where in the world we live. We all do things in the part of the world in which we live that are normal to us and those around us. We say and do things all the time, without even thinking about them, or how they would be interpreted by another culture. Also, if people don’t know and understand our culture, then they are more likely to misinterpret something we say or do.
Let me give you an example: For those of you who live in the westernized world, what would you say if it started to rain really hard…I mean…really hard? You might say something like, “It’s pouring buckets out there.” But, our usual, go-to comment would probably be, “It’s raining cats and dogs!” We’ve all said it. We’ve all heard someone else say it and we knew exactly what they meant. None of us ever expected a cat or a dog to fall from the heavens. It sounds silly to say, but it’s something we all hear and understand because we live here. This is called an “idiom”—a figure of speech.
Now, can you imagine someone who was from a different part of the world and had never heard that statement before?! Imagine you were preparing to go outside and there were ominous storm clouds in the sky and you knew it was going to rain. And you said to them, “Quick! Run to the car! It’s about to rain cats and dogs!” Could you imagine the look of shock and anticipation on their face at the thought of seeing a German Shepherd fall from of the sky?! They would absolutely freak out. You would have to explain to them that it was just a figure of speech and, much to their disappointment, there would be no falling felines or canines that day.
This happens with the Scriptures…all the time! We read a passage and don’t understand the culture. So, what do we do? We either spiritualize it or we attach meaning to it from our own culture. We don’t mean to, but when we do this, we’re distorting the Word of God and are missing the real meaning and power behind the text. Over the next few blogs I will tackle several first century idioms and figures of speech.