Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I don't think the word wonderful means what it used to mean. These days when people say it, they basically just mean something like "great." But I have this impression that in days of yore, when people said things like yore, for instance, they also sometimes used wonderful to mean something-that-filled-them-with-wonder. Like wondrous. Maybe they just used wondrous instead. I don't really know. Anyway, people don't say wondrous at all anymore, unless they're singing hymns.

This train of thought left the station the other day when I was reading Revelation 15.1-8 in the CJB. Verse one in that version says, "Then I saw another sign in heaven, a great and wonderful one--seven angels with the seven plagues that are the final ones . . ."

I kind of did a double-take and thought ironically to myself, "Woohoo! Seven plagues! How wonderful!" That was when I gave myself that little linguistic lecture about changes in word meanings and connotations.

But after that it occurred to me that there is something indeed very wonderful (even according to contemporary parlance) about seven plagues that are the final ones, "because," says the rest of verse one, "with them God's fury is finished." At that point the sarcastic woohoo turned into a genuine alleluia.

I don't think I want even a glimpse of those plagues. Reading about them is bad enough. Dealing with the pre-Plague rubbish of the world--and with God's fury, too, even though sometimes I'd rather not blame Him for bad things because of the possible implications for (and of) me--is not really that, um, great. But knowing and trusting that there will in fact, one day, be an end to all of that is really and truly wonderful.


L.L. Barkat said...

I find those passages so sobering and sad. I consider that for God perhaps it will feel the way it would feel for me if I had to step in and destroy my own children. A terrible, terrible thing. I like the end of the book better, of course.

Craver Vii said...

Hiya Pal! I'm torn between misusing the word "wonderful" and glibly tossing terms of endearment (from your previous post) around, so I'll just say, "Woohoo!"

I feel better now, thanks.

The Cubicle Reverend said...

I watched a lecture by a woman on faith and literature, she was a total atheist, but felt that there is a void in most art because very few artists are out there writing from a religious center. She also moaned how contemporary versions of the bible weren't poetic. Man, I wish I could remember who it was who said it!

Jenn said...

That's really interesting, Cube Rev. I wish you remembered who it was, too, because I'd probably check it out (if I ever got a faster internet connexion). Probably she's right that most contemporary translations are less poetic (at least in terms of floweriness)--but I think often they're more startling and attention-grabbing, which might be more the point of what God's trying to do sometimes.

Peacepipes said...

I think, somewhere along the line, "wonderful" took on the positive connotations we typically associate it with in today's use. However, I doubt that the origin of the word necessarily lent itself toward the positive or negative. I suspect it was simply used to describe something that was, literally, "full of wonder"...or at least something that caused one to wonder...or ponder...or question.
Isaiah 9:6 suddenly comes to mind as well. The verse resonates the prophesy of Christ's birth with a litany of names by which He will be called. Depending upon the version you read, the location of the comma varies and "Wonderful" is either a simple, but splendid, adjective of "Counselor"...or a title in and of itself. Both are appealing...and perhaps, even "wonderful"...but for some reason, I tend to prefer the latter.

Barry Pike said...

The word "awesome" has this same problem...dilution through hyperbole.

It's like, totally not awesome anymore.

Jenn said...

LL--I hear you.


Peacepipes--I like thinking of "Wonderful" as one of God's titles, too. And surely it is. Although I think in the context of that passage, I like thinking of it as a qualifier, because it matches the other two ("adjectived") names, and plus that way each Person of the Trinity gets a mention.

Barry--you're so right. But I confess to using the word "awesome" a lot. Like, a LOT.

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