Kingdoms and empires

The hymn The day thou gavest, Lord, has ended (Wikipedia, performance) has as its last verse:

So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.

We quite often refer to God as king and to God’s kingdom or the kingdom of God, but we almost never refer to God as emperor or to God’s empire or the empire of God, even though King of kings and Lord of lords is more analogous to an earthly emperor than a king. 

The only reference to empire/emperor/imperial in the King James/Authorised version of the bible is in the comparatively late OT book of Esther (1:20):

When the king’s decree which he will make is proclaimed throughout all his empire (for it is great), all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small. 

(The king being Ahasuerus and the empire being Persia.)

Of the other 27 translations on Bible Hub, one uses realm, four use empire and the rest kingdom.


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The seven deadly dwarves

A Facebook friend posted a cartoon by Dan Piraro (for technical reasons I can’t add it here) showing Snow White saying to four dwarves, “Guess what, guys! Your cousins, Angry, Lazy, Greedy, Hungry, Vanity, Envy, & Frisky are coming to visit!”, with the caption Snow White & the Seven Deadly Sins.  

The seven deadly sins are usually listed as pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. But those don’t make funny dwarves’ names and don’t sound anything like Disney’s dwarves Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Sleepy, Bashful, Grumpy and Dopey. Six of those are adjectives (the exception being Doc) and five of those end with -y (the exception being Bashful). Obviously, -y and -ful are common adjective endings. 

The adjectives directly linked to the sins are proud, greedy, wrathful, envious, lustful, gluttonous and slothful (more -y and -ful, and also -ous) (note that the vowel change behind pride > proud is no longer productive – we can’t make new adjectives that way now). But those don’t make funny dwarves’ names, either, so proud becomes Vanity (a noun, compare vain), wrathful becomes Angry (compare anger), lustful becomes Frisky (compare friskiness) and gluttonous becomes Hungry (compare hunger), while envious becomes Envy (a noun) and greedy remains Greedy.

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“Let us all Thy grace receive”

If there’s anything worse than a linguistic rabbit hole, it’s a theological rabbit hole.

At choir practice on Thursday night, we rehearsed an anthem on the famous hymn Love divine, all loves excelling by Charles Wesley. For the first time, I noticed the ambiguity in the line:

Let us all Thy grace receive.

Is that:

(Let) (us all) (Thy grace) (receive)


(Let) (us) (all Thy grace) (receive)


Linguistically, there’s no way to decide in this case. Both are grammatical and usual/natural. In both, the word all can be omitted, perhaps with a change of emphasis but not of basic meaning. To the extent that I’d ever thought about it, I had always assumed the first reading.

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“I have good news and bad news …”

Sunday’s gospel reading was Matthew 1:18-25 (Saint Joseph’s dream), and two of the hymns, and the preacher, referred to Luke 1:26-38 (the Announcement). The unnamed angel in the first and Gabriel in the second certainly put the best news first (indeed only): ‘he will save his people from their sins’ and ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High …’. Well, which prospective parents wouldn’t accept that kind of fore-telling? But the angels leave out the bad news: oh, by the way, your son will suffer misunderstanding, opposition, rejection, betrayal and a cruciating death. Which prospective parents would accept that?

(spoiler alert for the movie Arrival)
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