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Gothic Arianism, Language and the Church

Discussion in 'Christian History' started by Quid est Veritas?, Sep 22, 2019.

  1. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    So I had always assumed the words Church or Kirk were related to the name Christ etymologically, but apparently this is not the case. In Afrikaans we have Kerk and Kersten, and along with the historic hard C in Latin, this seemed readily apparent. But no, they aren't related.

    Church and the other Germanic equivalents are actually derived from Kirika, a word diffused through the Germanic languages from old Gothic. This had been adopted from a little used eastern Greek term Kyriakon Doma at some point in the 4th century AD. This means 'The Lord's House'. Ekklesia and Basilike were the more common names, even in the west as Ecclesia and Basilica, leading to our terms like Ecclesiastical.

    What we actually have is fossilised linguistic evidence of the first Germanic Christians - and that they weren't orthodox. For when Christ first came to the Germanic peoples, it came via Arianism, denying the Trinity. All the first Barbarian tribes that overran the Western Empire, had been Arian; up until Clovis of the Franks bucked the trend, and slowly the Germanic peoples were won to Orthodoxy. Wulfilas and his Gothic Bible was an important part of this, and though people claim they adopted Arianism due to the reign of the Arian emperor Valens, this is hard to justify.

    Why did the Germans cling to Arianism so long after the rest put it aside? Some argue the Arian subordinate Christ better fit the Chieftain and retainer hierarchy of Germanic culture, others the influence of Wulfilas' established Arian Gothic group and the separation from the orthodox Roman population politically expedient (though the latter is debatable and perhaps a catch 22).

    A better argument goes back to Language. For the word 'like' and 'alike' ultimately goes back to the proto-Germanic 'galeika' meaning having the same body. The latter part survive in Afrikaans lyk for corpse, or in archaic English lich or old names such as lichfield related to corpses and bodies.
    While less clear to us today, the English 'like' still doesn't imply being exactly similar. So when homoousion preachers translated to Germanic tongues, the words perhaps implied homoiousion values to the speakers. To these old peoples, it sounded as if they said Jesus had the same body as the Father, but was a different being that just seems similar. This whole centuries survival of Germanic Arianism maybe ultimately goes back to something being lost in translation.

    Ultimately though, the Germanic languages came to prefer the Gothic Kirika instead of the Basilica or Ecclesia, as the latter were intimately bound up in a separate Ecclesial hierarchy that their understanding differed from. By the time they became orthodox, the Church was here to stay, though it brought the Ecclesiastical with it in the end.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
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  2. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    It makes one wonder if the roots of the Church being separate from the words of the hierarchy and the Latin terminology, maybe loosens the association of the two. Very speculative here, but Protestantism was very much more successful amongst the Germanic peoples, and maybe a vague antecedant factor could lie in the semantics of how the languages addressed the Church and the Overseers or Bishops that claimed to speak for it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
  3. mothcorrupteth

    mothcorrupteth Old Whig Monarchist, Classically Realpolitik

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    Personally, I think that's more the cultural-political barrier. A large part of Luther's success was that he appealed to a kind of German national identity. "Why should these Italian blockos from over the mountains have any say in our Christianity?" A large number of Swiss Germans stayed Catholic. Austria stayed Catholic. The southern German states stayed overwhelmingly Catholic. But more geographically distant Germanic regions went Lutheran or Calvinist--Prussia, Hesse, the Rhineland, the northern Netherlands, even Scandinavia and Iceland. And notice: the Lutherans were much more numerous than any other faction, and yet they kept an episcopal hierarchy. Meanwhile, Calvinism, which tended to attract members of the growing middle class, largely did away with hierarchy.
     
  4. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Certainly not as a primary cause, but a vague factor..., maybe. Afterall, German or Dutch don't have a separate word 'ecclesiastical', but a derivitive from Kerk, like kerklikes or so. The Latin of the Ecclesia was a bit different though from the vulgar Kirche. I wasn't really thinking of episcopal government, as such.

    The disconnect between the universalist papacy and local churches was hardly new. That was behind the Investiture controversy too, or the Crown of Spain or France trying to control their churches. The sentiment of those blocko Italians could equally well be made by a Frenchman. The success amongst Germanic peoples cannot just be said to be distance - the Gaelic Irish and Highland Scots were distant, but Catholic (though we may always say this could be the enemy of my enemy is my friend here, too). The Austrian and Bavarian Catholicism is related to politics back then, as Austria was the primary demesne of the Emperor; and Bavaria to safeguard their recently reunited duchy, needed Imperial support badly - cuius regio eius religio, and all that. However, Protestantism had done very well in both Bavaria and Austria clandestinely, prior to the success of Trent in reigning in abuse and the Counter-Reformation. Thing is, Protestantism historically did very well in Germanic or German influenced areas (like Poland, Bohemia, or Hungary) before the Counter-Reformation won much of these areas back.
     
  5. mothcorrupteth

    mothcorrupteth Old Whig Monarchist, Classically Realpolitik

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    Right. Well, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis has largely been discredited. We see that certain language patterns do bias people toward certain patterns of thought, such as the German tendency to see bridges as dainty and feminine, but the number of Inuit words for "snow" was exaggerated, and it's not like I can't, as an English speaker, conceive of different kinds of snow and describe them with a cumbersome string of adjectives and adverbs. It may be that the -lich/-lijk suffix had, in Germanic prehistory, the quality of referring to an even plain of comparison, but Old High German was a thing by the time Boniface and Burchard (my patron!) and all them were Christianizing central Germany, and by that time -lih already had the abstract meaning of just forming an adjective. kerkelijk/kirchlich is just more like saying, "Churchly." It's a similar story in Anglo-Saxon; so it's possible a common ancestor existed even before the Germanic tribes started spreading to different parts of northern Europe (unless we're just looking at convergent linguistic evolution and/or cross-pollination).
     
  6. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Hard linguistic determinism is perhaps a bridge too far, but linguistic influence is certainly palpable - and has not been shown otherwise - so it depends what you mean under the term Sapir-Whorf. Anyway, philosophically, we are very much still debating meaning and expression thereof via language. Words aren't just reifying impressions of the senses that are fading. We can invent new words for snow, but are we duplicating snow, or is this semantic creation? The idea expressed in this expanded vocabulary, is it the same as that expressed in a less lush one? What other associations do these words bear, or what others do they affect? For instance, when we speak of tensions running high, or that the atmosphere was electric, we are borrowing metaphors that would be incomprehensible prior to the 18th century and the investigation of electrical phenomena. I would certainly understand something very different, if other metaphors were used.

    Anyway, in this case we know that the word diffused from East Germanic to the West and North Germanic languages, since proto-Germanic has no relation to the Greek word it is clearly a derivitive of. The word kirika probably spread during Volkewandering in the 5th century or so, long before Boniface or Adam of Bremen or such. The Germanic tribes weren't isolated from the late Roman world afterall, as many words like Table or Wine attest. The Germanic tribes generally became Arian; be it Visigoth, Ostrogoth, Burgundian, Vandal, Langobardi, etc. before Clovis' Franks. By the time of the later Germanic conversions, Arianism was spent, but it had a long heydey amongst Germanic peoples long after it was abandoned elsewhere.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
  7. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Sleep is for the weak

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    I believe that it had to do with separating themselves from the Romans. Theodoric the Great even had the Ostrogoths separate themselves from intermixing with the Roman people when they conquered the Italian peninsula, and he held strong his Arian leanings.
     
  8. mothcorrupteth

    mothcorrupteth Old Whig Monarchist, Classically Realpolitik

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    I consider questions of semantics to be nonsense. What is commonly characterized as Sapir-Whorf is just stimulus generalization. Words that have similar formal and functional properties to other words tend to evoke responses similar to those other words--but not if those similar responses have different consequences. For instance, seeing lemon-flavored shaved ice may evoke from me "yellow snow," but if I respond to it in the same way as "yellow snow," then I forego a very good consequence on a hot summer day. Most people learn to distinguish the two, therefore.

    That's why I find Sapir-Whorf mostly implausible. Like, yeah, language conventions can evoke unique patterns of thought and behavior, but I don't see those patterns sustaining themselves unless there's some continuous pressure by the environment (and let's not invite confusion: people are part of our environment) to keep whatever similarities we deduce.

    There are good arguments as to why this did not happen, namely that the Goths already had a word for "church" that was derived from εκκλησία: (AIKKLESYO). The common thought is that "church" made its way into West Germanic languages via contact with the Romans on the border towns like Trier. Then it made its way up to Old Norse via their contact with the Anglo-Saxons. (If you've seen the first season of Vikings, then you can probably guess why.) And what do you know? When we look at Old Norse, it was using -ligr as an abstract suffix, too. That suggests that the formation of the abstract suffix predates the spread of "church."
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2019
  9. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    You seem to be labouring under a misapprehension. I did not at any point think the suffix was related to the word Church. The existence of the word galeika, cognate of Afrikaans gelyk and English like, was and remains in independant use amongst the Germanic languages. That word, the theory goes, predisposes to Arianism; and the fact that Germanic tongues' first taste of native Christianity was overwhelmingly Arian, could be construed as why they all preferred a different word for that institution from those dominant in Greek or Romance languages.

    Source? Everything I read on the subject bases it on a Gothic form adopted from Greek, though certainly not the form in literary use.

    Here is an etymology dictionary for instance, stating Gothic transmission from Greek:

    church | Origin and meaning of church by Online Etymology Dictionary

    Edit:

    Nevermind, I looked up the full citation in the Oxford Etymological Dictionary. It does state that 'according to most modern views' the West Germanic languages adopted the word from the Rhineland Christian cities, however it states the theory is controversial - since it is an adopted Greek word, and Gothic transference cannot be ruled out, though we have insufficient data to trace transmission within Germanic tongues. The form with the replacement to i in the first syllable, does suggest imperfect Greek. Later forms in post-classical Latin in the area seems to be borrowings from German, and Greek itself was thin on the ground in the later West. While there was Greek influence in the area in question, this wasn't via the Latin West, but up through Pannonia. This is the pathway up from the initial settlement of Goths in Moesia, and later Marcian settled Ostrogoths directly in Pannonia. So the Greek influence in the area is anyway tempered via Gothic Foederati.

    The prevailing Germanic peoples in the area were the Seuvi, who were also Arians, so this doesn't really change the fact that Arian Germanic peoples prefered Kirika to Ecclesia. It just makes the transmission a bit weirder, that is all.

    The meaning of words are what matters though. I respectfully disagree. It is hard to not be influenced, even subconsciously, by meanings ascribed to words. For instance: Word choice: Hidden meanings can influence our judgment

    With factors like objective and subjective swopping their meanings with the rise of Baconian Empiricism; or the plethora of people that erroneously assume the brain analogous to a computer and nerves to circuitry; it is clear that the metaphors we utilise do substantially impact the manner in which we understand phenomena.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
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