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Yada.

Who would have thought three little Hebrew letters, Yod, Daleth, and Ain would have caused so much trouble? Put ’em all together and they spell Yada–not the “Yada, yada,” of Seinfeld fame, but the Hebrew word, “to know.”

In those three letters, we sure place a lot of assumption.

The online Hebrew Lexicon I often use has about 20+ meanings for the word yada. ONE of them is “to know carnally.” The word is used 983 times in the Hebrew Bible. In 973 times, it means “know” in the ordinary ways you and I understand the word “know” in English. Only in ten of those times do text scholars believe yada means “to have sexual relations,” and even in some of those times it probably doesn’t mean “consensual, loving sex.” For instance, in the Genesis 19 story–the famous “Sodom” story, the implication is “forcible sex”–gang rape in particular.

So, it turns out, that our little aside, “He knew her…you know…in the Biblical sense,” is pretty much urban legend. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when the Old Testament says “know,” well…the “Biblical sense” is “know means know”–just like you and I mean “know” when we say, “Oh, I know so-and-so.” Whaddya know.

Yet on this little Hebrew word, some folks hang the moon and stars on so called “Biblical” notions of homosexuality. Go figure.

Genesis 19 is a lousy story to hang that on anyway. Lot doesn’t exactly handle the situation in a manner we would now want to champion for modern family values, anyway. When the angry mob shows up, demanding they want to “know” the two strangers (angels) at Lot’s house, what does Lot do? He basically tells them, “Oh, no, you can’t have these two guys, they’re my guests. But ya know what? I got a couple pre-teen daughters out back that y’all can have your way with–how’s that instead?” Oy gevalt.

Couple that with the fact ancient Hebrew is, as is modern English, rife with colloquialisms. We find them in the Hebrew scriptures all the time. A Hebrew word for foot (regel) is translated as “genitals,” in some passages. Some Hebrew words are used in their exact opposite context. There’s a lot of room for getting things lost in translation.

Yet the moment we find a hidden or sexual meaning in some of the words, we totally go “Beavis and Butthead” over it. “Heh heh. He said “foot.” he said “know.” Heh heh.”

So much of this, I think, is what Louie Crew describes as “the ick factor.” He often points out that if we personally think something is icky, it’s our tendency to have our feelings of ickiness validated. I would take it one step further and add, “If we think it’s icky, we’d prefer our projection of God to think it’s icky too.” But I kind of find it all a little bewildering. There are plenty of sexual practices that are legal in this country, that I personally find icky, yet I don’t feel a huge need to have God pass judgment over the ickiness.

All I’m saying, is, “There sure is a lot of yada, yada about yada.”