Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mighty peculiar

Some in the ranks of the Christian clergy in this country are undergoing a good deal of public scrutiny these days. Certain names leap to mind: Jeremiah Wright (a United Church of Christ minister in Illinois), Michael Pfleger (a Roman Catholic priest in Illinois), John Hagee (formerly Assemblies of God, now pastor of a nondenominational charismatic congregation in Texas), and Rod Parsley (raised Free Will Baptist, now pastor of a nondenominational, Pentecostal megachurch in Ohio). The “crazy season” appears to be in full swing, what with 2008 being a presidential election year in the U.S. and all. (I suppose, to be grammatically correct, the subject of the gerund in the previous sentence should be in the possessive case, “2008’s being.” But I digress.) These four in particular have caused outrage, consternation, shame, disappointment, astonishment, pick a noun, among our citizenry with some of their recent statements and endorsements in the political arena (which I will not dignify by repeating here).

I can’t really say whether these leaders are truly Christian, sheep or wolves, wheat or tares. That’s for the Lord and His angels to decide at the harvest, the end of the world, the judgment seat (times to be announced later), not me. But one thing is certain: something mighty peculiar is going on lately.

I said all of that to say this. Without saying for a minute that some of the pronouncements of the aforementioned clergymen are worthy of anything other than disdain, the plain teaching of both the Old and New Testaments is that God's people, which I hope includes you and me, ARE peculiar. I didn't say they act strange or oddball or queer or anything of the sort. I said they were peculiar. But I mean something different from what you are probably thinking.

The word “peculiar” occurs seven times in the Bible, in seven verses. Here they are:

Exodus 19:5 -- “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:”

Deuteronomy 14:2 -- “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

Deuteronomy 26:18 -- “And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;”

Psalms 135:4 -- “For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.”

Ecclesiastes 2:8 -- “I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.”

Titus 2:14 -- “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

I Peter 2:9 -- “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:”

(end of quotations; emphasis mine)

The first five verses are from the Old Testament, where in the original Hebrew the word translated into English as “peculiar” is cegullah. Four times it is used to refer to the Jewish people; the fifth reference is to material things, silver and gold, musical instruments, and even musicians. The other two verses are from the New Testament, where in the original Greek the two words translated into English as “peculiar” are periousios and peripoiesis, respectively. In four of the seven instances, the phrase is “peculiar people” and in the other three instances, the phrase is “peculiar treasure.” According to Strong’s Concordance (our pastor in Florida used to say Young’s for the young, Cruden’s for the crude, Strong’s for the strong, but I think he was making a little joke), the shared meaning of these Hebrew and Greek words is this: something obtained and held as special, one's own possession, private property, valued property, special treasure. We are peculiar, therefore, in the sense that we have been chosen, specially selected, purchased, bought with a price. We are a people peculiarly His own. One version puts it this way: “his very own possession.”

So, in the sense the original writers meant, and on the authority of God’s written Word, if you are a genuine Jew or a genuine Christian (and, as I said earlier, I’m not saying who is and who isn’t, I’m leaving that decision up to the One who knows), you can revel in the fact that you are peculiar--not strange, not odd, not queer, mind you--peculiar.

Always happy to be of service.


  1. I much enjoyed your informative post on "peculiar." Without ever researching the root meaning of the word (laziness), I've tended to interpret it as meaning "uniquely chosen," but I see I was off the mark a bit.

    I appreciate your kind remarks re: my Memorial Day blog entry. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for once again providing something interesting to ponder. Yes, in a Greek-English New Testament I have, the meaning for "peculiar" seems to be "a special people for His own possession".

    I tend to think of the word "peculiar" as meaning "odd" or "strange", when in these cases in the Bible its meaning is more like "a people peculiar to Him", a people belonging to Christ.

    Thanks for helping to sort that out.

  3. Hey------I just now thought of this------do you know that Senator Charles Grassley, who is spearheading the investigation of the finances of various tele-evangelists, etc., is from the town of New Hartford, Iowa, which was one of the places hit by the tornado last Sunday. Hmm.