Sunday, December 03, 2006


jIH DichDaq bow bIng toward lIj le' lalDan qach
I will bow down toward your holy temple Psalm 138:2

(click for podcast)

Here's a word we don't know yet in Klingon: bow.

Webster notes this verb, in English has a range of meaning from the simple "To bend" to "bend the body in token of respect or civility," all the way to "to depress; to crush; to subdue."

It isn't surprising to find this lack. There are many nouns and verbs that are yet to be revealed to us. And, after all, can you imagine a Klingon BOWING?

The closest word I find in the lexicon is the word, to kneel: "tor." This doesn't necessarily have positive connotations, either, hearing the Klingon expression:

QamvIS Hegh qaq law' torvIS yIn qaq puS.
Better to die on our feet than live on our knees.
[The Klingon Way p.95]

(torvIS yIn, translated as "live on our knees" is literally "to live while kneeling").

Here's the thing - though we have words in human language for "bow," and a variety of positive cultural associations (respect, honor, reverence), it does not always come easily to us, for to bow, especially as used here in scripture, is to WORSHIP, to humble ouselves before God.

The Hebrew word here is shachar, used over 150 times in the Bible. Translated as "worship" in the KJV of this passage, it literally means to depress, prostrate oneself - especially before a superior. The NLT captures the literal meaning with the intent by translating this phrase "I bow before your holy Temple as I worship."

Worship, means to acknowledge a superior's worth, their worth-ship, above all others. This is vital to our lives as believers, and we humans find it just as difficult as may Klingons. We are not God - and we have to go beyond the intellectual assent [as James writes "Do you still think it's enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror!" James 2:19] and humble ourselves before him before we move forward in a fruitful spiritual life.

Why don't Klingons have the word bow?

In linguistics, the Sapir--Whorf (no relation to the Klingon) hypothesis states that there is a systematic relationship between the grammatical categories of the language a person speaks and how that person both understands the world and behaves in it.

That is, a society without a word for "snow" doesn't know what it is, and a society without "to bow" in their dictionary may not be able to turn in humble prayer to a Creator. This is an attractive theory, but in this case the lack of this word is probably just our ignorance - the warlike Klingons DO, after all, have the word "peace." We'll have to wait a while to see if the absence is significan.

Rather we do well to consider what our spiritual vocabulary includes, especially to find if we've taken into our hearts the aspect of worship that leads US to bow to the Lord. Are we able to kneel before our Maker and praise him, and appeal to him for his aid? This goes light years beyond physical posture, for there are many acceptable ways to turn to God in prayer. After all prayer in the Bible is portrayed in a variety of physical positions (standing, kneeling, lieing prostrate) and faith communities all have a variety of practices. ( The value is in finding the posture that "reflects the content of the prayer, so that you pray with your body as you pray with your spirit." As Ken Collins writes:

Not only is it impossible for us to separate the spiritual from the physical during our life in the body, it is heretical for us to try. Our Lord Jesus Christ came to us in the flesh, thereby sanctifying the physical matter that He created, redeeming not just our souls, but also our bodies. He promised us a resurrection, not just some ethereal spiritual home. So if we separate the spirit from the body, we are not just making an impractical academic distinction, we are denying the significance of the Incarnation and of the Resurrection on the Last Day.

jIH DichDaq bow bIng toward lIj le' lalDan qach
I will bow down toward your holy temple Psalm 138:2

This psalm gives us an invitation to stop, and turn away from all the immediate fuss and worries that surround us, and turn towards God. When we do that, and bow in worship we'll find we'll find the key to spiritual refreshment - praise God!


Todd said...

According to the Klingon Creation myths, the original Klingons killed the gods who made them. They retold that at Worf and Jadzia's wedding.

Joel said...

It was mentioned in another episode as well. (The Way of the Warrior? - not sure).

I don't believe it - that is, just because they have a story that they "killed their gods" doesn't mean they ARE dead. After all, some have said "God is dead," as well, and I'm not buying that claim either.