Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Abuse pt. 1

The term "abuse" has caught my attention.  The way that it has been borrowed as a propaganda weapon had me wondering about its history.  Ironically, "abuse" has been abused.


First, the English word is in the King James Version, so it goes back in the English at least to 1611.  The English word first appears in 1 Samuel 31:4 and the Hebrew word is pronounced aw-lal.  This first usage is when Saul asks his armor bearer to thrust him through with his sword and "abuse" him (parallel in 1 Chronicles 10:4, same story, same Hebrew word, same English translation).  The Hebrew verb in the hithpael, which is how it is used there, means: "to deal wantonly or ruthlessly."  Of course, the particular abuse is to be impaled with a sword---not our typical idea of abuse.  We wouldn't even use the term "abuse" for that.  But aw-lal is found quite a few times before 1 Samuel 31:4, which is how we would understand a word, how the Hebrew word itself is used.  It seems so far that the understanding of "abuse" is related to motive.  Someone wants to hurt or harm someone.  It isn't for his good at all, and in this case, it is the death of Saul.

Aw-lal is used for the first time in Exodus 10:2, and in the hithpael, translated "I have wrought," speaking of what God did in His plagues on Egypt.  He "abused" Egypt.  How God treated Egypt is different than how he treated His own people when He chastised them.  God punished Egypt toward its destruction.

Another early usage of aw-lal is in Numbers 22:29, when Balaam says that his donkey is mocking him.  The word translated "mock" is aw-lal.  Balaam is receiving verbal abuse from a donkey.

Aw-lal is used again in Judges 19:25 and again translated "abused," which in this case describes the horrific treatment of the mean of Gibeah against the unnamed concubine.  What happened there is called "abuse" in English and is again the Hebrew aw-lal.  Not ironically the dealing of those men who did this to the concubine is called aw-lal, translated "they gleaned" (in the poel), in Judges 20:45.

In the King James Version, only aw-lal is translated "abuse," and only the two times of 1 Samuel 31:4 and 1 Chronicles 10:4, parallel passages.

In the New Testament, the Greek verb translated "abuse" (katachraomai) is found only twice, both used by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians (7:31, 9:18).  In both cases, "abuse" is taking something that is good and then perverting it for wrong purposes.  That seems to fit with the etymological understanding of the English word, abuse being a wrong use of something.  The Greek word is compound, chraomai meaning "to use," and kata meaning here "against, over against, or opposite," together "to use the opposite of its intended purpose."  In the first usage, Paul uses the word for a misuse of the world and the second a misuse of the gospel.  Abusing the world would be to have the world be something more important than it is and misusing the gospel would be to have it being something less important than it is.

The King James Version in 1 Corinthians 6:9 uses the term "abusers," as in "abusers of themselves with mankind," but the Greek word is the word for homosexual.  The translators saw homosexuality as the misuse of the body God created, so it was an abuse of the body.  A lot of times the term "abuse" is used that way today with drug abuse and alcohol abuse, but they saw homosexuality as sexual abuse, which it is.

The above is essentially the usage of "abuse" in the Bible, but as well opens our eyes to what people saw as "abuse" in England in 1611 through the eyes of the King James translators.


How would one go about understanding the term "abuse" in history?  I chose to see the samples in google books, since you can view literature from the 16th century (1500s) there and take advantage of the unique search feature.

In 1590, Theodore Beza makes commentary on the Hebrew text of the Psalms, and he opens some explanation of Psalm 50 with the question:  "How long, o ye hypocrites, will ye abuse (abufe) the patience and longsuffering of God?"  This isn't his translation, but he believed the thought was implied to us in the awesome description of God at the beginning of this psalm of David.  So in this case, it is God being abused in the lack or irreverence of the worship.

Lancelot Andrewes uses the term "abuse" (abufe) in 1593 in his An Apologie for Sundrie Proceedings by Jurisdiction Ecclesiastical.  On p. 102 he uses the verb "abuse" to describe what a judge would do when he judges a man wrongfully.  The man is being "abused."

In 1599, you could have ordered from an English catalogue, A Treatise Concerning the Use and Abuse of the Marriage Bed, including the second chapter, titled "The Gross Abuse of Matrimonial Chastity."

One of the doctrinal statements of the Reformed church was the Second Helvetic Confession, written in 1562 and revised in 1564.  Originally in Latin, they were translated into English.  Chapter 28 is entitled, "The Goods of the Church and the Right Use of Them," and it can be read in Philip Schaff's The Creeds of Christendom.   The word "abuse" is used in that section to describe how men in the church misuse the material goods or money of the church.  Misuse of church funds is called "abuse."

William Shakespeare, in 1593 in his Venus and Adonis, wrote:  "Torches are made to light, jewels to wear, Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use, Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear; Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse."  I'll let his use of "abuse" explain itself, but it is how the English term was primarily used, that is, something of a particular use being used for something opposite.

In 1659 a book was written by Nicholas Clagett, The Abuse of God's Grace, attacking the cheapening of grace by the libertines.

Richard Baxter in 1658 in a treatise on conversion wrote:  "As long as you are unconverted, you live in the continual abuse of God, and all His mercies."

The earliest I found of the terminology of "abuse of children" is found in 1699 in the address to parliament, Lex Forcia, "to remedy the foul abuse of children at school."  I believe that "abuse of children" was related to what was occurring with the abuse of corporal punishment in their schools as found in William Hazlitt's Schools, School-Books, and Schoolmasters.  Certain corporal punishment as "abuse of children" is warned back as far as 1669 in England.

In 1775, Thomas Whithers calls blood-letting the "abuse of medicine."  If George Washington had only read this in time....

As we move into the 19th century (1800s), we find more usage of "abuse of children" and we read it mainly to be what was done to children sexually.  In commentaries on the laws of England in 1874, rape of children is called "defilement" and "abuse" of children.  In a digest of reported cases from 1756 to 1870, again the term "abuse" is used to describe sexual abuse.  In the penal code of the state of California in 1877 "abuse" is again relegated to sexual abuse, but other bad treatment of children is categorized as the "endangerment of children," which includes "moral endangerment."  The same code also punishes Sabbath breaking, which included all labor and disturbing of the peace.

An early usage of "spanking" that I saw called "abuse of children" was in the life and work of David P. Page in 1893, a section that I think many would find of great interest, in which Page lays out some suggestions for young teachers for the right usage of corporal punishment of students.

The first case that I found of someone calling all spanking "abuse of children" was in the American Journal of Politics in 1894.  It seems today to be a mainly post-Darwin understanding of anthropology that would view all corporal punishment as abuse.  Although if you were to read An Outline of Educational Theories in England, you also do see an opposition to corporal punishment in certain post-Enlightenment, early naturalistic philosophers like John Locke, especially in his "Thoughts on Education."  Not many picked up on what Locke was writing.

I'm not going to deal with 20th century history, because we know that the term "abuse" began to take on whole new meanings that were especially related to developments in psychology.

More to come.

1 comment:

Cathy McNabb said...