Note: This article is a continuation of the previous post, Understanding Understanding. We are still dealing with the second paragraph of the Study: Experiencing Truth. We’re working toward a conclusion, so please stay with me.
“Did you see that?” You’ve surely heard that phrase before. In fact, there’s a very good chance you actually spoke it at one time or another. Similarly, we’ve all heard and uttered the query, “Did you hear that?” We aren’t baffled by these questions. We understand them as asking if we saw something with our eyes or heard a sound with our ears.
Biblical usage of these words, especially in the New Testament, have dual meanings. The word see is used for either physical or spiritual sight. In the same way, hear can mean to hear with either physical or spiritual ears. The matter is complicated further by the fact that the same words, see and hear, are used to express both meanings. So when you read see or hear, each could be referring to either of the two types of seeing or hearing, that is physical or spiritual.
The spiritual meaning refers to understanding. Jesus explained it to the disciples as follows.
That while seeing, they [the people] may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand. (Mark 4:12)
The words are translated with either see or hear regardless of which meaning is intended. Therefore, when you encounter these words as you read the Bible, it is necessary to determine whether the physical or spiritual meaning is intended. The duality of meanings can produce some interesting word play. The following passage illustrates the point.
13 I speak to them in parables; because while seeing [with physical eyes] they do not see [with spiritual eyes], and while hearing [with physical ears] they do not hear [with spiritual ears], nor do they understand [hearing with spiritual ears is to understand].
14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing [with physical ears], but will not understand [hear with spiritual ears]; you will keep on seeing [with physical eyes], but will not perceive [see with spiritual eyes];
15 for the heart [the seat of understanding] of this people has become dull, with their [spiritual] ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their [spiritual] eyes, otherwise they would see with their [spiritual] eyes, hear with their [spiritual] ears, and understand with their heart and return [repent], and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your [spiritual] eyes, because they see; and your [spiritual] ears, because they hear. (Matthew 13:10-16)
That bit of verbal gymnastics is an indication of an interesting principle: Seeing and Hearing Have Two Meanings which is posted in the Principles section.
It is important to recognize that knowledge is tied to the physical aspect of seeing or hearing, while understanding is linked to the spiritual, and understanding corresponds to truth. We’ll be looking at the important idea of duality in much more depth later.
The duality of meanings for seeing and hearing is not meant to confuse you. Quite the contrary, the dual meanings of these words leads us to discover a great insight regarding duality. We’ll look at this in the next article.