News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Who Is the Neighbor?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Who Is the Neighbor?

You have heard/read New Testament passages about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. "Neighbor" means those others who live close to you. Yet, there are those in this ountry who would rather point to the poverty in other countries rather than in our own. Hhow can we look at others and point out the splinter in others' eye when we have this big plank in our own?

The greek word for neighbor means those close to you. This is carried over in the English etymology:

neigh·bor n.
[Middle English neighebor, from Old English nahgebr : nah, near + gebr, dweller; see bheu- in Indo-European Roots.]
Word History: Loving one's neighbor as oneself would be much easier, or perhaps much more difficult, if the word neighbor had kept to its etymological meaning. The source of our word, the assumed West Germanic form *nhgabr, was a compound of the words *nhwiz, “near,” and *bram, “dweller, especially a farmer.” A neighbor, then, was a near dweller. Nahgebr, the Old English descendant of this West Germanic word, and its descendant in Middle English, neighebor, and our Modern English neighbor have all retained the literal notion, even though one can now have many neighbors whom one does not know, a situation that would have been highly unlikely in earlier times. The extension of this word to mean “fellow” is probably attributable to the Christian concern with the treatment of one's fellow humans, as in the passage in Matthew 19:19 that urges love of one's neighbor.

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