Wherefore Therefore?

In memory work, at times I find myself struggling to recall the correct word in a context which might contain either one of two very similar sounding words, and also very similarly defined words.

For example, does it say wherefore or therefore? Both words relate to explaining the cause of something, providing a reason, but not in exactly the same way. Perhaps there’s a way to help by noting more carefully the nuance between these two words.

If the context is a question, the correct word is always wherefore. Therefore clearly doesn’t belong. For example, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Ga 3:19) Therefore won’t work here.

There happens to be a text in Acts which uses both words and the context clearly distinguishes the meanings: “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” (Ac 19:32) Both words relate to explaining why, yet in different ways. The therefore could be “for this reason,” but this  wouldn’t work for wherefore, which is more of a “for what reason”. Wherefore seems to be more related to uncertainty than explaining a known cause.

So, what shall we do with this one? “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Mt 6:30-31) The wherefore is drawing a conclusion based on what has been stated, as and so, while therefore is, again, drawing an inference based on facts:  for this reason.

This suggests that there may be a hint in where the word is placed in flow of the logic: wherefore is often referencing a point just made, something already stated or which occurred in the past, where and so is explaining which is why in light of it (Ga 3:23-24); whereas therefore is often placed before the reasoning or explanation, preceding it in the logic and pointing forward to it. (Ro 2:1)

These thoughts may be somewhat helpful in sorting out the meaning of a text and recalling it more accurately, or useful in employing the nuances of such words to try to more reliably understand the flow of logic in the text.

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2 thoughts on “Wherefore Therefore?”

  1. Tim,

    The meaning of words is important. It can reshape a culture to be more accessible for faith or for demonic. Hence :), the scripture refers to male and female —- the demonic twists it to pronouns or trans or some other rebranding of a word — making it easier for demons to infect a culture.

    In the culture of the country, I live in, the educational system seeks to inculcate the question in children as young as five, are you really male, are you really female. Utter insanity, yes, but the meaning of words redefined turns it into a question psychiatric societies will ponder and pontificate on. Proverbs reminds us that if the Foundations be destroyed what can the righteous do?

    Sound Words. Truth. HE made them male And female. The true meaning and nuance of a word is part of that foundation.

    In the beginning was the Word…

    I like your admonition that we remember sound words, and that words do have proper meanings.

    It is said of the Word

    Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

    May our words have no variableness, neither shadow of turning!


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