Big Kahuna

Published Date: 
September 4, 2006

In the August 25, 2006, edition of the Jewish newspaper, "Forward," one article discussed the similarity between the words for high priest in Hawaiian and in Hebrew. The conclusion was that the similarity was coincidental, but it is quite iinteresting. You may have heard of the Hawaiian expression, the "big Kahuna." This comes from "kahuna nui" with "nui" meaning "big" or "great" and "kahuna" meaning "master" or "priest." Therefore, it is a fair translation to call the "kanuna nui" the "high priest."

In Hebrew, the "kohen gadol" is the "high priest." Therefore the similarity is in having a "great kohen" in Hebrew and a "great kahuna" in Hawaiian. However, in Hebrew the word for "priesthood" is "kehuna." The "priestly garments" are the "bigdei kehuna." If we really wanted to play with words, we could call this the "Big Day Kahuna." So, what does this all prove? Nothing much. Perhaps it is a lesson in the dangers of playing too much with the spelling and vocabulary of different languages. With a little imagination, we can quickly see things that are not there.

David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 2:12

To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;