[box]RVWD is my abbreviation for Religious Vocabulary Word of the Day. (You can read my introduction to the RVWD series here.) I do not intend for these word investigations to be exhaustive, but I hope they stimulate some thinking about assumptions. Possibly they will help with honest evaluations about what is truth and what is unnecessary baggage in life. [/box]
Strictly speaking, the word doctrine means teachings, even in English. Implied is that the teachings are thought of as well established and authoritative. That doesn’t mean they have to be complicated. Doctrine is from the same Latin root from which we get the words doctor and doctorate, however, today those other two words carry connotations of officially recognized courses of study. The Greek words that are sometimes translated as doctrine just mean teachings, plain and simple.
Doctrine is a word that is well known because it was used extensively in the King James version (KJV) of the Bible, which became the politically correct translation of it’s time period, and subsequently was the most well known English translation for nearly 350 years. There is reason to suspect that a king might have ulterior motives for getting a certain translation published. Why his committee used the word doctrine so much when it is from Latin, that wasn’t being commonly used at the time, is a good question. Accounts of how the committee to put together the KJV Bible was chosen, and what instructions they were given, vary greatly. Suffice to say, there were other accepted translations before and after the KJV, but those in positions of power had their reasons for wanting the KJV Bible to dominate.
Today’s other current translations go ahead and use the less religious words, like teachings, most of the time. This decision is based more on the original Greek that is available. I think it makes the writing less intimidating and strips it of the pretension that years in a classroom are necessary to understand truths about God.
Often, people throw around the word doctrine like it means some complicated system of rules or a secret creed that needs to be followed. Sometimes it is used to refer to extra-Biblical layers that are agreed upon by self-appointed religious authorities. Such additions to a simple faith are destructive. They seem reminiscent of what Jesus faced off with the Pharisees about. Truly, the essential doctrine of the Bible is simple enough for a child.