By Karen A. Bellenir

Edited Version and an Apology (June 2015)

The text that originally appeared in this blog entry was motivated by an article by Robert H. Shmerling, MD, a doctor affiliated with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The title of his text was "The '-osis' Diagnosis." Dr. Shmerling described the suffix -osis and talked about what it means in medical lingo. Essentially, it pertains to abnormal or diseased conditions. A few commonly heard examples are diverticulosis (a disease characterized by diverticula—that is pouches—in the walls of the colon), tuberculosis (a disease associated with tubercles—nodules—in the lungs) and endometriosis (a condition in which the endometrium—the uterine lining—grows where it doesn't belong).

Dr. Shmerling was talking specifically from a medical point of view about the suffix "-osis." I saw his discussion of "the -osis" and noted that the prefix "theo" refers to God. It is used in words such as theology (the study of God), theocracy (where God or a religious point of view is the ruler of a nation), and theosophy (a philosophy about the nature of God).

When I proposed using theosis as a word, I had no idea that the term had already been taken. I looked it up in Webster's Third New World International Dictionary and didn't find it. As a result, I mistakenly presumed that the word was unclaimed. I was completely unaware of the fact that the Orthodox stream of Christianity used the word to refer to a specific doctrine.

I recently discovered my error when I stumbled upon an online discussion in which participants were mentioning doctrinal positions they found confusing. Someone mentioned the term Theosis, but they did not elaborate. My internal antennae snapped to attention, so I searched for the term and found this article: Theosis: Partaking of the Divine Nature, by Mark Shuttleworth. As Shuttleworth explains, Orthodox Christians use the word to refer to a notion that is somewhat akin to the term sanctification, which is used commonly among followers of Western Christian traditions.

I apologize to my Orthodox brothers and sisters for misusing a term that is important to them, and I especially ask forgiveness for using the term in a negative way. I intended to propose a neologism, and my transgression of an existing word was entirely inadvertent. I meant no insult, and I am sorry for any confusion or hurt that may have resulted from my ignorance.