Genuine, Authentic: A Fine Distinction

As a second-grader, I thrilled to be able to actually see, close-up, a genuine U.S. Navy fighter jet parked on the tarmac of a base visitor’s center while we were on vacation to the east coast. So, a few weeks later, I was overwhelmed when my dad brought home my first Renwal plastic model kit – “AUTHENTIC IN EVERY DETAIL” – of that fighter jet, and I couldn’t wait to rip off the cellophane and open the cardboard box and peer inside.

It was almost as advertised on the box, down to the last rivet, except for one major detail: the nose cone. While the prototype jet had a sharp, pointed, air-piercing nose; the model kit had a blunt bulb of misshapen plastic and an instruction sheet which advised the modeler to soften the bulb chemically or with heat and shape by hand to conform to the original.

Clearly, this required powers and abilities far beyond those of a seven-year-old child and a father who had never before assembled a plastic model kit.

So we put it together as it was and mounted it on its clear styrene stand. But with its Jimmy Durante schnozz, it was pretty hard for me to imagine it soaring in the stratosphere at supersonic speed.

The U.S. Navy fighter jet I saw was genuine – the real thing.

The model kit was not quite authentic – like the real thing; only smaller. (And with a pug nose.)

Genuine, Authentic. These words, as here compared, have reference to historical documents. We call a document genuine when it can be traced back ultimately to the author or authors from whom it professes to emanate. Hence, the word has the meaning, “not changed from the original, uncorrupted, unadulterated:” as, a genuine text. We call a document authentic when, on the ground of its being thus traced back, it may be relied on as true and authoritative (from the primary sense of “having an author, vouched for”); hence its extended signification, in general literature, of trustworthy, as resting on unquestionable authority or evidence; as, an authentic history; an authentic report of facts.

A genuine book is that which was written by the person whose name it bears, as the author of it. An authentic book is that which relates matters of fact as they really happened. A book may be genuine without being, authentic, and a book may be authentic without being genuine. –Bp. Watson.

– Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary

I’ll leave this thought with you while I’m winging to California on a decidedly subsonic passenger jet with a nose cone somewhere between the two described above:

I wonder if too many Christians aspire to – and are satisfied with – an authentic faith, an authentic worship experience, an authentic church,- all just like the real thing IN EVERY DETAIL ….

… rather than the genuine article, the real thing, the faith that comes from the heart, the worship that is in Spirit and in truth, the church that the Lord established through the water and His blood.

It’s a fine distinction.

But an important one.

One thought on “Genuine, Authentic: A Fine Distinction

  1. Very interesting distinction! I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of that before. May we never settle for less that the <>real thing<>.

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