Trivium Pursuit

Learning Greek?

Recently we were talking to our new pastor, and I asked him what he thought about the benefits of our children learning Greek and Hebrew. … his response was that – yes, he learned these languages in his educational pursuits, but he does not rely on that knowledge nearly as much as he does his online software …. In other words, he looks up original word meanings as he studies a passage, using his available resources. Since we are learning these languages along with our 9 yo, we do not have the foresight/hindsight to know whether this is a legitimate reason NOT to continue learning these languages (e.g., the existence of so many language resources).

What are your thoughts? T.D.

If I were a German visiting the United States — having long forgotten most of the English which I had learned decades earlier in high school because I had not regularly kept up with it and improved upon it — then I suppose I would rely upon the English phrase book or one of those little pocket language translators. That would get me by for the short time that I would be visiting.

If I moved to the United States, intending to stay there for the remainder of my life, then I would keep up and improve my English for a host of obvious reasons.

So, do we intend to just visit the Bible, or do we intend to live there?

A century ago, seminaries in the United States did not offer courses in Greek — everyone was expected to have thoroughly mastered Greek before he ever applied for seminary. These actions suggest that they intended to take up permanent residence in the Bible. Today, there are many evangelical Bible-believing seminaries which don’t even require a basic knowledge of Greek for graduation. Their actions suggest that they only intend to visit the Bible.

Christians profess to believe in the priesthood of the believer. But today, Christians gladly allow others to act as intermediaries between them and God.

For example, Christians have become used to English translations which are less concerned to tell us what the Bible says. Instead, equivalency translators first determine what they think the Bible says, then what they think that means to them, then they tell us what they think we need to hear of that, choosing carefully the way they think we need to hear it. In other words, in days past translators used to try to keep themselves as much out of the translation as they reasonably could, but today translators have placed themselves in the center to mediate, instead of to the side to assist. They assume the position of priests, not attendants.

I am not saying that everyone needs to study Greek. I am only saying that there needs to be more Greek study. The general knowledge of Greek should be wider, but also deeper. The more there is of the study of the Greek New Testament, the more the general knowledge of Greek will rise in the culture surrounding that study, everyone will benefit from the light, and fewer pulpits and pamphlets will be filled with the knowledge of Greek falsely-so-called.

Some say that a little Greek can be dangerous. True, but in more than one way. A little knowledge of anything can be dangerous if we fail to humbly admit to ourselves that our knowledge is little. But a little knowledge on our part can also be dangerous to those who try to peddle what little they know off as more than they know.

Greek study aids are great. [I have a room full of them.] Translations which expand to show you more of what the Greek actually says are good. [I’m writing one of those myself.] But more Christians should be taking up permanent residence, not just dropping by as visitors or vacationers.

The more we set up others as our priests (however that happens), the less we ourselves can act as priests. Christians should be vigilant for personal accountability to their own consciences before God. They should also be vigilant for the accountability of their teachers before God. How can we keep a teacher accountable if he’s the only one with access to the book? Just trust him? He suffers just as much if not more than we do from our failing to keep him accountable to God for what he teaches.

I would guess that your pastor’s reliance on certain language study aids depends on his previous study of the languages more than he consciously realizes. He may feel a dependence upon these aids for details, but he could never rightly understand those details with any confidence without a background in the languages. Not everyone is going to reach the higher levels of proficiency in the languages. We all make choices as to the best use of our time, and we have no business judging others for their choices. But I lobby for choices in the direction of more knowledge of the languages, not less. The darkening trend of the last century has had very observable effects. Less light, and more de facto sacerdotalism, is not going to help the situation.

Harvey Bluedorn

2 Responses to “Learning Greek?”

  1. Perla Sarmiento de Adams Says:

    This is the kind of articles that I wish be also in spanish :)

  2. Kyle Says:

    It seems like the church today has a void. When it comes to knowledge of God, we settle for the minimum requirements. It’s no wonder so many Christians today feel powerless.

    I’m getting my Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies. I’m learning Greek now and Hebrew later in my degree. The knowledge I have gained in the process has made my walk so much stronger.

    Christians today need to stop thinking of their faith as merely a spiritual journey. My faith requires real world action. It requires real world knowledge. The study of Greek and Hebrew can only give me a more accurate and fuller sense of who God is, and what God’s plan is for the assembly.

    This article is right on. Christians need to step up and get educated, and churches today need to start teaching a broader Biblical knowledge. We, the Church, cannot fully understand our place in this world if don’t understand where we came from.

    -Kyle

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