It’s Greek to Me

I think the biblical languages are intriguing. I am especially fond of Hebrew having taken it in graduate school, even though I mastered it little. Its style, the power of select words, the pictures the writers painted with those words were fascinating to me.  This is all I really recall from those days, 

ויהי דבר־יהוה אל־יונה

But I can say it flawlessly.

Recently, I have decided to start re-learning Greek. That implies that I may have learned it once, which I did, but with little mastery so it would be hard to say I actually learned Greek. Like many of my friends, I survived “suicide Greek”…taking the language study in a four week cram course, five days a week, eight hours a day. Now you know why it was dubbed “suicide Greek.” Nevertheless, it was always a struggle for me to know the various endings and the meaning of the tenses.

After many miles under my tires, I have begun to understand some things about biblical Greek. It’s a great tool in the hands of the wise, a foolish one for the undisciplined.

Often pastors use the Greek to reinforce an already preconceived notion making much clamoring about a particular usage or construction of a certain word. When in fact, those nuances may have never been intended by the writer, especially a NT writer. After all, Classical/Attic Greek – the language used by the Greek philosophers and teachers both prior to and after the NT was written – was a much different language than what is known as Koine Greek or common Greek. The idiosyncrasies and nuances are more a part of the classic, than the common. If you never learn Greek grammar, that’s fine. At least remember that one thing.

What amuses me is some people believe that having looked up a word in a lexicon or on the Internet somehow gives them the privilege to use that as part of their presentation – as though it adds credibility.  We have one Sunday School teacher who is prone to this, yet he struggles to pronounce names of cities or people as he reads his own English translation. Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?

Words are powerful things. Assigning the right “value” to words reinforces the word’s power and consequently the context in which it is used. We should be good stewards of that fact.

I am looking forward to studying the language again. But most of all, I am looking forward to the attempt at absorbing and retaining more from this go around. Perhaps one day, I can pick up my Greek New Testament, flip open the pages and say with confidence – it’s Greek to me!

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Filed under Greek, Teaching Bible study

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