The Original Greek and Hebrew Questions

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by Kevin, Dec 9, 2015.

  1. Kevin

    Kevin
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    I was reading the thread started by John of Japan about the Greek Grammars and Helps and it brought to mind questions I have had about the Greek, and Hebrew studies.

    I have never studied either one, so my questions are coming from that position.

    OK, English is the only language I know anything about, but I know that words can change meaning over time. I think of the word Gay. In 2015 it is used to describe homosexuals, but in the 1890's the word was used in a totally different way.

    How do you folks who have studied the Original Languages know what the meaning was during the time frame being written about? I also wonder about the probable differences in the use of grammer since the originals were written.

    Each author was writing by the inspiration of God, but was also writing within the limits of there own education. Moses and Paul were highly educated for their times, but what of the other writers? In todays terms I think of it as comparing the writing skills of an average High School Dropout, to those of someone with a PHD in English. In 1900 years, one set of grammer rules probably won't fit for someone reading their writings.

    I might be wrong about this, but I think the originals were also written without the vowels. If that is correct, how do they determine the missing letters correctly.

    Even today we have how many different translations of the Bible?? They must be seeing different things for some reason, when they do the translations. Not counting anything denomination specific like the JW's for example.

    Just trying to read a real 1611 KJV is next to impossible to someone not familiar with it. The Geneva Bible I read a little of, didn't even seem like English. If someone tried to read those without knowing the correct grammer and word use for the times, they might come out with a warped sense of what was being said, and a migraine headache.

    I think I will leave it off here, and see what questions are generated by any answers.
     
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  2. preachinjesus

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    One of the facets of a robust translation philosophy (and method) is to consider a word in its context and other instances where a word is used in literature of the day. Thankfully, in first center life there wasn't too much change in the meaning of words from the first written book of the NT to the last. Since the whole of the NT is likely written within about 50 years of itself the semantic meanings don't change.

    The Hebrew OT is written across a much broader time period and there are examples of some words changing meaning. However, it isn't much change because of the nature of the Israelite people was one that saw hereditary identity passed along at a high rate the language of the people from one generation to the next.


    While I find the dictation view of inspiration dubious, I would point out that most of the authors of the NT used secretaries (or scribes) who took down their verbal recitation and then refined the language before the author (Paul, Peter, John, etc) signed off on the final copy. The OT is likely similar. I believe the author and secretary can both be inspired in the writing process.

    Here you're speaking of the vowel pointing in the Hebrew OT. Vowel points aren't missing letters, but we're added later by Masoretic scholars to convey how a word in the OT should be pronounced. These vowel points, or niqqud, are not used in modern Hebrew but are helpful for properly voicing passages in the OT which is a vital part of Jewish worship.

    Different translations have different philosophies and methods of approaching and translating the original languages. For example the NLT uses a much looser translation method than the NASU. Neither is superior to the other but they different approaches that are beneficial for differing reasons. Personally, I have no clue why anyone would desire to read the original 1611 KJV regularly. The language is beyond archaic and it's over 400 years old. Advances in biblical studies have informed our approaches and textual critical work produces a better text for the modern reader. It's fun to glance at, but not helpful for reading regularly.

    I hope this helps.
     
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  3. John of Japan

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    First of all, we do not generally use etymology (word origins) to determine meaning, except in the case of a hapax legomena (a word occurring only once in the NT and nowhere else). One example of this is theopneustos (inspired) in 2 Tim. 3:16, a word that may have been coined by the Apostle Paul, the meaning of which must be "God-breathed" since it is a compound word from "God" and "breath."

    The usual and best way of determining meaning is by context and current usage. In other words, we look for how the word was used in the immediate context, and then in the New Testament in other places, especially by the same author. Next, we look at how the word was used in the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek translation of the OT), as well as other documents from around the first century.

    This is identical to how secular lexicographers work. I have a newspaper article from the Times of London describing how the latest version of the Oxford English Dictionary was compiled. It speaks of their newspaper providing "three million quotations that provide context for its definitions."

    You are correct about how words change in meaning over the years, so we do not determine the meaning of a NT koine Greek word by using classical Greek (Aristotle, the blind poet Homer, Xenophon, etc.), which is generally from centuries before Christ.
    This is generally true. However, there is much we do not know about 1st century Greek grammar, so I for one refuse to say, for example, that Peter used poor grammar as some scholars have said. He may have been using regional grammar in places where his grammar differs from Paul's, but I don't believe he used poor grammar. Judging from their writings, Peter, Jude and the others were highly intelligent, and very literate in the OT writings.
    This is true for Hebrew but not for Greek. This means that there are places where we are not completely sure of the pronunciation, such as in "Jehovah" which is now thought to be pronounced "Yahweh." However, in the vast majority of cases, the meaning is evident through the context.

    Greek was written in the first century with all capital letters and no punctuation, but again, context rules. We are usually able to tell the meaning with little difficulty through the context.
    Translation is an art, not a science. That's the beauty of it, and why translations by a committee are better than lone wolf efforts. Another translator may have insights that I do not have, so I am happy to be corrected or bettered by one of my team members in our Japanese NT translation.
    This is very true.
    Feel free to ask more, and I'll answer the best I can.
     
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  4. Kevin

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    preachingjesus, and John of Japan thank you for your responses to my questions.

    I started my Christian life in a Church which was basically KJVO, and even mentioning the original languages was treated about the same as if you said you were going to consult the book of mormon.

    I thought it was a bit ironic when I later found out they had the original language courses at their supported college. I have changed a lot of my positions since those days!.

    It sounds like you both have a handle on how it is done, but what about someone who takes a couple of classes at college?

    Do they have the skills to really study the original languages, and teach and preach about them? It seems like it would take a lot more work to be good at it.

    I think that you have given me the answers I was seeking, and in a way I could easily understand.

    I will stick to my English Bible, and trust you guys with the training, and working knowledge to help where needed.

    It would seem that this would be a case where A Little Knowledge Could Make A Person Dangerous, and cause major problems, by not translating the Word correctly.

    English, Japanese, Greek, is that why you have the Superman avatar John?

    Thanks Again
     
  5. John of Japan

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    I recently talked to a pastor who went to such a school back in the day. He said they had just one year of Greek, and it was more about how to read some than really translate. He was all for Two girls from his church who are like his daughters to him are in my Greek class, and both made A's.

    I've looked at the catalogs of a lot of KJVO schools and many of them have courses on the original languages. I think this is partly because Bible translation is now emphasized by many of these schools. (And I'm in favor of that.) The current catalog of Hyles-Anderson says on p. 8, "First Baptist Church engages in and encourages the learning of the original languages of the Bible as a help in the study of God’s Word, to provide the basic tools in Bible translation, and to assist in the defense of the preservation and integrity of God’s Word as modern languages continue to evolve or change."

    Most Bible colleges require two years for ministry majors, a total of 12 credits. (Our college requires this for everyone, including the girls, one of whom had a 100% on her first semester!). This is enough to give a good foundation in Greek as long as the students don't let this knowledge lapse. Plus we have great software nowadays to help in this. To actually be a good translator, though, the student should go on for grad studies.

    One way in which this type of undergrad program can help is in learning what types of action the Greek verb system represents. For example, looking at Matt. 7:7-8, where the verb is present tense, with the kind of action being continuous. Therefore Christ is saying to keep on asking, seeking and knocking, and your faithful prayers will be answered in God's time. If Christ meant pray just one time, He would have used the aorist tense there, the tense of undefined action.
    That is correct, as witness some here on the BB who think they are experts on translation but have almost no knowledge of the original languages of the Bible or any other languages! :p

    Well, it certainly isn't because of my physique! Roflmao

    Any time.
     
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  6. Kevin

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    I should have mentioned that the time frame I was referring to about the courses being offered at the school was back in the 70's and early 80's.

    The school I was referring to was not Hyles-Anderson, but BBC in Springfield MO. I'm not sure if they are still in business these days.
     
  7. TCassidy

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    We know the meaning of 2000 year old Greek words due to the science of philology. Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary criticism, history, and linguistics. As John mentioned, above, understanding a language is much more than mere etymology.

    Etymology tells us the origin of the word while philology tells us how the word was used. We come to understand how a word was used by studying other literature from that time period and discerning from the context what was meant.

    That is why the very best Greek Lexicons include uses of a Greek word in extra-biblical writings as well as in the bible. Again, as John pointed out, above, when we are faced with an hapax legomena we are forced to rely on etymology and the immediate context of the scripture. But when faced with a relative hapax legomena (a word which only occurs once in the bible but can be found in extra-biblical and secular literature of that time) we get a better understanding of the word through its use in that secular literature..

    That is why I recommend such Lexicons as "Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature." :)
     
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  8. John of Japan

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    They are, and I'm pretty sure they are no longer KJVO. There has been quite a fuss in the BBF in recent years, and the KJVO types in the BBF are now sending students to another school.
     
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  9. Martin Marprelate

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    The pedant in me requires me to point out that a word that occurs only once in the Bible is a hapax legomenon. Two or more of them would be hapax legomena.

    Right! I'm off to buy a new anorak. Roflmao
     
  10. John of Japan

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    Aha, a Latin geek, eh? Or wait. The term is Greek, right? o_O Aha, yes, from hapax ("once") and legomenon (pres. passive participle of legw), so "being said once."

    But you are correct. Thanks for the correction.
     
    #10 John of Japan, Dec 11, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2015
  11. Rippon

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    Well, the pedant in me has to point out that the above is poor English.
     
  12. Kevin

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    That is the problem when you have so many different languages running through your head. Biggrin
     

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