What's wrong with the Greek?

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by rlvaughn, Feb 19, 2003.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    I wrote an article once entitled "What's wrong with the Greek?" I don't remember exactly what all I wrote, but the idea was to urge caution in using the Greek to develop theologies, positions, ideas, etc. At the risk of appearing ignorant, and perhaps even contradictory, I think this is a good maxim to follow - if you can't find it in the English, it's probably not in the Greek; don't build a theory on it. [If Spanish, French, German, etc. is your native language, place that in the place of "English" in the previous sentence]. Many people recommend using the Greek to get those little nuances and fine points that we might not get in English. And that is not unreasonable. The problem is this - 98% of us probably don't know enough about the Greek language to get the little "nuances" and "nuggets," and in fact probably confuse ourselves as much as we help ourselves. There are some real Greek language scholars out there, but most of us (including pastors who have studied languages in seminaries and universities) are not really scholars. We know enough to get into trouble, but often not enough to get out of it! :eek: Exegetical Fallacies by D. A. Carson should be an eye-opener to anyone who will read it with an open mind. I end by saying that I don't discourage studying and using the Greek language, just urge that we use caution. The same thoughts could be said relative to the Hebrew language as well.
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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    I would say 100% the OPPOSITE, brother! I have seen terrible false doctrine built on the poor understanding of an English translation. And searching the Greek is a way to stop such nonsense.

    If I couldn't find it and support it in the original language, why oh why would I suck it out of a translation? Trying to understand some of the Greek in a receptor language is very difficult.

    I urge great caution in trusting an English translation. Mormons have come up with some really warped doctrines based on an archaic English version, NONE of which could be supported from the Greek.
     
  3. rlvaughn

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    Dr. Bob, I know firsthand that all kinds of false doctrines are being taught from English Bibles - no disagreement from me there. But are you implying that what God has revealed to us is not available in English? I'm sure you're not. And I think you have misunderstood me. I am not claiming that the truth can't be found in the Greek - far from it. What I am claiming is that people with a very good working knowledge of English and only an elementary knowledge of Greek will often trump what they know the English is saying with what they (incorrectly) assume the Greek is saying. Most people I know do not know enough Greek to do anything more than get them in trouble. That does not apply to everyone. What I often see is that someone takes a couple of years in seminary and suddenly they know more than all the scholars who have translated the Bible into English. If you think you know something and really don't, that is more dangerous than knowing you don't know. I am not saying that the solution is to forget Greek. But I stand by the maxim. We have the scriptures accurately translated into English (and other languages as well) with enough consistency to know that if someone is coming up with some new doctrine based solely on their interpretation of the Greek words, definitions, syntax, etc., that they most likely are wrong.
     
  4. rlvaughn

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    But trying to understand Greek in the Greek when you don't really know Greek is even worse than difficult. That is the point of the topic.
     
  5. Pastor Larry

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    I would agree with Bob on this one -- dr bob that is. You are right that too many people do not know Greek but try to use it. That goes back to my insistence that men be trained for the task they are desiring to do. It does not take a Greek scholar. It takes one that is fairly familiar with the basics. After all, a proper use of the languages involves translating (which should be done for every passage that is preached), use of the technical commentaries (NICNT, WBC, etc), and enough discernment to think through the issues.

    I think Carson's Exegetical Fallacies is an excellent resource and suggestion. But I don't think his point is to discourage the use of it but rather to encourage the further study of it.

    I do agree that those who try to correct scholars with their menial knowledge of Greek are wrong. But there are certain nuances that are not well communicated in English though the NIV does as good a job at this as any.

    Over all, I understand your point; my solution is different however from what I understand you to be saying. My solution is not, "Don't use the Greek;" My solution is "Learn the Greek."
     
  6. HankD

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    I agree with Dr Bob as well as rlvaughn.

    All of us here have the resource, energy and intelligence to learn how to use these computers(and presumably for the glory of God).
    Most would not have a problem with Greek (apart from the discipline of study) after all, we are fluent in one of the most difficult languages ever to grace Planet Earth - English.
    Personally I am thankful for the God given opportunity for my formal studies of the biblical languages and have kept myself current with self study and using the texts of the copies of the originals and I don't regret it. Here at least is one respect in which there is little likelyhood of any wool being pulled over my eyes (thank you Lord).

    But, I see the point of rlvaughn "a little knowledge can be dangerous", however those who seriously blunder with the Greek probably blunder with the English as well.

    HankD
     
  7. rufus

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    rlvaughn, I UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING!

    But, so many good "helps" are available for people today.

    Some Hebrew and Greek words and phrases just cannot be translated perfectly into English because of the "nuances" you noted. Perhaps we all ought to trust the SCHOLARS in those technincal areas.

    Yet, enough "helps" have been put in English to aid anyone who desires rudimental knowledge of the original words and phrases.

    I'm not disagreeing with you, for I believe a comparison of several English translations would aid a Bible student greatly. But for some special cases, more technical knowledge of the original language is needed.

    Thanks for starting this interesting post.

    rufus [​IMG]
     
  8. rsr

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    Bro. Robert, I understand your concern. I always wince when I hear a preacher "explain" the Greek or Hebrew because I don't know if he's a dime-store translator or a scholar.

    I suspect that people who would build an entire doctrine from a Greek tense are the same as those who build one from half a verse of an English translation.
     
  9. Jim1999

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    Please don't misunderstand me. I am all for all the education one can muster to be a minister of God's word. On the other hand, I am beginning to think that many are over-educated for the good of ministry.

    In my 56 years in ministry, I cannot ever recall explaining a word of scripture in either Greek or Hebrew. I used it all the time in my study and in sermon preparation. To the people, who lived and worked in English, I tried to make the word clear in English. Sometimes it meant paraphrasing a verse or using a different translation, but always in English.

    Are we trying to demonstrate our learning? Or, are we trying to make the word clear to the people. I should hope the latter, but I fear the former.

    I have not found a verse of scripture that could not be understood when the whole of scripture is examined in relation to that verse.

    To use the Koine Greek, we must understand more than just the language itself. It was the common language of the times and included local meaning. We must understand the culture of the time, locality and then we might understand the Greek wording, and not just the syntax and grammar of Koine Greek.

    To me, it is akin to having one's degrees displayed on the church bulletin board. What purpose other than to show one's letters? If I can not demonstrate my learning by what I say in English, my degrees on a public display will not improve my status one iota.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  10. Dr. Bob

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    English is so ambiguous and false doctrines or interpretations come from men who feel that a knowledge of the English Bible (whatever version) is all that is needed.

    Among IFB'dom, we have a movement AWAY from scholarship. Many believe a little Bible college or institute is all that is needed. And that is tragic.

    Example? Try the little preposition "for" on for size! How many different Greek words (with often completely different meanings) are simply translated "for"?
     
  11. The Harvest

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    hey Bob, where did Paul and the other apostles go to school?
     
  12. The Harvest

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    He that hath the Son hath life and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. Yeah boy, that's difficult.

    I would have to disagree here. Many false doctrines come from people not rightly dividing the word. Not because they didn't know greek. Also of note is that many of the false doctrine-starters are unsaved to begin with. Joseph Smith thought he had the "original" language (reformed egyptian).

    IFB'dom? that's pretty funny. never heard anyone say that before. [​IMG]
    I have nothing against people getting a Bible education. i am going through Bible Institute right now. but there are so many people who are "educated" that are perverting the word. Several Hyles-Anderson grads that i know are preaching and teaching false doctrines.
     
  13. Pastor Larry

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    They spent three and a half years or so under the tutelage of Christ himself. I would argue that is an acceptable substitute for seminary. But they all knew Greek too ... and Hebrew ... which is a lot more than you can say for most
     
  14. The Harvest

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    They spent three and a half years or so under the tutelage of Christ himself. I would argue that is an acceptable substitute for seminary. But they all knew Greek too ... and Hebrew ... which is a lot more than you can say for most </font>[/QUOTE]well at the risk of offending many people, i would have to say that you cannot compare seminary with Jesus' teaching.
     
  15. tyndale1946

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    I have one question... If the Greek is so important... Along with the Hebrew... Why on Gods green earth was the Bible translated into English?... Haven't all of Gods people been slighted because they didn't know the language that the Bible is written in?... Or are we really saying that the translators were really not inspired when they translated it?... Since we seem to have every translation under the sun and probably more coming in the future :rolleyes: ... Anyone who has ever been to the translation forum knows what I'm talking about.

    Then if I wanted to hear Greek I would probably go to a Greek Orthodox Church... Never been to one but since it is a Greek Church they must know Greek. To many unlearned brethren who think they know something and unless you are a Greek scholar like Brother Robert said you qualify... Try to Greekify the Bible. I'm glad you know greek but my KJV is in english and I'm sure I can discern content of scripture without running to the greek.
    If anyone among the Primitive Baptist preachers said this is what the greek says... The brethren would say that nice but what does it say in English. Another one is the better manuscripts say... That is always a good one!... No let me hear the Bible in English... Unless the word is from the greek... It's Greek to me! :confused: ... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  16. The Harvest

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    amen tyndale. besides, which greek is "the greek" anyway?
     
  17. Pastor Larry

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    That was the safest risk you have ever taken. My point was somewhat facetious. They had much more education than seminary can bring. But that is no excuse for modern day preachers to be ignorant. Just because they didn't go to seminary, doesn't mean we don't need to. As preachers who have the sober duty of the ministry of the word, there is no excuse for lack of proper education and training.
     
  18. Pastor Larry

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    Perhaps the question should be worded oppositely: If English is all we need, why did God have the Bible written in Greek?? See it works both ways.

    But the real answer is lies in the integrity of exposition and exegesis. Those who do not know the biblical languages are constantly at the mercy of those who translated for them. For the average person in teh pew this is fine. But for the pastor, this is not.

    To take an analogy in medicine, it is fine for a parent to know how to clean and dress and scrape from a bicycle accident, but when that "scrape" turns into a multiple compound fracture, don't you hope your doctor did more than take someone else's word for it? I sure do.

    Nope.

    [/b]yes this is exactly what we are saying.

    I think that we need to maintain the integrity of the biblical languages. The Bible was around long before English and long before hte KJV, thanks to those who knew Greek and it will be around long after English and the KJV are gone should the Lord tarry, thanks to those who konw Greek. The pastor does not need to be an expert by any means, but he should have a working knowledge.
     
  19. rlvaughn

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    I don't want to misrepresent Carson's point. By no means do I intend to imply that Carson would discourage the study of Greek. But what I do think is that Carson's book shows that what many believe are "basics" are actually fallacies.

    My solution is neither "don't use the Greek," nor "learn the Greek." It is "if you use the Greek, use it wisely, and understand your limitations in it."
    Hank, there is no doubt this class of people exists out there. But what I'm thinking about is the sincere Bible student who's somehow been led to believe that looking up the Greek word in a concordance has lent him a magical wand to unearth precious nuggets in the Greek text, or the sincere pastor who's somehow been led to believe that a couple of years of Greek means his by-word in his sermons should be "a better translation of this passage would be..."
     
  20. rlvaughn

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    Just for informational purposes, this thread was not made to start a KJV argument, nor to discourage study of the Bible languages, nor to encourage laymen to have less knowledge of the Bible languages than pastors. The intent is to give what I believe to be fairly sound advice - if you can't find it in the English (Spanish, French, German, etc.), it's probably not in the Greek; don't build a theory on it (especially directed to those of us who know "a little Greek"). The average Joe should not fear that he can't understand the message of God just because the Bible was written in Greek and Hebrew. I mentioned D. A. Carson in a couple of posts. He is a favorite of mine (can you tell). I respect him as a Greek scholar. If what he knows about the Greek language would fill a no. 3 washtub, then you could put my knowledge of Greek in the bottom of a thimble. BUT in spite of that dissimilarity, I'm not afraid to disagree with some of his Bible interpretations, because I think they are wrong.
     

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