Dave Black: 13 Things Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You
Dave lists 13 things Greek teachers won’t tell you, but I must say that most of mine did. And Dave does admit that many Greek teachers do say these things.
But do students listen? Do people in the pews and those who read books get the message?
My experience is that many do not. Not infrequently someone will tell me that they trust my interpretation of a particular Scripture because I read Greek, or because I was reading it from the Greek New Testament. The same applies to Hebrew. There is a great deal of respect that is given to someone who knows their biblical languages. But as Dave points out in both items #1 and #2, Greek is one tool. It doesn’t mean you’re right.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with a member of a Bible study group. He informed me that understanding the book of Revelation was really quite simple, because the author of the book he was reading on Revelation said it was quite simple. Not only that, but the author promised to present it simply so that anyone could understand. I told him that the problem was that I had a whole shelf of books on Revelation that claimed that they had the key and that it was really quite straightforward. No two of those books agree. In general, they don’t even agree broadly. Then there are the other books written by people who are more honest and admit Revelation is not that easy. And they disagree some more.
Which leads me to point out that whatever interpretation you hear argued by someone who reads Greek or Hebrew, there are many other people who also read Greek or Hebrew who disagree. Skill in biblical languages relates to knowledge of the Bible as possession of a toolkit relates to repair of a car. Just because you have a good toolkit doesn’t mean the car is fixed. On the other hand, without the toolkit, things may be difficult!
I’d also like to underline point #5. Greek words (and words in general) don’t have just one meaning. So when someone says, “What the Greek really means …” you’re probably about to get misinformed. Even those who might follow that intro with a carefully nuanced expression of the meaning of the word in that particular context ought to restrain themselves and choose a different way of getting the idea across.
And then there are the people who use Greek or Hebrew to back up mundane points equally well expressed in English. I’m referring to things like, “Jesus said to build your house on a rock. Now the Greek word here means ‘house’ or ‘a place to live.'” Um, yes. That’s why the translators translated it “house.” But the speaker now sounds so much more educated or sometimes more spiritual.
Then there are those preachers who have clearly been using their Strong’s concordance, but for the benefit of my blood pressure, I won’t go there.
To #10, Greek is good for more than word studies, I can but say “Amen!”
To #11, Greek can make you lose your faith, I’d add, “So can theology.” As someone who left the church approximately at the same time I left the seminary, only to return, though in a different denomination, about 12 years later, I can testify to this.
There are folks who think this is all the fault of liberal seminaries presenting pure and innocent young students with dangerous critical theories. But for me it was more a matter of losing my experience of faith while becoming deeply involved with the minutiae of doctrine.
In seminary I was studying the Bible many hours every day. With my concentration in biblical languages, my Bible study became almost constant. My attendance at church dropped off. In fact, I became so critical of sermons that I really couldn’t comfortably attend church. None of the stupid people who were preaching could do a good enough job to suit me. So I just neglected the gatherings of the saints. At the same time my witness died out. I was no longer sharing. If I discussed with anyone, it was about the latest esoteric thing I had read. Christ and him crucified was forgotten.
If you behave as I did, you can lose your faith whether you are in a liberal, moderate, or conservative seminary, or even in school studying another subject.