You v. Learning Some Greek – Case Brief Summary
Yes you can learn some Greek. Actually you can learn a lot of Greek.
You will discover that learning some Greek (and Hebrew)—or at least how to maneuver through the resources—is the best Bible study tool you will ever develop. (Develop = ongoing process)
Studying passages and individual words in their original language can be the most time-consuming activity of Bible study. Ironically, it’s the quickest way to learn about a passage, both in quantity and quality. Sowing and reaping have never been truer than in studying the Bible in its original languages.
My NT professor said “One of the greatest benefits of reading in the original languages is that it makes you slow down while reading.” Each and every word has to be thought about and pondered. And not only that, but the relationship of each and every word to each and every other word also “has to be” pondered. This is seriously a privilege and blessing.
It is something you will experience… soon!
- You are reading a blog on Bible Study.
- You believe from the bottom of your heart that learning some Greek will benefit your study.
- You believe from the bottom of your heart that learning some Greek will increase your understanding and insight of the Bible..
- You believe that you have the help of the Holy Spirit.
- Therefore… I don’t need to convince you of the need to learn some Greek. You already know.
Not a Fact but a Fact-Simile
Learning some Greek is sort of like buying a vacuum cleaner. Primarily you want something to clean dirt off the floors. But when you look in the box, all kinds of extra attachments are inside. With all the extras, you can now vacuum your furniture, curtains, ceiling fans, etc. Though you expected clean floors, you are pleasantly surprised by so much more!
Likewise, you primarily want to make your Bible study more effective, i.e. greater comprehension and insight. But when you start digging around in the original languages, you are pleasantly surprised by many unexpected benefits.
The unexpected benefits are what this post is about.
The unexpected benefits are what make a case for learning some Greek.
- Is Bible Study Software a must-have for Bible Study?
- Are Parts of Speech important in translating and interpreting the meaning of Greek words?
- Does the meaning of Greek Words translate into English one for one?
- Is Greek integral to Biblical Exegesis?
- Can a person Discuss Differences in Bible Translations (constructively) without knowing some Greek?
Holding and Rule (Learn Some Greek!)
- Bible Study Software isn’t mandatory, but it is a great time-saver and you will enjoy using it.
- Yes, Parts of Speech are of utmost importance in the translation and interpretation of Greek words.
- No, Greek Words do not convert one for one into English.
- Yes, Greek is integral to Biblical exegesis.
- Although a person can discuss differences in Bible translations, it is the opinion of this ruling that knowing some Greek will help in understanding the differences, the reason for the differences, and therefore to discuss them more constructively.
Bible Study Software
Bible software is a near must-have study tool. It is possible to use printed resources so software isn’t an out-and-out must-have tool. But in this day and age when apps exist for practically everything, it’s hard to imagine using printed resources exclusively (though many great scholars did for many, many decades…). If you prefer and/or use printed resources exclusively, be sure to check out the Resources Page for recommended Bible Study Resources.
Bible Study software, digital Bibles, resources etc., are incredibly easy to use, highlight, bookmark, copy, etc.
The three major Bible software applications on the market are:
In addition, an amazing free Bible Study resource is Blue Letter Bible. I have only recently learned about this site. It is an excellent Bible Study tool with many resources, including both Hebrew and Greek resources. Its website and app are seamless. I use it on my laptop, iPad, and iPhone.
As a disclaimer, the majority of my experience is with BibleWorks. I’ve been using it since the early 2000’s and would not even consider changing. (If you’ve used any Bible software, please take a moment to share your experience in the comments. Your comments will be helpful).
For original language study, which is the power of Bible study software, many PhD students and pastors have told me they prefer BibleWorks (hands down). BW is intuitive, designed to quickly search, display, and/or compare multiple translations at once, and loaded with resources too numerous to mention.
In general, when viewing the bible text in software packages, hovering over a word will display the root word and its usage in the passage, i.e. present active indicative 3rd masculine singular. Then, clicking on the word, will display the definition in one or more dictionaries and/or other biblical study resources.
Parts of Speech
How often have you heard a preacher or teacher say “this word is from the Greek word xyz… and it means xyz…”? And how often have you heard said preacher or teacher say “This is a preposition… and it makes the noun mean xyz…” or “The article on this participle is a neuter and it indicates this about the word…”
Probably never since said preacher or teacher does not want to put you to sleep.
Or maybe the meaning of the word is given but not the distinctions of how the word is used in that particular verse? These distinctions are some of the time-consuming activity that I mentioned earlier. But, oh my! How they increase your understanding of a passage will blow your mind!
Meaning of the Greek Words Translated into English
Finding the meaning of Greek words translated into English is referred to as “word studies.” Word studies are among the first things to do when researching a passage.
Without learning some Greek or how to use study tools, a person is left with looking up an English word in the dictionary, or perhaps looking up the Greek word and reading its definition, or consulting the commentaries too early.
As in English, so also in Greek, one word may have a range of meanings, called a word’s semantic range. And they will practically never be the same in both languages. An English word with multiple meanings, doesn’t mean the Greek word will have the same list of multiple meanings.
Also, all Greek words do not translate one for one to English. The classic example is the word “love”. English has one “love” and its particular nuance is found in the context. Greek has four “loves” so requires extra words to fully translate each into English—
- Erotic, as in a love between a man and woman
- Family love
- “Best-interest” love, as in the way God loves us (difficult to translate exactly), which includes devotion, sincere care, affection, want of the other’s well-being, cherish, warm regard, loyal, (and this one that I found in the Friberg Lexicon using BibleWorks) “especially as an attitude of appreciation resulting from a conscious evaluation and choice.” Nice.
The Basics of Exegesis
Exegesis is the critical explanation or interpretation of a biblical text. Exegesis has multiple facets. I don’t want to say any one facet is more important than another because they work together collectively. Leaving out any part has potential to shipwreck the interpretation.
However, the importance of word studies in the original language stands out, because the following components of exegesis are directly informed by working through the Greek and/or Hebrew text:
- Word Studies (discussed in the previous section)
- Finding the main point of a passage
- Finding the author’s flow of thought
- How sentences relate to each other and to the main point
However, Greek does not have hard and fast rules on sentence word order. The sentence parts can be arranged in multiple ways. A subject can be first, last, or in the middle. A verb can be first, last, or in the middle. A direct object can even be first. A verb can be at the beginning and the subject at the end.
How in the world do you know what goes where? Short answer—the syntax of the Greek language. The endings of Greek words denote their function in the sentence.
The placement of a word in a sentence can also indicate the author’s emphases regarding a particular action or person or time or occupation or topic, etc.
To help sort out the syntactical relationships, in addition to learning some Greek, a process called diagramming is useful for “diagramming the sentence” (See the RDRD post titled “What is the purpose of diagramming?”) Diagramming is one method used to easily see the relationship between words, find the main idea of a sentence, and follow the author’s flow of thought.
BibleWorks actually comes with Leedy NT Diagrams which can be very helpful. But I recommend doing these yourself. When you do it several times, you will automatically start doing it while reading, which in turn really enhances your reading and understanding of the Bible.
Discuss the Differences in Bible Translations—Constructively
How many times have you been teaching or attending a Bible class, someone reads a verse, and someone else says “Well, my version says so in so.” Like dominoes falling, everyone in the circle starts sharing their version’s translation.
Instead of saying “hmmmmmm” or “I like the way that is worded”, begin a discussion of the different translations. Lead the group to come up with a common meaning using the context of the passage, how the particular verse fits in the passage, and the sense of the particular verse. Integral (but not mandatory) to this conversation will be your knowledge of some Greek. No, you do not have to be a fluent speaker of Koine Greek—and who would you talk to if you were?
By learning some basic Greek, you can guide the conversation and sidestep any speculation and confusion. Comparing versions can be an eye-opening experience, since in the long run, biblical interpreters are attempting to convey the same thought.
Isn’t this exciting? Can you wait to reap the benefits of learning some Greek?
Should you accept the findings in this case, I pray that God blesses your study of Greek far beyond what you can imagine.
Make a promise to yourself to stay humble with all the knowledge that God grants and blesses. (And He will!)
In other words, don’t become prideful. Nothing could be more detrimental to the Holy Spirit’s work in helping you study and understand the Bible or in sharing that understanding with others. It is our goal to build up the Body of Christ and by default the Kingdom of God.
Praise God for the opportunity and for all the benefits the study of the original languages will bring to your understanding and insight of God’s Holy Word.
God bless your study of Greek and may your service Honor God.
Until next time…
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14