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Rationale for Learning the Original Languages


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#1 circuitrider

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 11:02 AM

I am on a mission to encourage some minister friends to learn the original languages.  

 

Does anyone know of any articles that layout a good argument for learning the Greek?

 

Thank you.

 

 


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#2 Julie Falling

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 11:49 AM

Here's a short bit from the Daily Dose of Greek site.  The Saturday programs often cover why knowing some Greek makes a difference.

 

Here is the result of a search with some links that look to be worth pursuing.

 

And here is a quote from the Preface of The Greek New Testament:  A Reader's Edition (USB5th):

 

"In the world of translation, it is generally accepted maxim that the source language of any document or text will always contain more significance than can ever be fully conveyed in a target language"

 

I have never regretted all the time, energy, and money expended in becoming acquainted with Koine Greek.  Wish I'd done it when I was younger, but I had kids to take care of, and it just didn't seem workable.  For a preacher, if he really thinks he is called to teach God's Word, is he also not called to prepare to teach and preach?  This is not a matter of intellectual snobbery – no one needs that.  It is a matter of being able to bring to a congregation what most of them can't get on their own.  It is a matter of taking God's Word seriously, IMO.


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#3 Pchris

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 12:59 PM

I don't know of any articles that elaborate on the rationale of this, but in short, I'd say that whenever a text is translated, something is always lost in the process. Especially idioms and the like don't translate very well in most cases. That is also true for the Bible - a Bible translation, no matter how good it is, can only take you so far. Learning the original language of any text will improve your understanding of it by bringing you closer to what the authors wanted to say. At any rate, best of luck to you!

 

With kind regards

 

Peter Christensen


Edited by Pchris, 25 February 2015 - 12:59 PM.

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#4 Timothy Jenney

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 01:40 PM

My U Mich targumim professor encouraged me to work hard to become fluent in Hebrew, saying, "You expect to go to heaven? You want to talk to God? Well, then you'd better learn Hebrew. It's the only language He speaks!"

 

'Nuff said.


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#5 Michel Gilbert

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 04:36 PM

I am on a mission to encourage some minister friends to learn the original languages.  

 

Does anyone know of any articles that layout a good argument for learning the Greek  original languages  ?

 

 

Hi,

 

Just a few thoughts.

 

I assume that "ministers" refer to Christian ministers, pastors, etc.

 

I don't know of any classic, definitive article. I also don't know of any article that seriously argues that a minister should not learn the biblical languages.

 

Some scholarly arguments - You lose a lot of meaning in transmission, translation, and tradition. To avoid these losses, which often result in grotesque distortions of the meanings of ancient texts or over-generalizations that reduce meaning to almost nothing, you must study the historical contexts, the original languages, and the history of interpretation in their original contexts and languages. While a minister could not hope to learn all of this, one could start with Hebrew and Greek, and at least come into contact with some scholarly discussion of words in their ancient contexts, translation techniques, and interpretations.

 

Some personal arguments - There is the issue of integrity and professionalism. Physicians take an oath to "first do no harm." I don't see how it is possible for a minister to not do harm at various points in their ministries, without knowing something about the original languages, or something about how to assess the work of those who do.

 

Some practical ministerial arguments - There is a time and season for everything under the sun. The time for some leaving the church often coincides with the time that ministers lose the ability to handle the original languages.

 

Arguments from the demonstration of the power of the Word - Those who know the original languages must present ministers who don't with eye-popping and life-changing demonstrations of what the Bible teaches. For instance, what is faith? From reading the original in Hebrew, I know at least this about it:

 

God promised Abram that he was going to have a son, even though the first thing we learn about his wife Sarai is that she was barren. Then Abram has a son through another woman (Gen 16), further revealing it is Sarai's problem, not Abram's (further confirmed in Gen 25, where Abraham has many sons with another woman). By the time that he learns that the promised son was with Sarai, she is post-menopausal, they are both too old to have children, and Sarah intimates that their required parts don't even work any more (Gen 18:12). It becomes clear that the faith Abraham was required to have was faith in something beyond human possibilities.

 

It is a great encouragement to me that many, if not all on this Forum are striving to understand the original languages, or at least their original meaning and intent (if you don't know the original languages). Thank you for that encouragement.

 

Of course, as a scholar myself, I know how and why many could/would argue against what I've said. But it is meant for circuitrider and his minister friends, and comes from a scholar who found more reasons to believe in the Bible, not less, when I learned much about the original languages, cultures, and traditions. Much more to come in a few years . . .

 

Regards,

 

Michel


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#6 Dan Francis

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 06:48 PM

Not only is something lost in the process of translation occasionally biases pop up in translation choices. A good example is the 1941 Confraternity NT has a wording in the Apocalypse that is very anti-Semitic even today there are still passages that ones theological position will greatly colour the translation choice chosen. I am not saying the choices made are wrong-but just because it says in B/W of the english Bible one thing, be aware that other interpretations may be valid as well as much being lost. I think to a polish phrase I heard about. Not my monkey, not my circus. A saying easily translated "none of my concern" it gets the point across... but the humour of the original would be lost. 

 

-Dan


Edited by Dan Francis, 26 February 2015 - 12:20 PM.

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#7 A.D. Riddle

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 07:05 PM

I found this piece was helpful.

 

"The Place of Greek and Hebrew in a Minister’s Education," by Michael H. Burer.

https://bible.org/ar...ter’s-education

 

A.D.


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#8 Daniel R

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 07:10 PM

Luther wrote a letter called "To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools" part of which describes his zeal for learning and teaching Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. You can find a relevant excerpt here.

 

As to why you should have to convince ministers of the Gospel of Jesus to learn to read their sacred texts for themselves...hmmm. Sounds like a larger problem across ministry.

 

(By the way, that last comment is directed to my ministers as much as yours. Seems to be a universal issue. Maybe a more specific question could be "How can we convince seminaries and divinity schools to value biblical languages as much as they used to?")


Edited by Daniel R, 25 February 2015 - 09:29 PM.

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#9 circuitrider

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 07:26 PM

Thank you all for the great replies!



#10 Enoch

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 02:37 AM

I am on a mission to encourage some minister friends to learn the original languages.  

 

Does anyone know of any articles that layout a good argument for learning the Greek?

 

Thank you.

You might use the illustration of putting on the Armor of God from Eph 6.  If one doesn't study the text in Greek, one might conclude and make some application out of all the armor being for the front -- not knowing that the Greek word for breastplate also covers the back.

 

This issue is likely to involve the KJV-only concept.


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#11 Dieudonne

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Posted 26 February 2015 - 06:54 AM

Here is perhaps the best article I have read on the importance of studying and using the Biblical languages. See it here


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#12 Enoch

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Posted 02 March 2015 - 10:22 PM

For me it is a matter of wanting to read the actual Word of God instead of merely a translation of it.



#13 A.D. Riddle

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 10:10 AM

In the Forward to the 2nd edition of New Testament Greek for Beginners, by J. Gresham Machen, Moisés Silva writes:

 
F. F. Bruce, who himself began his career as a classicist, was fond of suggesting that twenty years of Greek study should be a prerequisite for anyone planning to write a New Testament theology. Indeed, it makes little sense to pretend that one can make a scholarly contribution to the understanding of a piece of ancient literature apart from a close familiarity with ancient literature as a whole in its original linguistic form. How seriously would we take an analysis of, say, Milton’s Paradise Lost, if it were offered by a non-English speaker who had not read—and in fact could not read—widely in English literature?
 
The kind of competence in view here does not necessarily lead to a display of linguistic fireworks. In fact, such knowledge often does not even rise to the surface, but that does not mean it has been unproductive. Language students, to be sure, typically feel cheated if as a result of their hard work they cannot come up with exegetical razzle-dazzle. Teachers, therefore, afraid that their students will lose motivation, try hard to find interpretive “golden nuggets” that prove there is a rich payoff to language study. If used with much care, this approach can be helpful. But there is always the danger of feeding the common mind-set that says, “Something is valuable only if I can see its immediate relevance.”
 
It is not the primary purpose of language study to provide the means for reaching astounding exegetical conclusions, although sound linguistic training can at least prevent students from adopting inadmissible interpretations. The true goal of learning New Testament Greek is rather to build a much broader base of knowledge and understanding than the student would otherwise have. Occasionally, this knowledge may indeed supply fairly direct answers to exegetical questions. But what matters most is the newly acquired ability to interpret texts responsibly on the basis of comprehensive rather than fragmented (and therefore distorted) information.
 
Taken from pp. 10-11 of
 
Machen, J. Gresham.
2004 New Testament Greek for Beginners. 2nd ed. Rev. Dan G. McCartney. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
 
A.D.

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#14 Enoch

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Posted Today, 04:11 PM

 

In the Forward to the 2nd edition of New Testament Greek for Beginners, by J. Gresham Machen, Moisés Silva writes:

 
 
Taken from pp. 10-11 of
 
Machen, J. Gresham.
2004 New Testament Greek for Beginners. 2nd ed. Rev. Dan G. McCartney. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
 
A.D.

 

 

Of course one wonders how one can interpret a document one really cannot even read.  

 

As to qualification for writing theology; IMHO, if a man cannot do plane geometry with facility, master mathematical logic, or Boolian Algebra, one might question the ability of the man to draw reasonable conclusions.  Remember the old Side-Angle-Side?

 

As to Machen, I suffered with that book at the start of my Greek career. We memorized paradigm after paradigm, coming back after summer break hardly remembering a one of them.  The book failed to identify (sufficiently) morphemes; it was grocery lists galore.  The approach of Goetchius was infinitely better, followed by Jay.


Edited by Enoch, Today, 04:14 PM.


#15 bkMitchell

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Posted Today, 05:19 PM

I am on a mission to encourage some minister friends to learn the original languages.  

 

Does anyone know of any articles that layout a good argument for learning the Greek?

 

Thank you.

 

Yes, here are two classics on the subject:

(1)  J. Gresham Machen's The Minister and His Greek Testamenthttp://www.opc.org/m...achenGreek.html

(2) A. T. Robertson's The Minister and His Greek New Testament:  http://www.davidcox.com.mx/library/R/Robertson%20-%20Minister%20&%20Greek%20NT.pdf


חַפְּשׂוּ בַּתּוֹרָה הֵיטֵב וְאַל תִּסְתַּמְּכוּ עַל דְּבָרַי

 

 





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