By Harvey Bluedorn
We think Greek is a foreign language written in a foreign alphabet. Yet we speak and write Greek every day without realizing it. Our Alphabet comes from Greek. Our Vocabulary is filled with Greek. Much can be said of the broad understanding of language and culture which can be gained through studying Greek. But these things do not move most people to study Greek.
Greek is Useful in Serving the Lord
The most important reason for studying Greek is its usefulness in understanding the Word of God. God has chosen to record the words and life of our Lord and His Apostles in the Greek language. The ability to read the Greek New Testament will increase our capacity to be taught by God directly from His Word with an accuracy and authority which can never be obtained through a translation. And this will enable us to speak to others about the things of God with greater certainty and precision.
Greek as a Preparation for Revival
The history of the Gospel is the history of the Greek language. In New Testament times, nearly everyone in the Mediterranean world knew and spoke the Greek language. The early Christians all knew and studied the Greek Scriptures. The writings of the Apostles were regularly read to the congregations in Greek.
However, as the knowledge of Greek diminished among the common people, a darkness crept over professed Christianity. The people became more and more dependent upon religious professionals, and those professionals became less and less accountable to the people.
In the Sixteenth Century this trend was reversed. After the fall of the capital of the Greek Empire (Constantinople), Greek scholars fled with their manuscripts to western Europe. A revival of Greek studies followed, then this marvelous old book — which hadn’t been seen for a thousand years — was unearthed. It was called “The Greek New Testament.” The republication of the Greek New Testament in 1516 was followed immediately by the greatest period of the spread of the Gospel since the first century.
In the not too distant past, Christians in general, and ministers in particular, were competent students of the Scriptures in their original languages. Only a century ago, a majority of high school graduates in the United States had studied Greek. But we have again lost the tools with which to personally examine the actual Word of God. We have become dependent again upon an elite priesthood of “scholars” and “specialists,” most of whom are infidels. A genuine renewal of the gospel in our day awaits a renewal of the study of the Greek Scriptures. Those who pursue the study of the Greek New Testament will become God’s vessels for the recovery of His truth.
Greek Sharpens the Mind
Studying Greek demands mental effort. It trains the mind to observe details, to recognize patterns, and to draw conclusions. As you study the etymology of a word, or meditate upon the significance of a preposition, or parse a verb, you develop the powers of the mind.
Mental discipline is important to serving the Lord. We are to gird up the loins of our minds (1st Peter 1:13) by diligently searching the Scriptures. A diligent search requires the tools with which to search. The better the tool, the better the searching, and one of the best tools is a knowledge of the language of Scripture — Greek.
Though this offers more motivation to study Greek, for most of us this is still not enough.
In Galatians 1:6,7 we read in the King James, “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another….” The word “another” is used twice in English, yet two very different words are in the Greek text. The first “another” [›teroj] means “of another kind or quality.” The second “another” [¥lloj] means “of the same kind but numerically distinct.” In other words, Paul is saying emphatically that there is only one gospel. This other “heterodox” [›teroj] gospel is in no way an ally [¥lloj] of the one true gospel — in fact, it counts as no gospel at all! The King James does not make this clear. The Greek makes it unavoidably clear.
Again, in Galatians 6:2,5 we read the apparent contradiction, “Bear ye one another’s burdens…. For every man shall bear his own burden.” The first “burden” [b£roj] is plural and refers to those things which weigh us down or oppress us, especially grievous sorrows and miseries. The second “burden” [fort…on] is singular and refers to a load — often a soldier’s kit, or sometimes to a task which he is expected to perform. Hence we are all to share the many difficulties of life, but we each must pursue that particular task which the Lord has placed upon our shoulders.
Jim Elliott, the martyr of Ecuador, wrote in his diary that although John 19 was quite familiar to him in English, when he read it in the Greek, it seemed as if he was reading it for the first time, so much more vivid was it than any English translation.
When you learn the details of Greek vocabulary and grammar, God will speak to you through the New Testament with greater accuracy and authority, and you will speak to others with greater certainty and precision.
“This is all well and good,” you say, “but I’m afraid I need a little more incentive to get moving.” Okay, consider this.
Many self-teaching materials have been developed to facilitate the task. By taking up the task of learning together the language of God’s Word, Homeschooling parents along with their children are laying the foundation for a great revival.
Culture is embedded in language. God has inscribed and embedded in the language of Scripture all of culture which is distinctly Christian. Our calling as Christian parents is to recover and develop this distinctly Christian culture in our own families and with other families. The study of Scripture in the original languages is indispensable to this task.
The real question is, why not study Greek?