Why Study Greek?

There may be someone out there reading this column who has asked at this point, “Why study Greek?” It is a good question. Greek is a difficult language, as is Hebrew and Aramaic. So why study them? Why make things so hard on ourselves?
First, I have heard others ask, “Do I have to know Greek to be saved?” The answer is, “No, you don’t have to know Greek to be saved — but somebody does!” That’s right! Somebody has to know Greek; somebody has to know Hebrew and Aramaic too! Why? Because those are the languages in which the Bible was originally written. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew, but a section of the book of Daniel was written in Aramaic. So in order for us, who speak English, (or some other modern day language) to understand the Bible, someone, somewhere has to translate it from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, into English. Without them doing that, then we couldn’t know the message, unless, of course, we studied those languages and learned them ourselves.
Second, someone needs to keep the translators honest. There are about as many translation philosophies out there as there are translators. Some choose to translate strictly; others choose to translate loosely; some want to paraphrase instead of translate. If no one among us studies Greek, then who will be able to tell whether the translators have done an honorable job in translating? Should we just take their word for it? No! 1 John 4:1 applies to translators as much as it applies to teachers. Perhaps the verse applies more so, because translators are actually claiming to transmit to us the very words of God Himself. Does someone need to know Greek in order to test the translators? Yes.
Third, by keeping an open ear to the original languages, many misunderstandings can be clarified. Take for example Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9. In Acts 9:7 it says that the men who were with Saul heard a voice. In Acts 22:9 it says that they did NOT hear a voice. Is this a contradiction in the Bible? It is not. Rather, it is the Greek language expressing itself in two different ways. Sometimes the Greek word “AKOUW” means to hear an indiscernible sound (as in Acts 22:9), but the word can also mean to comprehend (as in Acts 9:7). These men heard the sound, but they did not comprehend the message. Knowing a little more about the language helps to clarify such passages.
Finally, the study of other languages can be rewarding in its own merits. The Greek language is a very picturesque language. One of the most picturesque passages in the Greek New Testament that simply does not come across in English is the latter half of Romans 6. The imagery of two armies fighting the eternal battle of good vs. evil really comes to life in Greek. The choice before each is to choose in which army to serve. One army owns a beneficent liberator as Captain; the other army owns an evil despot. One army wields weapons of justice; whereas the other army wields weapons of wickedness. One Captain rewards his soldiers with eternal life; the other merely pays the wages of death. Whose weapons will you wield in the battle between good and evil? The English languages simply doesn’t do this passage justice; but in Greek, the picture is as clear as a DaVinci original.
Why study Greek? Indeed, with so many good reasons, why not?

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Kevin Cauley

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3 thoughts on “Why Study Greek?

  1. My name is Ed, minister of Mountain View church of Christ, Cebu City, Philippines. May I copy and post brother Kevin’s article “Why Study Greek?” on my blog?
    Thank you so much.

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