Greek skills needed to understand Bible?


#1

James White and countless other Protestants claim the ancient Greek and Aramaic language skills are needed to properly understand Scripture. If this is true then the protestants have yet another major theological dilemma of contradictions. Take these questions as a start:

  1. Why translate the Bible at all if it is not correct in our languge?

  2. How can Gods word be wrong if written in the local language?

  3. This means they falsely accuse Catholics of keeping the Vulgate in it’s original text for accuracy?

  4. The Muslims keep the Qur’an in Arabic for the same reason, to keep it true to the language? Jews too?

  5. The Protestants were wrong for translating the Bible then?

  6. This would explain so many Protestant errors in their countless Bible versions?

  7. This would explain so many Protestant contradictory opinions?

  8. Why not teach all Christians Aramaic and Greek and have only ONE Bible?

  9. Who has the authority to translate Scripture and declare it correct?

  10. This would end miss-self-Protestant-interpretation?

  11. Etc…

Please add any comments or more proplems you see with this topic.

One last note, I DO NOT WANT THIS THREAD TO BE ABOUT JAMES WHITE! He has enough mentioned on Him elsewhere. Lets avoid him (a good thing:thumbsup: ) and keep to the topic as much as possible.


#2

Sorry, but I choose to display “James White” in yellow above. I guess his color does not show well?

OK, NO MORE about James!:banghead:


#3

I wouldn’t say we MUST know both… but knowing Greek (not Hebrew or Aramaic) is an enormous help, and should be studed to the intermdiate level if it all possible.

Malach4U,
Condolensces on your James struggles. :eek:


#4

Knowing Greek and/or Aramaic doesn’t hurt - just as in any languages, some languages do not translates cleanly from one to another. Some idiomatic phrases have been lost to antiquity.

For example: Gk. sozo is usually translated in the NT as “heal.” But the same word also means “wholeness” and “salvation.” So simply saying “heal” doesn’t quite get it… but a biblical translation is the best we can do.

Are the Biblical languages needed to understand the Bible? No. But translations do differ. I believe Catholic approved translations include the New Jerusalem Bible, the New American Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version.

The NRSV received the endorsement of thirty-three Protestant churches, the imprimatur of the American and Canadian Conferences of Catholic bishops, and the blessing the Greek Orthodox Church.

Anyone who has even been an observer during the work of a translation committee knows that it’s a lot like watching sausage being made; in this case, it takes a lot of scholarship, argument, prayer, more discussion, more argument, and more prayer… not much different from Ecumenical Councils.

As far as English translations, the King James Version wasn’t bad… but since the first two versions, earlier copies of the Biblical text were discovered, and the King’s English isn’t used much anymore (unless you read Shakespeare).

Langauges continue to be in a state of flux. We need to continue to teach biblical Greek and Hebrew/Aramaic for good biblical scholarship to continue.

O+


#5

Malachi4U,

This is a great topic, however I could not vote in the poll. I do not know either Greek or Aramaic, and I do not think it’s necessary for proper Scripture study. This is why we have the Church, to guide us. I do think the Bible should be translated into the vernacular languages, and with accuracy. But for those who do not have access to this or are illiterate, we also have the Catholic Church teaching authority. Praise God!

While we cannot trust “whoever writes any Bible”, I also do not think that we can “trust only Catholic Bibles for truth and accuracy”.

In reality, I have found the KJV to be the most effective translation for explaining Catholic teachings, usually. This is great for talking with Protestants, who tend to accept this Bible.

My hope is that (with the potential new traditional Anglican rite of the Catholic Church) the Church will issue a Catholic KJV translation, editing out any of the doctrinal problems that might be present, while maintaining the overall integrity of the translation.

God bless.
Lily628


#6

I think a requirement to know Greek well to study the bible would be an impediment to most folks. I don’t think most folks will achieve true proficiency in Greek. The translators will always know far more Greek (and variant readings and readings from places other than the bible, etc) than them.

Some pathetic minor knowledge of Greek plus some extra reference materials can help one to study the bible. It gives you more avenues to understand, trace themes in the bible, have more insights into idiom, etc. A decent computer program linking up the reference materials and quotes from the Fathers, and other stuff helps.

Mostly, though, I think diligent, prayerful reading over the years is the best technique, and is fully available to all who can read. And if you can’t read, you can meditate on the bible stories you have memorized. Just spending a bunch of time thinking about what happened with the loaves and fish or some such can give you those simple but deep insights of a true student of the Word.


#7

I didnt vote because I didnt see an answer to suit me. Greek would not be enough. It would have to be ancient Greek. I’m sure Aramaic has changed too through the centuries just as English has. I would just say that I trust the Catholc Church cause Jesus founded a Church and not a set of books. (Which BTW I do believe they are the Word of God but God in his Wisdom knew that there were many languages in the world and only the Church would be able to take care to do the interpretation correctly.)


#8

It is not necessary to learn Greek and Hebrew (Hebrew first, then Aramaic), but knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary can go a long way, especially in apologetics.

For example, the word order of John 1:1’s “kai Theos en ho Logos” (lit: “and God was the Word”) knocks over Arianism quite nicely by moving forward the predicate Theos (no article) before the subject (ho Logos, preceded by the definite article). Properly translated it is, “the Word was God” but the force of moving the predicate Theos forward, which means emphasis in Greek, is lost in the English.

Another example is in John 6, when Jesus says we must eat [phago] his flesh. When the Jews don’t buy it, he switches to [trogo]. In English translations, both words are rendered “eat”, but [trogo] carries with it the force of chewing/munching in an animalistic fashion, again lost in the English


#9

[quote=TobyLue]I didnt vote because I didnt see an answer to suit me. Greek would not be enough. It would have to be ancient Greek. I’m sure Aramaic has changed too through the centuries just as English has. I would just say that I trust the Catholc Church cause Jesus founded a Church and not a set of books. (Which BTW I do believe they are the Word of God but God in his Wisdom knew that there were many languages in the world and only the Church would be able to take care to do the interpretation correctly.)
[/quote]

Biblical Greek is koine - the Greek of the common man. It differs from ancient (classical) or modern Greek.

O+


#10

Mark Twain reportedly said that he was bothered not by the things in the Bible he didn’t understand, but by the things he did understand. There’s plenty in the English to keep us busy.

Nevertheless, the Bible wasn’t given in English. The final court of appeal is in the original languages.

Most questions and answers, though, come out the same no matter what language you use. It is a common technique of debaters to snow the listeners with something that is supposedly demanded by the original language. If a debater on the opposite side also knows his languages, he can usually deflate the first claim.

Ordinary language isn’t infallibly precise. That’s why legal documents use so many words; they’re trying to mean one thing and one thing only. Debaters appeal to “the Greek” and sometimes to “the Hebrew” and give the illusion that some amazing precision is nested in those languages. But they are ordinary languages all the same, and they have enough wiggle room to allow anyone to twist them if he’s bright.

So how do we arrive at the correct interpretation? One way would be to email me and ask :smiley: .

More seriously: reading in context, getting the writer’s flow of thought, checking with others for insights you might have overlooked, and praying for guidance. A willing and obedient attitude also makes it easier.


#11

I voted for trusting only the Catholic bible, and by that I mean the Vulgate. Latin is a dead language which means it has ceased to evolve which is why the Church uses it. It means the same today as it will in a hundred years. Also Jerome had much better sources than any modern translators use including Origen’s Hexplar (a six colomn parallel translation of the OT including the Hebrew, LXX, and four other greek translations) while modern translations rely on the Biblatec Hebrecia (sp?) which is already corrupt because the Jews removed books from their own canon after 70 ad. (incidently the sect of rabbi’s heading up this decision were from the Pharasiee class)


#12

Nobody ever gives me the choice I need to vote:crying:! (Also, you left out Hebrew).

OK, now that I’ve whined & whinged about it…
No, we don’t need Greek to understand the Bible, but somebody needs it–& Hebrew & Aramaic, too. In order to be able to make honest translations.
Th main things we need to look for in a translation are serious Biblical understanding,and to take the Bible seriously. Paraphrases are not enough; we need a real translation, by scholars who really believe that the Bible is true, & that it has something to say to people today.
If a Bible meets these qualifications, we can trust it. (This excludes, for example, the “New World” Bible of the JWs).
I, too, depend in large on the Latin translations of the Bible for serious study.


#13

[quote=O.S. Luke]Biblical Greek is koine - the Greek of the common man. It differs from ancient (classical) or modern Greek.

O+
[/quote]

Koine is a later outgrowth of Attic (classical). Both dialects are mutually intelligible and differ less than most people imagine. The differences are somewhat like those between Modern English and Elizabethan English.

It is also a misconception that Koine was for the “common man.” Koine was most likely the only type of Greek spoken during Jesus’ time, even by the ruling elite. Attic went out of vogue shortly after Alexander’s death.


#14

Hi Absurdum,

Attic went out of vogue shortly after Alexander’s death.

Attic Greek was spoken in an around Athens. There were several other Greek dialects, for example Ionian, which is the language of Homer. All these dialects kept being spoken after Alexander’s death. What happened however, is that, as Greek developped in his former empire, the various dialects contributed to a “common” (koinos) form of the language, which came to be spoken all around the Mediterranean.

Addressing the original question, knowledge of the original language is essential for someone professing to be a biblical scholar. It is not at all necessary for someone reading the bible for spiritual benefit. it is useful for all.

Verbum


#15

Attic Greek takes its name from the region of Attica in central Greece where Athens is located. It was this dialect that Alexander spoke and spread throughout his conquered territories replacing regional dialects like Ionic and Doric.

As time progressed Attic naturally evolved into Koine, which became the lingua franca of the Hellenistic world.

Certainly pockets of Attic speaking people in Attica persisted, however, it was not the dialect spoken by a majority of the people.

It’s kind of a moot point anyway since Koine and Attic are so similar.


#16

[quote=Zooey]Nobody ever gives me the choice I need to vote:crying:! (Also, you left out Hebrew).

OK, now that I’ve whined & whinged about it…
No, we don’t need Greek to understand the Bible, but somebody needs it–& Hebrew & Aramaic, too. In order to be able to make honest translations.
Th main things we need to look for in a translation are serious Biblical understanding,and to take the Bible seriously. Paraphrases are not enough; we need a real translation, by scholars who really believe that the Bible is true, & that it has something to say to people today.
If a Bible meets these qualifications, we can trust it. (This excludes, for example, the “New World” Bible of the JWs).
I, too, depend in large on the Latin translations of the Bible for serious study.
[/quote]

I agree 100%.

I think it’s far more important to learn the unity of the Bible than to become skilled in linguistics.

For example, to interpret the Genesis account of Creation, it is more important to know that it is a story that gets revisited time and time again in scripture,and its sense and reference are completed in the text of John 1. In the beginning was the Word…

All the Hebew, Greek, and Aramaic in the world won’t help you get that meaning. What you need is solid instruction in Catholic principles of interpretation, to learn how to interpret scripture as a unity.

I’ve read two different translations of St. Theresa’s Life of a Soul. I found them to be quite different in style and feel. Yet I believe both translations got the essence of her book right. I never found myself wanting to learn French to grasp the book better.

One could say what’s important is the form, not the raw material, of the message. As long as the form is transmitted faithfully, the language shouldn’t matter much to ordinary people like me.


#17

I sort of addressed this once in another thread. Not everyone has the time or resources to become Greek scholars, for crying out loud. Some work long hours, some study in school long hours, some people’s jobs require them to be on the road for long periods of time, some people have oodles of children. I think that many people ought to be commended for being dilligent to take time to just read the Bible in their own language much less try to become Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, and/or whatever other kind of scholars. It must be nice, as a Catholic, to have scholars that have studied, the Magesterium to guide, and all that. I would never try to underplay the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding interpretation of the scripture and all, but just look how splendidly that has turned out. :frowning:


#18

[quote=Zooey]Nobody ever gives me the choice I need to vote:crying:! (Also, you left out Hebrew)…
[/quote]

Zooey,

Sorry, next time I’ll consult you first!:whistle:


#19

[quote=Malachi4U]Zooey,

Sorry, next time I’ll consult you first!:whistle:
[/quote]

If only everybody would remember to put in “other”, I could wax :clapping:eloquent &:clapping: wise & so:clapping: astonishing that it would take everyone’s breath away!:bowdown2:
(If anybody believes that, I know of this terrific bridge in Brooklyn, & I can get it for you wholesale!):rotfl::rotfl::rotfl:


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