Is "Going to the greek" smart?


#1

Why do I ask this?

If we can’t understand scripture without ‘going Greek’ why have a translation in your native tongue…

Is any translation perfect? Nope… but at worst case, the meaning of any passage is still going to be pretty darn close to what the Greek says…

When we “Go Greek” we do two things

  1. We say we can interpret scripture better than all the other translations out there. Little bit of a pride issue if you ask me…

  2. We can in inadvertently twist scripture and a passages meaning because instead of taking a full understanding of all the passages surrounding a word in Greek as well, we look at one, and then use that one word within the English context.

Often, when someone dives into the Greek, it seems that that are running from an understanding and desperately seeking a way to counter what is taught in the bible in English.

Example…
A friend of mine of whom i have many pleasant conversations with. He was defending OSAS and used a specific passage to ‘prove’ OSAS. I don’t remember the exact passage, but basically he was saying a verse absolutely had to mean a guarantee of salvation. I looked at the passage he referenced, and noticed it was laced with may, and might, and could… not wills and absolutes.
I showed him this and he looked at it in a confused manner… thought for a second, then walked off. The verse didn’t say what he thought it said.

A day or two later, he came back, as giddy as a school girl saying “Ah hah!” it does mean an absolute. This time I looked at him in confusion…

"If you look at the Greek word for “May” it seems that it is actually a promise, no ambiguity, no doubt. "

At which point I asked him if it really meant that, why didn’t it get translated that way… His response was effectively “I Don’t know, but that is what the verse means, the English is wrong…”

As an aside… i later checked what the Greek word meant… there were several definitions… one was more in line with may and might, and yes, there was one in line with absolutes…

Point is… to him, the English was pointless because it did NOT say what he thought it said… instead, he had to “go Greek” to find HIS understanding… and even then, it was doubtful…

That being said, we can go Greek to get a deeper understanding of the meaning already put forth, but if going Greek completely changes the meaning of a passage, going Greek is bad…

In Christ


#2

I think the problem here is not which language one uses. Personally I have been greately benefitted from studying the Gk. N.T. I think the problem is the rejection of the Authority of the Church. No matter what language you are reading, if you are doing so with a rebellious heart, you will arrive at error eventually.


#3

I agree with the disobedience to the authority of the Church, which is what I think what you, too, are arguing.

You do have to remember that not all translations are made within that authority. Some translations are made for better scripture study while others are made for readability and still others are made to reinforce christian theologies. So depending on your bible and your pupose in reading it It may be better to have the original language as a backup.

I am reminded of the passage where Jesus asks Peter if he Loves him 3 times. Since English has only one word for love 1/2 the meaning of the passage is totally lost. We can go to the greek to see that Jesus is asking for a greater love and Peter is acknowledging to Jesus that he is incapable of that kind of love.

Your friend is wrong in saying that… since it could mean both, I am right. This is not a problem with going to the Greek but using Greek flexibility ( like he probably uses english ) to cling to not-Catholicism.


#4

I think that the very act of “going to the Greek” refutes the principles of Sola Scriptura. Yes, I know that there are as many definitions of “Sola Scriptura” as there are denominations, but one of the fundamental ideas behind it is that EVERYONE can read and understand the Bible.

Of course, this means that the Bible must be available in everyone’s native tongue, which is why some protestants love to go on and on about how the evil Catholic Church keep the Bible in Latin and chained it up in Churches and such.

Several times, when trying to explain the meaning of a particular verse based on it’s English translation, the person I am debating with will tell me how you need to know what the original Greek wording was to truly understand the verse because the English word isn’t quite right. So… I can’t just read the Bible and understand it. Apparently I must be a Greek scholar too.

And of course it would be both ridiculous and cruel of God to invent a system of transmitting the Gospel where one must be a Greek scholar to understand salvation.


#5

I agree that recourse to the Greek text has been misused. There is a certain usefulness in being able to study the text in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and/or Latin. But the exaltation of the so-called original languages sometimes reaches almost to the point of idolatry.

Christ generally taught in Aramaic, and, perhaps most often in the synagogues, in Hebrew. But some commentators represent the Greek NT as if the true meaning can only be understood in that language. The Greek text of the words of Jesus is certainly a translation from Aramaic or Hebrew. So the Greek is not, in and of itself, definitive.

Also, it is necessary to know which Greek text is being used. The mere fact that a manuscript or set is in Greek does not establish that source as preeminent.


#6

Also, it is necessary to know which Greek text is being used. The mere fact that a manuscript or set is in Greek does not establish that source as preeminent.

Good Point, I’ve heard of instances where someone translated the KJV into greek, and then proceed to use THAT greek translation as the true greek translation.

Anyway…

As mentioned, I have no problem in using the Greek to deepen and understanding, but to often, people say you can only understand it if you understand the Greek…

Which is the point of this thread…

In Christ


#7

I think this is a very good point. One of the fundamentals of Sola Scriptura is that scripture interprets scripture, and that the believer is guided by the HS to understand. While I know these things do happen, they are not sufficient, inthemselves, to make sense of everything.


#8

It means that the Bible should be translated into the vernacular, yes. But it follows from this (in the classic version of Sola Scriptura as represented by the Westminster Confession and other traditional Protestant documents), that a “due attention to the ordinary means” includes respectful attention to what scholars versed in the original languages tell you. The idea that any uneducated person can pick up an English Bible and figure out all true theology without any regard to commentaries or any respect for scholarship is not the traditional version of Sola Scriptura but a radical twist on the doctrine.

I do not defend the WCF’s version of Sola Scriptura. But if you look it up you will find that it does speak about “a due use of the ordinary means.”

Edwin


#9

I doubt that anyone has done this (I’d be surprised if any KJV-only folks in the past 100 years were capable of translating the Bible from English to Greek, though some of the conservative 19th-century scholars they hold up as heroes might have been able to). I suspect that you are misunderstanding the “Textus Receptus” Greek NTs promulgated by KJV-only folks (I have one myself, given me at a fundamentalist Baptist camp meeting if I remember correctly–or perhaps I bought it). These are editions of the original Greek based on the manuscripts commonly accepted as authoritative before the development of modern (19th-20th-century) textual criticism (the “Byzantine” tradition as opposed to Sinaiticus and Vaticanus).

Edwin


#10

Sensible concerns. With a limited knowledge of Greek, one can notice some things in the original which cannot be rendered precisely in translations. It helps. Gives perspective. And all. But indeed, if one has studied Greek for several years, one’s hardly better than the translators.


#11

The problem is that your friend doesn’t appear to know Greek. Too often fundamentalists and other conservative evangelicals will pontificate about what “the Greek” means when they don’t understand the nuances of the language at all. For instance, Pentecostals have a whole theory about the difference between “logos” and “rhema” (two Greek words for “word”), but as far as I know this cut-and-dried definition wouldn’t be upheld by genuine Greek scholars. (I myself can read Greek but do not consider myself an expert in the subtleties of the language.)

There’s nothing arrogant about reading the text in the original and criticizing one or another translation. Translations differ among themselves and obviously some of them are wrong, or at least imperfect (indeed all of them are imperfect). For instance, I think I can say that the NIV is wrong on a number of points. But I say this not only on my own authority but by comparing my own reading of the Greek with various scholarly translations. If all the major translations disagree with me, then of course I accept that my amateur’s knowledge of Greek has misled me somehow.

Edwin


#12

The Greek should be used to deepen understanding of Scripture, alongside one’s own favorite interpretation, unless one is a native Koine speaker (I think none are).

But it’s hardly “pride” to want to understand the Scripture in living color, rather than just in the black-and-white we get with mere translations.

The important thing is, whether we use Greek exclusively, Greek alongside translations, or translations alone, we never do it outside the living tradition of the Church.

Besides, one doesn’t need to use the Greek to come up with the wrong interpretations. Many easily do that with translations alone.


#13

I suspect that you are misunderstanding the “Textus Receptus” Greek NTs promulgated by KJV-only folks

Freely admit this is a possibility :slight_smile: SOunds a little more logical anyway…

In Christ


#14

90% of the time when someone in an argument claims he is “going to the Greek” he means he is reading the commentary of someone else who has given, in English, his translation or interpretation of the Greek. Rarely does he mean “I am a Greek scholar as well as a scripture scholar and I am going to original sources including a lexicon of biblical Greek rather than classical Greek and looking up meanings of specific words.”


#15

The Greek is quite useful as a check on the English, if words only had one meaning, it wouldn’t have much purpose but words have many meanings and so often, just a basic understanding of the original language will point you to the correct meaning of the English word.

Let’s use an example from the KJO camp. The rather famous misprint where one “strains at a gnat and swallows a camel” in the KJV. Many times, I’ve run into people who have made the passage nonsensical because they take the strain to mean like a physcial exertion. Say like you partly swallowed a bug and it was stuck in the back of your throat.

Well a quick check of the Greek destroys that idea for the Greek word is strain like a sieve strains. So we can see it means to strain out a gnat, probably by keepting your teeth close together and swallow a camel. Exclude the smallest animal at the trough and swallow the biggest.

Anyway that’s a good way to use knowledge of the orginal languages.

Now there are bad ways too. People will take a Strong’s Concordance or a basic Greek course and they just throw out what the expert translators do and basically make their own translation. That’s quite an abuse.

For instance, many of the things in the Bible are idioms. Figures of speach requiring a knowledge of both cultures and languages to make a good translation. Often a literalist conversion from a dictionary destroys the meaning.

It makes not too much difference if the person uses a reference or has a basic Greek course, word meaning is basically a memorizaton process at that level.

One thing you can see better with a Greek course is the questions of tense and what a clause is referring to and such.

So one can gain in understanding from a basic understanding of Greek, but one should not make the mistake of thinking one is qualified to do a translation. There are very good reasons why thing are translated like they are.

JJ


#16

For the most part everyone can read and understand the Bible since translations into other tongues can usually turn out pretty accurate.

However, in some cases a perfect translation is very difficult just because of the limitations of the language. For example, the Greek language has numerous words for different kinds of love. We have just the one in our English language.

Therefore, some areas can be unclear like when Jesus asked Peter 3 times if Peter loved Him. Jesus asked the first 2 times if Peter loved Him with agape love, the kind God loves with.

Peter replied that he loved Jesus but used the Greek phileo love to say he loved Jesus, which is merely friendship love. Some have suggested Peter doubted now whether he loved Jesus with that powerful agape love after having betrayed Jesus, as evidenced here.

Peter was grieved the 3rd time because Jesus asked if Peter loved with phileo love, or friendship love, as if Peter could not love with agape love (at least how Peter might’ve perceived it). Peter replied again that he did love Jesus with that friendship kind of love, but would not acknowledge his love as the kind of love God loves with.

All 3 times Jesus commanded Peter to feed his sheep, which some think shows we are called to serve God regardless of our feelings and that God doesn’t give up on us just because we fail.

In the English language, it’s hard to convey that all this is going on without extensive explanation because of the limitations of our language.

John 21:15 So when they had dined , Jesus saith to Simon Peter , Simon , son of Jonas , lovest thou me more than these ? He saith unto him , Yea , Lord ; thou knowest that I love thee . He saith unto him , Feed my lambs .
16 He saith to him again the second time , Simon , son of Jonas , lovest thou me ? He saith unto him , Yea , Lord ; thou knowest that I love thee . He saith unto him , Feed my sheep .
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon , son of Jonas , lovest thou me ? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me ? And he said unto him , Lord , thou knowest all things ; thou knowest that I love thee . Jesus saith unto him , Feed my sheep .


#17

*Now there are bad ways too. People will take a Strong’s Concordance or a basic Greek course and they just throw out what the expert translators do and basically make their own translation. That’s quite an abuse.

So one can gain in understanding from a basic understanding of Greek, but one should not make the mistake of thinking one is qualified to do a translation. There are very good reasons why thing are translated like they are.*
…I was going to wade into this thread on a different line of thought, but your comments caught my eye…and not happily so, I might add…I, as I have pointed out on other threads, am currently engaged in doing that which you blithely cast off as ‘abuse’…I am rendering my own ‘translation’ using Strongs’s Concordance, and at no time have I thought my efforts to be a exercise in ‘abuse’…by passing off your thoughts in such judgemental language, it would appear that a little bit of the ‘nuanced thought’ you say cannot be had by mere rote could pertain to your own comments as well…to say nothing of how you can make a determination of who is ‘qualified to do a translation’…you know nothing of me or others who may be so engaged…are you prepared to say that perhaps, just perhaps, a great deal could be gained by my efforts, that if I attain a heightened appreciation for Scripture from its detailed study that my ‘abuses’ may not have a beneficial side as well?


#18

I didn’t say you wouldn’t gain any understanding, but in some places you might actually lose it.

If translation was such an easy thing, all you are doing is grabbing one definition often from many and plugging it in. Why not just have a computer do it?

On what basis do you grab which meaning? Do you study the context and pour over the text to see which nuance to use? Or do you just take the first, or do you basically just follow someone else’s translation yet insert the Strong’s?

I would though wonder one thing about your exercise. Why do you chose and old Baptist work that dates from before we even knew the New Testament was written in Koine Greek? In some words you aren’t going to be taking a step forward, you will take a step back? If you are going to go through all that work, why wouldn’t you at least use a reference that includes much if not all the increase in knowledge of the words that we have gained in the last 125 years? It would seem to me if you value your time you would at least use the best references you could.

take this one word:
G3439
μονογενής
monogenēs
mon-og-en-ace
From G3441 and G1096; only born, that is, sole: - only (begotten, child).

Problem? Well it’s wrong. This comes from the time when the genes was thought to come from gennao, to begat. But it doesn’t, it comes from genus, kind. So if you translated monogenes as only begotten, that wrong, it should be one of a kind or if you want one word, unique.

So if we take an example: Joh 3:16 ISV
(16) "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his unique Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.

Here we have the ISV correctly translating monogenes as unique. That translation is based on the best word studies available. What do people do, they take their old translation and their Strong’s and they conclude that the translators are wrong, that they are some godless heathens trying to change the word of God. And they tell them so in most harsh letters, they even burn their copy of the ISV and send it to the people who have dedicated their life to understanding the words so well.

You explain to me how that isn’t an abuse.

JJ


#19

Unhappiness is sometimes a path to wisdom. If you actually care about truth, that is.

I, as I have pointed out on other threads, am currently engaged in doing that which you blithely cast off as ‘abuse’…

The fact that you are doing it does not mean that it is not “abuse.” Perhaps you have a charism of wisdom or even infallibility of which I am unaware:rolleyes:

I am rendering my own ‘translation’ using Strongs’s Concordance, and at no time have I thought my efforts to be a exercise in ‘abuse’…

Perhaps you should think again.

by passing off your thoughts in such judgemental language,

Give me a break. What Jolly Joe is describing, and what you say you are doing, is utterly indefensible. Who cares if telling the truth is “judgmental”? He isn’t judging you as a person. If you choose to do silly things, it’s only charitable for us to tell you that it’s silly. Are you saying that one should never condemn any foolish act for fear that there might be someone around who is engaged in it?

to say nothing of how you can make a determination of who is ‘qualified to do a translation’

You should know the language you are translating from.

…you know nothing of me or others who may be so engaged…are you prepared to say that perhaps, just perhaps, a great deal could be gained by my efforts, that if I attain a heightened appreciation for Scripture from its detailed study that my ‘abuses’ may not have a beneficial side as well?

There’s nothing wrong with your piecing together a translation for your own use even if you have very limited Greek and are heavily dependent on concordances. As long as you recognize that this doesn’t replace the need to consult a translation made by someone who actually has a deep familiarity with the language.

Languages are not puzzles.

Edwin


#20

*Give me a break. What Jolly Joe is describing, and what you say you are doing, is utterly indefensible.

There’s nothing wrong with your piecing together a translation for your own use even if you have very limited Greek and are heavily dependent on concordances. Languages are not puzzles.*

…a curious response, is it not, Contarini…Jolly Joe’s reponse I take at its value, recognizing the good points he makes, and I thank him for expounding, but your post I find bemusing…you seem to be accusing me of heresy in one breath and then saying there is nothing wrong with my commission of that same heresy…I take from that that logical reasoning is not your strongest point…so which is it? Is my transgression going to land me in the underworld or is it an OK venture as long as I don’t take it beyond by own computer? Wondering how it could be both…


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