2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” NASB
2 Timothy 2:15 σπούδασον σεαυτὸν δόκιμον παραστῆσαι τῷ θεῷ, ἐργάτην ἀνεπαίσχυντον, ὀρθοτομοῦντα τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας.
For the past twenty years the Lord has given me the blessing and privilege of studying His precious New Testament scriptures in their original language. When mention is made of being able to utilize the fruits of New Testament Greek, many people shy away from such an effort, claiming that only a privileged few can benefit. I can testify first hand that shortly after being called to ministry as a 17 year old young man, I would thumb through my grandmother’s Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
An older edition of Strong’ Concordance
At that point in my life I never even knew that the New Testament had been originally written in Greek. As the time came for me to enter Bible college, I soon became acquainted with other tools. One such tool was an interlinear (Bibles that arrange the English text, word-for-word above or below the Greek text). The first interlinear I owned was the one volume version of the Hebrew/Greek interlinear produced by Hendrickson publishers. Below is what a page from such an interlinear looks like:
An example of an interlinear
By using Strong’s Concordance and the interlinear, I knew that the time would come where I would want to become more acquainted with the language of New Testament Greek. In my Sophomore year I began taking New Testament Greek courses and by God’s grace was able to complete two years, having an appetite for more. My professors along the way gave me many helpful suggestions on how to continue my studies and through seminary I was able to use and develop my skills. By the time I finished seminary, I was able to continue using and developing the tools God had granted to me. Needless to say I am of the opinion that no matter how many years you spend studying the English or Greek New Testament, Jesus Christ is ever the Master in His word and we are ever the students, striving to grow in our understanding of Him and the text.
Sample of John 1:1-3 in the Greek
As a pastor I would still say that I am still growing in my use of the Greek through practice, new available resources and peer interaction.
The whole point of this brief biography is to give the reader an idea of the journey I have taken and also to demonstrate that no matter what level you are at, studying New Testament Greek is well worth the time and effort. In this post I want to begin laying out reasons why anyone should engage in a study of New Testament Greek on any level. Along the way I will mention resources that may prove helpful whether someone is just curious, a beginner, an intermediate student or advanced. Today’s post will feature the first three of these reasons.
1. Study New Testament Greek slows you down to focus on the words of the scripture
No matter what you level of competency, there is frankly no greater reason I can think of for taking up a study of New Testament Greek than to increase your focus on the words of the text. There are over 138,000 words in the New Testament, and every single one of them are God’s words. For example, I was recently in one of the New Testament epistles and was amazed at how various English translations rendered the given passage. As I dug into grammars and began doing the word studies, I found myself slowing down and “drinking in” the text. Word studies are the basis for doing any sort of interaction with the Greek text, no matter what level of competency. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance and Young’s Concordance are great tools for starting your study. A well done word study in any of these tools can open up whole worlds of meaning and get you one step closer to what the Holy Spirit and the human author intended.
For those people who want to begin studying the language, grammars such as “Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek” are excellent for those studying Greek in their first two semesters. Dr. William Mounce is a prolific author whose website: http://www.teknia.com is a wealth of materials for anyone desiring to study the Greek of the New Testament.
Students aiming to grow in their skills will move on to take their second year of New Testament Greek, whether at the Bible College or Seminary level. Dr. Daniel Wallace’s “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” provides accurate insight and most clearly unpacks the increasing complexities of intermediate level or second year Greek. Dr. Wallace is a scholar of the first order who has a deep love for Christ and His word and has done extensive research into the history and language of the Greek New Testament. His resource is pictured below:
For those students who desire to get a taste of advanced issues in Greek grammar, A.T Robertson’s “Greek Grammar in Light of Historical Research” remains a standard reference work and is available as a free download at the following website: https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/new_testament_greek/text/robertson-greekgrammar.pdf
2. Studying New Testament Greek enables you to “kiss the bride”
This second reason may sound “odd”, so let me explain what I mean. Martin Luther, the great German Reformer of the sixteenth century, once remarked that when studying the scriptures in languages other than the original Hebrew or Greek, its like kissing a bride through a veil. You may enjoy her presence and see somewhat of her eyes, however there is a veil between you and she. However, when Luther would study the text in the original language, it was like a groom lifting the veil of his beloved and kissing her . To get one step closer to the original intent of the author(s) (The Divine and human author) is the ultimate goal of the exegete. To exegete scripture means to “lead out”, like a shepherd with sheep, the meaning of the text.
To see the text and understand it in the Greek in which it was written is the ideal goal. For those who have learned Strong’s concordance, an interlinear, such as the one produced by Hendrickson publishers, is an excellent tool. For those who are taking regular courses in the languages, Zondervan’s “Reader’s Greek New Testament” enable readers to improve their sight-reading of the text.
3. Studying New Testament Greek causes you to know when and how to use commentaries
An error that beginning and experienced New Testament Greek students can make is in thinking they got the scripture mastered and thus do not need the insights of other, more experienced and seasoned commentators. Students at any level must remember that there is always more to learn. Pride must ever be in check when studying Greek. To ignore the voices of the past or the insights of others is dangerous and breeds pride and heresy. Commentaries (such as Expositor’s Commentary, A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures and Adam Clarke’s Commentaries) should serve to “check oneself” to make sure you are on the right track as you use the Greek. Certainly studying the scriptures without knowledge of New Testament Greek on any level is definitely doable and is done every day. In studying Greek for two decades, I have come to learn that there is so much more about the scriptures and the nuances of what God is saying that I need to learn and apply! Studying the original language has also taught me which commentaries are useful and which times I need to consult them, without relying too much on them. Over time as you become familiar with the literature devoted to the study of New Testament Greek, names of scholars, commentaries, dictionaries and other resources will become familiar.
Next time we will consider further reasons to study New Testament Greek on any level, as well as additional resources and suggestions. Lord bless and keep studying His Word!