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.”
In the last post I began listing reasons why anyone should study New Testament Greek on any level. If the reader would like they may review that post at the following link: https://biblicalexegete.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/p1-reasons-to-study-new-testament-greek-on-any-level/. Whether you are interested in learning how to do word studies, are a beginning student in Greek or have studied Greek for many years, such a study is well worth the time and effort. In listing resources for the reader throughout the post, I suggested the first three reasons for studying New Testament Greek:
1. Study New Testament Greek slows you down to focus on the words of the scripture
2. Studying New Testament Greek enables you to “kiss the bride” (that is, get closer to what the original author wrote)
3. Studying New Testament Greek causes you to know when and how to use commentaries
Today’s post continues on listing three more reasons why anyone should take up a study of the original language of the New Testament at any level. Sometimes when studying New Testament Greek, unexpected benefits can result, which will be the tone of today’s post. Like before, I will list more resources for the reader to consider as they aim to know God’s Word in its original language. My prayer is that these posts will whet the appetite of the reader and bring God the glory.
4. Studying New Testament Greek improves your understanding of the English language
I can recall when I started studying New Testament Greek, I did not know hardly any English grammar. Over the years I have discovered that in studying one language, you come to better understand how your own language operates. Knowing the difference between grammatical concepts like participles, infinitives, present tense and conjunctions has aided me greatly in matters such as writing, reading and speaking. This tends to be one of the unexpected benefits of studying any language. Greek Grammars produced in the past 20 years have capitalized upon introducing first time students to English grammar before taking them into the Greek. John Dobson is a good example of this approach in his introductory text: “Learning New Testament Greek”, pictured below:
Also too, other grammars such as William Mounce’s “Basics of Biblical Greek” and Daniel Wallace’s “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics” all take into consideration the need to acquaint reader’s with the terms of English grammar.
5. Studying New Testament Greek causes you to appreciate your English Bible
As you study New Testament Greek at any level, you come to understand how reliable and accurate today’s and more older translations are for different reasons. This particular point is not to advocate one set of English translations over against others nor to trivialize what is otherwise an ongoing discussion between more studied people than I. Rather, when evaluating the value of English translations, we must realize that older and newer translations are completely reliable representations of the Greek text for different reasons.
Older English translations of the past (like the Geneva Bible of 1560 and 1599 and King James Version) were translated from consulting a handful to about a dozen or so Greek manuscripts. Though the number of manuscripts used in the older translations were fewer, yet between 80-90% of the manuscripts we know in existence today generally reflect the readings we find in those older English translations. The view that the original text of the underlying Greek New Testament can be reconstructed from the majority of New Testament manuscripts (called “The Majority text View) is still advocated by several reputable scholars such as Zane Hodges, Arthur Farstad and more recently Maurice Robinson’s “The New Testament in Original Greek” in 2005.
Hodges’ and Farstad’s edition of the Greek New Testament
Newer English translations, such as the NASB, NIV, ESV, NLT, HSCB and NRSV are based upon the combined readings found in older manuscripts and ancient documents made out of Egyptian papyrus reed called papyri. In very general terms, the underlying theory in working with these texts are that older manuscripts get us much closer to the original manuscripts. The underlying Greek text for modern versions relies chiefly on these fewer and older manuscripts while still taking into consideration the remainder of the New Testament manuscripts. Additionally, this approach attempts to discern what the original author would had most like written. The underlying Greek text for the newer translations is represented by what is called the Nestle/Aland edition of the Greek New Testament and a second edition used by Bible translators called the United Bible Societies or UBS text.
Nestle Aland 28th Edition of the Greek New Testament. The title: “Novum Testamentum Graece” is Latin for “Greek New Testament”
Many of the newer English translations will have in their footnotes textual comments on why certain readings appear in the text with the abbraviations: “NA/UBS” or simply “NU text”. The NIV for example has dozens and hundreds of such notes printed at the bottom of its pages.Today is a veritable golden age for Bible translators and students of Greek alike.
These comparisons of course are generalized descriptions and again are made to show the reader that, on a practical everyday level, the older and newer translations can be trusted. We know of nearly 5700 Greek New Testament manuscripts, over 20,000 copies of ancient versions in several ancient languages of the New Testament ranging from the late first to early nineteenth century. Furthermore, we have roughly 1 million quotations of the New Testament found in the early Church Fathers that can be included in this data base of manuscript readings.
With such a combined knowledge base, as well as the repeated attestation of the reliability and preservation of God’s word across the manuscripts, we have no reason to doubt the reliability of our more recent English Bibles, whether old or new. We can say with utmost certainty that none of God’s words revealed to the Apostles and their associates in the first century have been lost, and that they exist across the entirety of the manuscripts we have. The great Greek Scholar A.T Robertson quipped a century ago that we have 99.9% certainty of the wording in our New Testaments today versus what was in the original manuscripts. After a century of research and the discovery of hundreds of new manuscripts, Robertson’s percentage is still quoted among scholars today.
Even older translations such as the KJV and NKJV are still very reliable and in some places still better witnesses to the Greek text. When I preach out of the NASB on Sunday, or read the NLT to my daughter or even read out of my grandfather’s KJV, I have no worries about the text before me. Plainly stated: the Bibles we have today carry the authority of being the inerrant, infallible word of God. Study Bibles such as the NIV Study Bible and ESV study Bible have wonderful foot notes and study notes that explain these facts to the reader in greater detail. When studying New Testament Greek on any level, the discriminating student comes to have greater confidence in their English Bible, being that there is increased familiarity with what lies behind the text, whether in the older or newer translations.
6. Study of the New Testament Greek connects you to those who have been studying it longer than you have
I have found in my ongoing study that I learn the names of those scholars who know what they are talking about and whose knowledge of the language and text can improve my own. Men such as Maurice Robinson and David Alan Black at South Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Daniel Wallace from Dallas Theological Seminary are three scholars I respect and from whom I have benefitted. Dr. Robinson produced his own critical edition of the Greek New Testament in 2005 and is a tireless proponent of the Greek text underlying older versions like the KJV and the newer NKJV. Dr. Black is a scholar specializing in the history of the four Gospels and has written excellent books defending the historicity and reliability of the four Gospels. Then Dr. Wallace has tirelessly worked in producing grammars and resources for people desiring to know New Testament Greek and is an example of someone championing the text underlying the newer English versions. His current project involves digitally photographing every ancient New Testament Greek manuscript through the organization he leads called: The Center for the Study of New Testament manuscripts (CSNTM) and its associated website: www.csntm.org.
Far beyond their scholarship, men such as these have a deep love for Christ and His word. This passion tends to rub off on anyone who reads their material or listens to their lectures. I had professors in times past who passed onto me the appetite for scripture. If for nothing else, studying New Testament Greek introduces you to people who prove that studying the language does not always lead to dryness, but moreso delight.
More next time….