Five Advantages For Learning Greek In The Ministry Context

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five advantages for learning greek in THE ministry context

 

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A Paper

Presented to

Dr. Benjamin Simpson

Dallas Theological Seminary

 

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In Partial Fulfillment

of the Requirements for the Course

NT101 Elements of Greek

 

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by

Ken Suanjong Yeo

May 2020

 

 


five advantages for learning greek in THE ministry context

Advantage One

It enables me to appreciate the New Testament even more. I started to follow the Lord in 2003, by the grace of the Lord, I had to opportunity to start teaching and eventually preaching in various settings since 2010. My primary bible is the 1919 Chinese Union Bible. I enjoy reading my bible, but the 100 years old Chinese translation at times is hard to understand, so I used various English translations over the years to aid my bible reading. Having access to the various English translations allow me to enjoy God’s word even more. For many years, it never came across my mind I could read the New Testament in its original language. After a semester of learning the basic elements of Greek, I have a greater appreciation of the preciousness of God’s words. Chinese is a language without any inflections, English has some, and Greek, as I have learned this semester, is all about inflections! Although I have struggled to learn the inflections, I have learned to appreciate the powerful theological concepts Greek could reveal to me that the Chinese and English bible could not. I like to use the textbook example of John 19:30[1], Jesus was on the cross, and He said His famous last word: “It is finished,” (ESV, NIV, NLT). In English, it means the work is completed. But the Greek text brings out more meanings, it is in the perfect tense: “τετελεστα”. I have learned that the perfect describes an action that was fully completed and has consequences at the time of speaking. Jesus completed His task, and the ongoing effects of His finished work on the cross are available to a sinner like me! Learning Greek enables me to appreciate the New Testament even more.

Advantage Two

It enables me to evaluate the faithfulness of bible translations. Before I took this Greek course, I have a very vague idea of the differences between the Greek and English translations. Of course, I knew these are different languages, but I did not know what the differences are. I did not have a clear understanding of the challenges to translate from Greek to English. Because of my desire to know the word of God in its purest form as much as possible, I preferred the more literal translation like ESV than NIV. I knew ESV leans more towards word for word translation, and NIV leans more towards thought for thought translation. However, I could not look into the Greek text to compare the ESV and NIV translations to the Greek text. After the completion of this course, I have gained some ability to evaluate different translations with the original Greek text. I will select a simple example, let’s compare the translation of αδελφηοι in Romans 10:1 between ESV and NIV. ESV translated it as brothers, and NIV translated it as brothers and sisters. I now can read the Greek word αδελφοι, and I have learned that it generally means brothers based on the textbook. I have also learned how to use the dictionary at the back of my Greek New Testament, which tells me αδελφοι could also mean fellow believer[2]. I have learned that each Greek word could have a range of meanings. Now I have better empathy of NIV choice of brothers and sisters as the translation for αδελφοι, and are equipped to better evaluate this particular translation decision.

 

 


 

Advantage Three

It enables me to take advantage of word studies in bible study and sermon preparation. Since taking NT101, I have started to incorporate Greek word study in my bible study and sermons preparation. I started to use the Logos Bible Word Study tool to look into the various meanings of a Greek word that I am interested in a particular passage. I gained the ability to read the Greek text, understand what root means, and the differences between all the infections presented to me on the Logos Bible Word Study tool. I have learned what preposition is, and am able to recognize a lot of the Greek prepositions. I have improved my ability to discover richer meanings of a passage by doing Greek word study. I would not be using the Word Study tool as much if I knew nothing about the Greek language, because the Greek words in the tool would be overwhelming and a deterrent to me. For example, if I am doing a bible study on John 21, and I want to know more about the meaning of the word loves in the conversation between Jesus and Peter, I am better equipped to do a word study of αγαπαω and φιλεω. I could research how these words are used in the New Testament to have a better understanding of the meanings and the differences of these words. It is popular teaching the αγαταω is God’s unconditional love towards man, and φιλεω is the brotherly love between men. A word study reveals that sometimes φιλεω is used between God the Father and Jesus the Son, as in John 5:20: “For the Father loves (φιλει) the Son and shows him all that he is doing. (ESV). Knowing Greek gives me the tool to go more in-depth in studying God’s word when preparing for bible study and sermons. The Father φιλει the Son, we should φιλομεν the Son and shepherd His sheep!

 


 

Advantage Four

It enables me to take advantage of New Testament commentaries that include Greek in its discussion. Most of the more technical and in-depth commentaries on the New Testament include some discussions on the Greek text. Before I have taken this course, I tend to avoid these commentaries or skip over the Greek discussions if I came across them. After even just one semester of Greek, I found myself is better equipped to comprehend these commentaries. Knowing Greek allows me to access the researches done by the New Testament. For example, I am recently studying the Book of Acts, and have purchased Professor Darrell Bock’s outstanding commentary on Acts[3]. I am now more equipped to follow the argument and enjoy the commentary because I can read the Greeks text, and recognized some of the meanings, it is very exciting for me to have access to this and other commentaries that include Greek in their discussion. Knowing Greek also enables me to evaluate commentaries that do not include actual Greek words but used the nuances of the Greek language in their exegesis. For example, I was preparing a sermon based on John 20:1-18. A commentary[4] mentioned that three different Greek words are behind the English word “see” in this passage. The commentary did not include the actual Greek words, it just explained the different meanings based on these Greek words. I was able to look up these Greek words and their usages and was better equipped to evaluate the interpretation of this commentary.

 


 

Advantage Five

It enables me to compare Old Testament Hebrew words with New Testament Greek words on the same topic. I frequently need to do a topical study of a theme in the bible. The fact that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, and English and Chinese translations do not translate all the original words using the same target language word makes it a challenge to perform the topical research across Old and New Testament. I was relying on tools that do not require knowledge of Greek to bridge the gap. However, knowing Greek enables me to be better equipped to do this kind of study. For example, I like to research the theme of the soul of men. I can perform a Hebrew word study for soul (נֶ֫פֶשׁ), and a Greek word study for soul (φυχη), I can research on what other English words are used to translate נֶ֫פֶשׁ  and φυχη, and compare their usages. I can search the Septuagint in Logos Bible Software looking for Old Testament use of the Greek word φυχη. A whole new world of biblical language is opened to me with my newly gained knowledge of the basics of the Greek language.

Conclusion

Greek is tough, I have never studied so hard in my life. I am in my mid-forties; I have been in teaching and ministry for about 10 years without knowing any Greek. Now that I have completed my first Greek course, I wish I could have done it early, as discussed above, it would add tremendous value to my ability to study God’s word. But it is not too late, I thank God for the opportunity to learn Greek at DTS, and I look forward to the coming courses.


 


END NOTES



[1] William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 275.

[2] Barclay M. Newman, A concise Greek-English Dictionary of The New Testament, (Stuffgart: United Bible Societies, 2010), 3.

[3] Darrell Bock, Acts, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007)

[4] “When Joh wrote this account, he used three different Greek words for seeing. In John 20:5, the verb simply means “to glance in, to look in.” In John 20:6, the word means “to look carefully, to observe.” The word “saw” in John 20:8 means “to perceive with intelligent comprehension.” I actually did not see the differences in meaning in Greek, so I decided not to preach based on this. See Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2001), 388

 

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bock, Darrell. Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Mounce, William D. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019.

Newman, Barclay M. A concise Greek-English Dictionary of The New Testament. Stuffgart: United Bible Societies, 2010.

Wiersbe, Warren Wiersbe. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2001.

 

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