When I was in seminary a man I knew came up to me in the
library asking me how to pronounce some Greek words out of Revelation 2. I did my best without thinking twice. Later I realized he wanted to say the Greek
correctly in a sermon. He didn’t know
It’s a situation I hope never to be a part of again and it still makes my stomach turn thinking about it.
"But in the Greek it says…” I
am sure you have heard it before or possibly even said it. You know the pastor (or you!) is getting
serious when they do.
It is here where I want to throw a whole lot of
caution. It’s a dangerous thing to utter
such a phrase in a sermon. So what follows are five cautions to think about
if you dare venture to use this phrase.
- If you have to say, “But in the Greek…” a lot,
you probably are preaching from a bad translation. I have a friend who teaches Greek at an Evangelical seminary who, when he hears anyone say, “But in the Greek…” he says
to himself, “Then why didn’t the translators say that.” You are not using a good translation if you
feel the urge to go this way often.
- You probably only know enough Greek to be
dangerous. Of course, it’s
hard to know when you know enough!
Reading Exegetical Fallacies
is a good start, but that is just the tip
of the iceberg! You are most likely getting insight from a commentary, which you probably do not understand fully. Be slow to think you understand Greek.
- Knowing the original languages is a gift from
God, but it is also elite knowledge. 99%
of Christians don’t know it and when you quote the Greek you undermine the
translation in their hands, which is their only access to Scripture. It sets you a part and can turn you into, at least in the eyes of your church, a professional.
- If you really feel there is such an egregious
error in the translation, maybe it would be best to say, “I am really helped by
another translation here that translates this passage…” There is no reference
to Greek and it still allows a thoughtful Christian to think and appreciate the
text you are talking about more deeply.
- Consider your audience. If you have a bunch of farmers, you might
want to steer clear. If you have a bunch
of academics, you might dare mention “Greek.” You just need to be careful. Not mentioning Greek does not mean your preaching is shallow. Academic does not mean more godly. Deep preaching does not mean more intellectually stimulating.
These are not excuses to be lazy. Seminaries don’t teach Greek and Hebrew so
their students can forget and discard what they have learned. Knowing
the original languages for most of us is a life-long process which takes a lot
of discipline and hard work. We are average
linguists at best, but are afforded the benefit and joy of reading the Word of
God in it’s original. That is
AMAZING. Just be careful how you wield