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But in the Greek it Says....

Aug. 17, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

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 Greek. 

Greek-Cartoon-289x300

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.  
  4. 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.
  5. 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 the sword.

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Literacy and World Mission

Feb. 23, 2015By: Drake Williams IIIAuthor Bio


Samuel Zwemer, missionary to Bahrein, Egypt, and Asia Minor had this to say about literacy and world mission:

The printed page is a missionary that can go anywhere and do so at minimum cost. It enters closed lands and reaches all strata of society. It does not grow weary. It needs no furlough. It lives longer than any missionary. It never gets ill. It penetrates through the mind to the heart and conscience. It has and is producing results everywhere. It has often lain dormant yet retained its life and bloomed years later.

books192ca6b83f5As part of the overall mission effort in training Christian leaders, here is a plea to encourage translation of Christian resources as part of the overall mission effort.

 

The printed page is a missionary that can go anywhere and do so at minimum cost. - Tweet this

 

Many who read this blog may know that Christianity is growing in many places in the global south and east. Much of Christian literature, however, is in the languages of English, German, French, and Spanish.  Very few books are available in some very important languages that are critical for world evangelization. It would be good to encourage ways to get Christian resources into languages around the world where there are fewer Christian resources.

Consider, for example, the language of Hindi. It is one of the top five languages spoken worldwide. There are 310 million Hindi speakers in the world which is over 4.5% of the world’s population. It is also a strategic and influential language since it is used in many governmental affairs. It is fair to say that Hindi is the most influential language in India, which is also the second most populous nation in the world.

Hindi also is a language which many hidden people groups speak. Some 350 hidden people groups speak this language. Thus, there are thousands who have yet to hear Jesus Christ can grant salvation from sin, power for living, and hope for eternity.

Christian materials in English will not have a positive effect. Some missionaries who work in India have found that books in English do not communicate because of the past history of British colonialism. For those who speak Hindi, the Hindi language preserves their culture. English was the language of the British colonists and with their abuses. They do not want to lose their Indian identity. Thus, they need Christian materials in Hindi.

While literature can never replace the missionary, we can significantly aid mission work by sending Christian materials in the language of the people whom we are trying to reach. Let’s not forget this important means of reaching the world and discipling new believers!

 

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