Friday, July 24, 2015

"Is it important to know Greek and Hebrew when studying the Bible?"

Reading Holy Scripture in English can be problematic, especially for the Orthodox who tend to accept only one version of it, i.e. the King James Version. However, this can be contested too. With the New King James Version, do we (Orthodox) stick to the original King James Version or can we adopt the new one. When quoting Scripture, there are many ways of expressing what the original means. However, this creates problems. Therefore, is knowing the original languages used in Holy Scripture important for truly understanding the Word of God? Martin Luther, the great Protestant reformer, wrote the following in regard to the importance of understanding Greek and Hebrew when studying the Scriptures: "The languages are the sheath in which the sword of the Spirit is contained." God sovereignly chose to have His Word written in Hebrew (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament).

An example of this is the "aspect" of Greek verbs. English verbs have tenses—past, present, and future. Greek verbs have these same tenses, but they also have what is known as "aspect." Present-tense Greek verbs mean more than the action is occurring presently. A Greek verb can also carry the meaning that the action is occurring continually or repeatedly. This is lost in English unless the aspect word "continually" or "repeatedly" is added to the translation along with the verb. A specific example of this is Ephesians 5:18, " filled with the Spirit." In the original Greek, this verse is telling us to continually be filled with the Spirit. It is not a one-time event—it is a lifelong process. This "aspect" is lost in the English translation.
Someone does not have to know Hebrew and Greek in order to understand the Bible. God's intended message for us is accurately communicated in English. You can have confidence that God can reveal the meaning of His Word to you without your knowing Greek and Hebrew.
Perhaps this is a good analogy: reading the Bible without knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a 20" television, while reading the Bible knowing Greek and Hebrew is like watching a 65" LED 1080p HDTV with stereo surround sound. You can understand what is going on with the 20" television, but the 65" LED HDTV with stereo surround sound gives added depth and clarity. With the help of the Holy Spirit, anyone can accurately understand the Bible in English. However, knowing Hebrew and Greek helps to better understand the nuances and richness of the biblical texts.


  1. Luther was not a 'great reformer' so much as he was an 'arch heretic.' The OT LXX was the Scripture of the Apostles and the Early Church--not Hebrew.

  2. An interesting example has been given. Ephesians 5:18 .Firstly! I am not a theologian! and only ask that I may understand.
    Are we not filled with the Holy Spirit at baptism? does this leave us, come and go?
    My understanding, which may be wrong, so will the theologians among us please explain? is this.
    At baptism we are filled with the Holy Spirit, which is like a pilot flame in a boiler for arguments sake, . When we turn on the boiler, whoosh! it is on full power! Is it not the same as for us? when we live the life pleasing to God, are we not on full power! When we take our eyes off the Bulls Eye, is this not the time to turn back on the full power?
    This may sound silly, and hopefully a theologian will put me right.