This blog post is a continuation of the series discussing the excellent guidance in the September/October 2019 issue of Bible Study Magazine. This blog post discusses the third and fourth articles.
The third article is entitled “Greek for Beginners” by H. Daniel Zacharias. The essential overarching guidance he gives is:
It is important for everyone to know what they don’t know.
This advice is super essential advice to heed when walking around in a potential minefield like the New Testament Greek language. His guidance doesn’t mean we don’t dive into the NT Greek, but it does mean that each one of us “must know your limitations.” Please note that the Logos Bible study Greek tools can be very helpful.
Zacharias characterizes Greek as a house. The foundation stones are the individual words and their meanings. The first floor represents Greek morphology. He points out that:
Every noun, verb, adjective, and pronoun is “morphed” resulting in many spelling variations for every word.
The second floor of the house comprises the area of Greek grammar termed “syntax.” A formal definition of “syntax” reads:
Syntax is the grammatical structure of a text (the way in which words are put together to form phrases, clauses, and sentences).
Logos Help. (2018). Bellingham, WA: Faithlife.
The author describes the first and second floors:
The first and second floor of our little Greek house is where a lot of life goes on: there are different rooms filled with different furniture that can be arranged in different ways.
The final component of the Greek house is the roof, which is discourse analysis of the language. He writes that:
Discourse analysis shows how a unit of text is working together as a whole toward a certain communicative purpose.
He cautions that for those without the requisite knowledge of Greek, it is dangerous to “root around” in the first and second floors. However, it is safe to gain access to the Greek house at two entry points with the correct tools.
One entry point is at the foundation stones. Greek words have many meanings, and the context is critical to the meaning. He suggests three Greek tools to help with understanding the foundation tones. First, his choice for a lexicon is the Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Second, building off of the Louw-Nida lexicon, he suggests using the Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) by James Swanson. He then goes through an example (the word “beginning” in Mark 1:1) using these two tools to gain an understanding of the meaning of the word.
The third suggested resource is a theological dictionary such as the Lexham Theological Wordbook. This resource will help the student ascertain if the word in question, as used in its context, has any theological significance.
The second entry point to the Greek house is the roof. He suggests using the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament Datasets. He finishes the example of Mark 1:1 using this Logos tool.
This article is very encouraging to those who know none or very little Greek because there are ways to gain insights. As he writes:
You might not know any Greek, but that shouldn’t hold you back from gaining valuable insights from the New Testament’s primary language.
The fourth article is “How to Choose a Bible Translation That’s Right for You” by Mark L. Ward, Jr. Mark Ward makes a significant observation when he writes:
God never said there would be one best translation in any given language. And there isn’t. Every Bible translation is the result of tens of thousands of small choices; it simply can’t be that one translation got them all right and everyone else got them all wrong.
The article then describes the opposite endpoints of the spectrum of English Bible translations. At one end of the range are formal translations which follow the form of the Greek and the Hebrew. This type of translation is a more literal translation keeping in mind that no translation is 100% literal. At the other end of the range are functional translations, which duplicate the actual effect, i.e., the function, of the original language in the modern language (e.g., English).
Mark Ward recommends that the student use both major kinds of English Bible translations. The formal translation will tie you a little more closely to the original language. The functional translation will make the meaning of the text more clear.
As a final recommendation, he says to start with the translation your pastoral leadership is using and add to it. If your pastoral leadership uses a formal translation, begin with a formal translation and add the functional one. If your pastoral leadership uses a functional translation, start with that kind and add a formal translation.
Like I wrote above, this is an exceptional issue of Bible Study Magazine. Each of the above articles is great. I suggest that you obtain a copy of the magazine and read the articles.
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