Minister's Study

Ministering, writing, and wrestling in a land flowing with sweet tea and deep-fried food

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Teaching Greek

October 31st, 2005

I've started teaching my bold and intrepid Bible study students the rudiments of Greek. Some of them look a little intimidated, but I keep telling them that it's okay -- I'm giving them the easy version. I just want them to be able to look things up on their own. Dr. Stagno suggested the brief series, and I decided that it would be a good idea. See, even with an accurate translation (which the King James Version is), there is no such thing as a perfect one-to-one correspondence between languages. Words hardly ever (some linguists would say never) mean exactly the same thing. And between English and Greek the case is even more complicated because the verb tenses, among other things, don't quite match up right. This problem is complicated even further by many new translations -- by abandoning some older English forms (such as the second person plural) for the sake of readability, they often sacrifice accuracy. Some people try to fix the problem of this lack of one-to-one correspondence by reading several different English translations. But that still can't address the fundamental problem; often, it just makes it worse, by adding new possibilities in English that add to the possible range of meaning without ever really limiting and expressing the Greek range of meaning. This frequently simply results in people picking the reading that they like best, without any notion of whether it most accurately reflects the original or not.

So, I'm trying to equip my students to understand enough to be able to look up the definitions of Greek words themselves, and to understand how, for instance, a Greek perfect tense differs from an English perfect tense. They'll probably never read Koine Greek, but the whole goal here is to teach them the Bible and give them the tools to be able to understand it ever better on their own. Kudos to the dedicated few who are actually willing to take the effort to study and learn the Bible. How much different a place this world would be if there were a few more people dedicated to both learning and living the Bible.


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