Why Study the Greek?

The advantages of reading the New Testa­ment in the original are many, and the joys greatly exceed the pains.


The advantages of reading the New Testa­ment in the original are many, and the joys greatly exceed the pains. One may have read many translations and may be familiar with various commentaries, and still find a happy surprise on every page of his Greek Testament. And it is not necessary to become a great scholar in order to benefit from the study of Greek. The first few lessons are immediately helpful. And if a college is not available, the language may be learned by cor­respondence. Here are a few illustrations of how helpful even a little knowledge of Greek may be.

We read in Galatians 1:10: "Do I now per­suade men, or God?" We might wonder whether the intended meaning is, "Do I now persuade men, or do I persuade God?" or, "Do I now *persuade men, or does God persuade men (through me)?" The English might be interpreted either way, but not so the Greek. The word "God" is in the accusative case, show­ing that it is the object of the verb "persuade," and the meaning is, "Do I persuade God?" Points like this could be determined by a stu­dent after just the first few lessons in the lan­guage.

The derivation of many common English words is evident to one reading Greek. I re­member how surprised and almost shocked I was to read in John 15:1, "I am the true vine, and my Father is george." I had not realized before that the name "George" means "hus­bandman" or "farmer," literally, "earth-worker," from ge—"earth," as in "geography" and "geology," and the root for "work"—erg—­compare "energy" and "urge." Nor had I real­ized that the names "Margarite" and "Pearl" are in meaning the same, until I stumbled upon it in Revelation 21:21, "And the twelve gates were twelve margarites."

We obtain a more adequate insight into the Athenian character from the Greek of Acts 17 than from the English. Where we read that they "spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing," the Greek has for "new" the comparative form of the adjective, "to tell or to hear something newer." There is an interesting emphasis in this use of the comparative, implying a con­tinual dissatisfaction on the part of the Greeks, with everything, no matter how new. Nothing was quite "new" enough to suit them.

And how my heart alternately fainted and thrilled when I read in Revelation 3:20, "Lo, I have stood at the door, and I knock." In­stead of a present form for the verb "stand," a perfect form is used. And the perfect tense often denotes action continuing or abiding. As if Jesus said, "I have been at the door of your heart a long time, and am still waiting." It is true that this is one of a group of verbs which in the Greek regularly use the perfect form for the present tense. So I do not sug­gest that a change to the perfect would im­prove the translation, though the Emphatic Diaglott and Young's translation render this in the perfect tense. May not a reflection of the "perfect" meaning still cling to these forms, and with their application to the present time there be a connotation of the same action or situation extending backward into the past? "Behold, I am still standing at the door."

All our colleges offer good courses in New Testament Greek, and so does the Home Study Institute.

Washington, D. C.

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February 1933

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