Biblical Languages—Are They Necessary?

Biblical Languages—Are They Necessary?

THE TITLE of this article may bring to many of my fellow ministers a recollection of the many, many hours spent poring over the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament during col­lege and seminary days. It may also bring to remembrance the many dis­cussions about the question, Is the study of Biblical languages really essential in our theology course?

President, Greek Mission, Southern European Division

THE TITLE of this article may bring to many of my fellow ministers a recollection of the many, many hours spent poring over the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament during col­lege and seminary days. It may also bring to remembrance the many dis­cussions about the question, Is the study of Biblical languages really essential in our theology course? Many asked of what value this knowledge would be to the pastor of a church or to an evangelist? Many felt then that the hours spent in studying the gram­mar, syntax, and vocabulary of the Koine Greek were wasted. Was it essential to spend two and three years studying verbs, nouns, participles, et cetera, only to forget them upon finishing the college and seminary years?

Personally, I am convinced that we are not spending enough time in the study of these languages, which are so essential to a true comprehension and understanding of the Word of God. It has been my privilege to be connected with the Greek Mission at Athens for the past seven years, and I have had the opportunity to increase greatly my knowledge of the Koine Greek of the New Testament. I believe that certain facts make it imperative for us to master these languages, especially the New Testament Greek.

First, we are a people that base our teachings and beliefs squarely on the Bible, and will not accept the traditions of men. This fact naturally compels us to study God's Word constantly, and to know the reasons for our faith. We can hardly do justice to God's Word without a knowl­edge of the original languages in which it was written.

Second, I believe that it is obvious to all of us that many of the arguments of Walter Martin in his book The Truth About Seventh-Day Adventism are based entirely on Greek grammar, syntax, et cetera, and he has attempted to show many times that we did not kn.ow or did not use our knowledge of the Biblical languages properly. Regardless of all that may be said for the King James Version, it is not in the language that Paul wrote, and it is im­perative that we become really conversant with Paul's letters in the language in which he wrote them.

Third, someone has said that a little knowledge is worse than none, and this is especially so in the field of Biblical lan­guages. It would be only fair to say that many times, through inadequate knowl­edge, we make mistakes and blunders, either in our sermons or in printed matter, in our usage of the original languages.

Fourth, to fully understand purely doc­trinal subjects, a thorough knowledge of the Koine Greek is indispensable. For ex­ample, on the subject of the Trinity, and especially the divinity of Jesus Christ, a point of controversy between our church and the antitrinitarians (Jehovah's Wit­nesses, et cetera), the Koine Greek is beau­tifully clear in many passages (1 John 5: 19, 20; Rom. 9:4, 5; John 20:28; Col. 1:4-16; and others); also, in connection with the great theme of the law, as developed by Paul in his Epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians, how can one ever under­stand his real message without being able to read what he wrote in the original? It may be that some of my fellow brethren in the ministry may think I am stretching this point too far, but not so.

The Spirit of Prophecy writings warn us that our teaching and our doctrine must bear the most searching scrutiny. Again, what a flood of light is shed upon such doctrines as the Second Coming and justifi­cation by faith when we are conversant with the original language. The parousia of Christ becomes more real and more signifi­cant, and this message certainly ought to be significant in this day and age. We might also mention the study of the books of He­brews and the Revelation, two of the most important books of the Bible in the devel­opment of our doctrines. It is not too much to expect that we should be able to study these great books firsthand and not through a translation.

Fifth, we are living in time's last hour, and we shall be called upon to answer for our faith before the great of this earth. If our knowledge is superficial or inadequate, we will surely fail. Note these thoughts from the Spirit of Prophecy:

Men cannot enter the Lord's service without the needed training, and expect the highest success. . . . Never should a young minister rest satisfied with a superficial knowledge of the truth, for he knows not where he may be required to bear witness for God. Many will have to stand before kings and be­fore the learned of the earth, to answer for their faith. Those who have only a superficial under­standing of the truth have failed to become work­men that need not be ashamed. . . . Many are want­ing in moral and intellectual qualifications. They do not tax the mind, they do not dig for the hidden treasure. Because they only skim the surface, they gain only that knowledge which is to be found upon the surface.—Gospel Workers, pp. 92, 93.

Let us determine that we shall be work­men that need "not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

 

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President, Greek Mission, Southern European Division

January 1962

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