Friday, February 7, 2014

Beware of "Going Back to the Greek" in Sermons

Often you will hear preachers "go back to the Greek" in their sermons in order to make certain points. Some will even go so far as to "correct" something that they feel has been "mistranslated" in the King James Bible. But even for those who believe that the King James Bible is word of God, "going back to the Greek" in a sermon is a dangerous practice. Here are several reasons why English-speaking preachers should not "go back to the Greek" in order to make points in their sermons.

1. Doing so implies that there are hidden meanings in the Bible that only someone who knows Greek or Hebrew can reveal.

There is nothing magical or mystical about the Greek and Hebrew languages. The fact that God originally delivered the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek should show us that there is not one special language that God speaks. In Acts 2, the Bible records God's word being spoken in at least 17 languages by the early church members who were speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. If the Holy Ghost could speak God's word in 17 languages in Acts 2, why in the world would anyone think that it is impossible for God's word to be expressed perfectly in English?

If there were hidden meanings in the Bible that only Greek and Hebrew scholars could reveal, then that would make the people in the pew reliant upon the pastor to teach them those things. He would then be acting as a mediator between them and God since they would be unable to fully understand God's truth without him. This is similar to Catholic doctrine that teaches that only the church can interpret the Bible for you, and that you should beware of "privately interpreting" the Bible. God forbid that Baptists would ever believe or teach such a thing!

"But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." - 1 John 2:27

"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;" - 1 Timothy 2:5

2. Doing so implies that the Bible we preach from is not completely accurate or fully translated.

People often repeat the cliche that "you always lose something in the translation." Many people who repeat this myth do not even speak a second language. The Bible can be translated into any language without losing any of the meaning. Although not all translations are 100% accurate, it is theoretically possible to perfectly express God's word in any human language. Thankfully, we were brought up speaking English and have the King James Bible in our English language, which is the word of God without error. Many other languages also have excellent translations of the Bible.

The Bible never commands us to learn a foreign language such as Greek or Hebrew. Instead we see the biblical example of translating God's word into all languages. Keep in mind that God is the one who gave us different languages in the first place at the tower of Babel.

3. The tendency among preachers is to not be fluent in Koine Greek, but rather to blindly rely on lexicons and other man-made study tools.

When the vast majority of preachers who "go back to the Greek" in their sermons are challenged after the service by someone who actually speaks Greek, it quickly becomes obvious that they know little or no Greek. About 99% of the time, they are just repeating something that they read in a commentary, looked up in a lexicon, or heard from another preacher. Therefore, they aren't really "going back to the original," they are just going to someone else's opinion and stating it as fact. Who wrote the commentary? Who wrote the lexicons? Is everything written in these commentaries and lexicons Gospel? Often they are written by people who do not even believe the Bible or have horrible doctrine. Should we let these random people's opinions trump what is plainly written in our English Bible?

4. 99% of pastors are nowhere near as qualified as the KJV translators, yet they flippantly correct the translation using their amateurish knowledge of Greek. 

"Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me." - Psalm 131:1

If a pastor is not fluent in Koine Greek, why in the world would he translate on the fly from behind the pulpit? Is he more qualified than the 54 expert men who spent 7 years translating the King James Bible? Yet so many preachers will "correct" what they consider "translation errors" based on their 2 semesters of Greek in Bible College (if that!). Why? Either because they want to change what the Bible says to fit their sermon, or they want to make themselves look smart.

5. If the pastor goes back to the Greek, most listeners have no clue whether or not what he is saying is true and must blindly trust the pastor.

If the church is an English-speaking church, the English King James Bible should be the final authority for all matters of faith and practice. The pastor should not be believed blindly. It is the responsibility of the church to listen to the preaching and then search the scriptures daily to see whether what is being preached is the truth. If he is teaching doctrine based on what the New Testament says "in the Greek," no one in the church will be able to verify what is being preached unless they happen to be a Greek scholar.

"Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge." - 1 Corinthians 14:29

 Although the Greek Textus Receptus and the English King James Bible are both the word of God without error, the Greek New Testament should not be used in a congregation of English-speaking people where almost no one knows the language.


DFW Crown Moulding Co. said...

Good article, this is the way I feel everytime our pastor goes back to the Greek. it makes you feel uncomfortable. Like you have to trust him.

Anonymous said...

I wish more preachers knew this stuff.

Petros Stamatis said...

Happened to come across your Youtube video on Lesson 6 Mark 1:1 in the Greek New Testament. Awesome. Great work and explanations. I am Greek (Greek Orthodox). You seem to have a great command of our language, especially the pronunciation!! I'm going to watch your other videos as well. May the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior keep blessing you and your family!

Petros Stamatis said...

I happened to come across your video on Youtube (Lesson 6 Mark 1:1 in the Greek New Testament). Excellent. Your command of the Greek language is great and the pronunciation too! I'm Greek (Greek Orthodox)and enjoy listening to you teach. I'll be viewing more of your teaching videos. May the Lord Jesus Christ our risen Savior continue to bless you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, when your pastor say, "actually a better translation here would be ... ". Tell that preacher boy to use the KJV and leave it alone!
I loved the premise of this series. Yeah, the problem is that people learn language by "ear", but in seminary, you learn visually. Instead of learning grammar as a child gradually, grown men are asked to visually memorize all the paradigms of the grammar. Then you forget it all because you "don't speak Greek". I also think it is funny the way we are taught to pronounce vowels. like omicron like the short 'o'. John 1:1 best with a deep southern drawl: "en arkay ayn law-gaws kye ha law-gaws ayn praws tawn thay-awn kye thay-aws ayn ha law-gaws". Its a joke.

Mama Mac said...

Exactly!! When you tell believers that the Greek and Hebrew word for that is........ meaning blah blah blah, and the KJV isn't really accurate, all you are doing is ADDING TO the Word of God and telling them that they can't just have faith in and be responsible for the Holy bible, but they must also know the Greek and Hebrew!! RUBBISH!!

Anonymous said...

I am a Greek Orthodox priest. We use the Koine prototypical text and English. I am fluent in the language. Though I believe differently than this pastor, I do concur one must be fluent in the language before professing to know something.
Fr. Chris

Dennis Schroeter said...

I like this. A pastor named Doug Bachelor said some pastors Greek the bible to death.