Why All Christians Should Learn Biblical Languages


I shared in a previous post that I am learning Biblical Greek, and as I study this language I become more convinced of the necessity of knowing the languages of the Old and New Testaments of Scripture. However, I am not of the opinion that it is only important for some Christians (e.g. pastors), but rather that ALL who profess Christ as Lord should take it upon themselves to learn both Greek and Hebrew. There are two primary reasons why I hold this belief;

1) Because translations (KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, ESV, etc. don’t get me started on paraphrases) are NOT God’s Word. They are translations of God’s Word. The way that Greeks placed emphasis on their words is much different that how we do in English, and much of that emphasis gets lost in the translation process. Now, is this to say that we can’t learning anything from the translations mentioned above? By no means! But you can’t learn as much. You can’t truly understand what the author was communicating if you only study a translation of the inspired Word of God.

2) Because much is lost in translation of God’s Word into other languages. This point I will demonstrate using the “Exegetical Insight” from chapter seven of my Greek textbook.

   “Peace on earth, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14, KJV). You have probably all received Christmas cars containing this part of the angels’ song to the shepherds on the fields of Bethlehem. Most modern translations read differently: “on earth peace to men on whom his [God’s] favor rests” (NIV); “and on earth peace among those whom he [God] favors” (NRSV). The difference between the KJV and the others is the difference between the nominative and the genitive. 

  The Greek manuscripts used to translate the KJV contain *ευδοκíα (nominative), whereas the older manuscripts used to translate the modern versions contain *ευδοκíας (genitive) – literally translated, “of good will” or “characterized by [God’s] good pleasure.” In other words, the peace that the angels sang that belonged to the earth as a result of the birth of Christ is not a generic, worldwide peace for all humankind, but a peace limited to those who obtain favor with God by believing in his Son Jesus (see Romans 5:1). What a difference a single letter can make in the meaning of the text!

Therefore, to read only the English translation of God’s Word is to subject yourself to whoever translated it in the first place. But most importantly, I believe that it says that the effort it would take to learn Greek and Hebrew, and by so doing know God more, isn’t worth the time… thus you are saying that there is a limit to what you are will to do in order to learn all you can about the one whom you profess as Lord and who saved your from the grips of sin.

*For those who know Greek, I am aware that the upsilon in both of these Greek words are supposed to have a smooth breathing mark, however wordpress doesn’t have that feature.

The Greek textbook I mentioned is Basics of Biblical Greek by William D. Mounce

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