It’s Greek to Me!


Recently I was with a group of preachers and one of them said, “I’ll tell you why there is so much division in the church today. It’s because there are so many versions of the Bible out there. I think we need to go back to one version of the Bible” and he implied it should be the King James Version. “After all it’s the ‘Authorized Version’” referring to the words on the title page of the KJV. Of course all that means is the king of England authorized it for use in the Church of England of which he was the head in 1611.

I still use the KJV in my own study and preparation, along with a dozen other translations, but the fact is they are translations and no translation can ever convey the complete meaning of the original text. There are shades of nuance and often there are alternative definitions that just can’t be expressed in a single translation. Since our English Bible is a translation of Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) originals, I think it is essential for serious Bible students to compare versions or learn some of the original language.

Of course that reminds me of my college days. Dr. Furman Kearley took me aside one day and told me, “Now John you need to remember that you don’t need to know Greek to get to heaven.” Chastised, I humbly nodded my head in agreement. Then, with a twinkle in his eye Dr. Kearley continued, “You don’t need to know Greek to get to heaven but you sure are going to be bored when you can’t talk to anybody!”

“So if I don’t know the original languages, which translation should I use?”

I don’t recommend any one particular translation for everyone to use. In the auditorium at Canyon View we typically use the New International Version because it is conservative yet easy to understand for most readers. However it is becoming a bit dated and often reflects the “male bias” common to the English language. (English speakers typically say “men” or “brothers” when we are referring to a group of people – men and women – or to Christians in general.) Some of the newer translations like the English Standard Version are more aware of that and might say “Brothers and sisters” which is actually closer to the original.

For serious Bible study, I recommend comparing several translations. I typically use the King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New Revised Standard Version, New International Version and the English Standard Version along with my Greek Bible. The new electronic Bibles for your computer, smart phones, and other devices make it very easy to compare translations and even discover the dictionary meanings of the original Greek and Hebrew words. What a great age we live in!

And, yes I know a little Greek. He owns a restaurant down on the corner…

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