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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Locution Confusion--Part 2

Anyone who reads this blog or hears me preach knows that I have yet to master the English language. I've come a long way (marrying an English education major will have that humbling effect on you), but still have a very long way to go. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone that Hebrew and Greek were quite the challenge for me. (Especially considering that Hebrew involved a 7:30am starting time.)

In my Greek grammar book Mounce would speak often of "the fog;" the hazy nature of some of the linguistic concepts. The hope was, as you continued to study, "the fog" would eventually lift. (Of course, a decade later and I'm still waiting for some clouds to ascend.)

At one particularly "cloudy" moment, I remember lamenting to the professor, "Why couldn't God have preserved the language? Why'd He have the authors record the Word in a language no one ever uses? Why didn't he just keep Koine Greek alive and used today?"

To this point, Greek had been a drudgery to me. It had been a code language the Bible was written in. I viewed my class as the development of my "secret decoder ring" all the while wishing God had just written the Bible in English and we could skip the laborious step. (Possibly the only time in my life the KJV only perspective looked attractive, for atleast then I could have pretended Peter had truly spoken in those exact terms.)

Patiently, my professor opened my eyes to see the Lord's grace that the Scriptures were recorded in ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek, and even His grace in "killing" each language. When these languages "died" they were then preserved. Once removed from common society's use, they were not subject to the same dilution, distortion, dispersion and disintegration of our current vocabulary. In a sense, by removing the language from common use, God kept it alive for all of eternity.

In English, when John Piper says he is bad, we may be confused as to what he means.

But in Greek, when John Piper affirms "hamartolos," we can know exactly what he means.

At this point I began to realize, those words (or languages) we consider to be obsolete may be a blessing, not a curse.


  • At 12:19 PM, Blogger Noel said…

    Nice post Danny! I too have a wife who excels in the English language and I don't. I never thought about the concept of why Greek died out. Thanks for the interesting mind bender.

    What would you say is a good way to get started in learning Greek without having to go to seminary?

  • At 12:44 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    i haven't talked to anyone who has tried this...but it's worth a shot:

    you can purchase mounce's book and work book on amazon (link within article) and can download his class lectures at Biblical Training.

    could be a pretty good way.

  • At 3:08 PM, Blogger fisher said…


    1. I think preservation of terms is important for adequately communicating the profundity of the Gospel. The Gospel words in the English – Holiness, Propitiation, Condemnation, Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification carry so much weight and meaning that would be lost in simpler terms without copious clarification and footnotes.

    2. Mohler, McGriff and I just had this conversation - Is God actively preserving His word? Are the Spirit given gifts active in translation? Before answering, consider the contrary - God wrote a book (I know, it’s a collection of writings) in Hebrew and Greek, lost it and now it's up to the ingenuity of textual criticism to rediscover it in flawed copies and reinvent it in other tongues. A pattern of an errant pattern = ?

    Nay, rather, God did and is actively preserving His word so that His specific words have power to save and sanctify. I'm not talking double-inspiration or anything mystical, but it is supernatural.

    I have to believe that Ps 138:2, Is 40:8, Matt 24:35, John 17:17, Rom 10:17, Eph 1:13, 5:26, 1 Thes 2:13 & Heb 4:12 means His Word, not my paraphrase of it. Do we have His Word or not? If not, let’s read The Message Remix.

  • At 3:39 PM, Blogger Brad said…

    Noel, I led a group through Mounce once, I'd be happy to do it again.

  • At 5:12 PM, Blogger Darby Livingston said…

    I actually have everything on hand to do what Danny suggested with Mounce's material. I haven't begun in earnest yet. John Calvin is my inspiration in this department, teaching himself Hebrew in a few weeks of "down-time." However, D.A. Carson pointed out somewhere that Greek is a language that requires a lifelong devotion to stay handy at. Just knowing the language isn't the end all to biblical understanding. Otherwise, we wouldn't have numerous interpretations of a text flowing from several different, equally gifted Greek scholars.


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