Greek to Me (January 28, 2013)

…Opening To…

We say we read to “escape.” …A book so excites our imagination that we “consume” it… What would it feel like to consume the sacred book? Or to be consumed by it? To eat it, chew it, swallow it, digest it, to make it a part of you? (Roger Ferlo)

…Listening In…

One of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Christ). He led him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). (John 1:40-42; context)

…Filling Up…

Last week, we discussed five things you shouldn’t do when you read the Bible. You can probably guess what we are doing this week. You’re right! We are going to discuss five things you should do when you read the Bible. I’m not saying you must do these things, of course, but I think your Bible study will benefit from them.

First, you should probably read the Bible in its original languages.

Woah, wait a minute, you say. I don’t know Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic.

That’s okay. I don’t really know them that well, either (and good for you for knowing all three languages the Bible is written in). Barring your extensive study of ancient languages, how can you approximate studying the Bible as it originally was? For most of us, this approximation lies quite far from the original, and that’s okay, too.

Rather than taking several graduate level courses in ancient Greek, I’d suggest either amassing several English translations of the Bible or logging on to a website that has several translations on file (like this one or this one). Then, when you begin studying a passage, read it in several versions. Note the important words that versions translate differently. What do you suppose accounts for the variation? What are the shades of meaning of a word of the original language that you notice when three or four different English words are used to translate it? Which makes the most sense to you? These are great questions to ask when studying the Bible because they can help deepen your understanding of the text.

Adding this step to your Bible study will also help you avoid one major pitfall – forgetting that the Bible was not written in English. This seems like a silly thing to warn against, but it’s a remarkably easy thing to forget. You don’t need to read in Greek to know that English-speaking scholars funneled the text into our language. But always keep in mind that what you are reading is not the original. Remembering this can keep us humble as we seek to understand the English text, just as the translators sought to understand the original languages.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you speak your words of life to people of all languages. Help me to interpret the Bible in ways that lead me to accept of your life-expanding grace. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, gladdened by the prospect of meeting you in the Bible.

One thought on “Greek to Me (January 28, 2013)

  1. This calls to mind my most favorite and least favorite aspects of bible study. First, I absolutely love seeing how words in the original languages meant different things than they do today and how that shades the message of the passage from the layers of interpretation over the years. Phrases like “daily bread” which used to mean something on par with give us everything we need to live, or rather continue to live, today because bread is pretty much all we had gave greater weight to the prayer in the days when it was originally uttered than it may have in today’s world where one can always zip out for fast food if the cupboard is bare. Second, I totally disagree with folks who virtually make an idol or a god out of the King James version of the bible, often citing the reason a “because it’s authorized” even if they don’t know who did the authorizing or why. At best the King James version is an old english translation of a roman translation of a greek translation of a hebrew or aramaic translation … talk about the pitfalls of “whisper down the alley”. The word “prevent us” comes to mind here since it used to mean “go before us”, not “stop us”.

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