Why Pastors Talk About Greek Words
If you’re wondering why there’s talk of different languages going on during sermons at church, this blog post will be helpful to you. I remember the first few times I heard my pastor talk about definitions of Hebrew and Greek words during his sermons. I wondered why in the world he’s mentioning this gibberish. After all, English words are hard enough to understand! Well, the truth is, Greek words should be mentioned from the pulpit because that’s what the Apostles actually wrote.
This may come as a surprise to some, but the Bible was not originally written in English. Jesus and his disciples were not caucasian, American, nor spoke like the King James version of the Bible. Originally, both the Old and New Testaments were written in different languages. The Bibles we read and study in our English-speaking churches today are not the literal words of the early manuscripts, but translations. This isn’t news to the church; however, many people still do not understand how we got our English Bibles.
The Bible was not originally written in English, but translated to English.
God’s providence is appreciated when learning how we got our English Bibles. Through centuries, the Bible was eventually translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. The Old Testament was primarily written in Hebrew, with a few chapters in Aramaic, while the New Testament was originally written in Greek. And this, in summary, is exactly why pastors talk about Greek words.
It is important to be most concerned about what the original Bible authors wrote. We should not be most concerned about what words are likable or relatable. We need to care most about what was actually written, and write our sermons from the original text instead of translations if possible.
Now, I am certainly not educated enough to teach on this subject of church history elaborately. In fact, I’m still learning. I’m currently reading a fascinating book by James White, titled, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? (Click title to view book). It’s wonderful. James White very clearly and patiently walks through the process of how we got our English Bibles, and how to rightly handle the process. He explains the cost of mishandling the process, like the King James Only advocates do. We cannot hold a particular translation as the one and only inspired Bible translation, but rather learn from them all.
Though I am not able to walk people through each step of the history, I understand the reason for studying the original manuscripts. We must go back to what the Apostles wrote. You don’t need to be able to speak Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek fluently. Teachers should, however, use a concordance to look up particular Greek and Hebrew words the English Bibles were translated from. This is a vitally important point—when studying the Bible we want to know what the Apostles wrote, because that is what God inspired.
Greek words are mentioned to teach what the Bible actually says.
When we look at a Bible passage in Romans, for example, you’re going to hear a couple Greek words in the sermon because when the Book of Romans was originally written, it was written in Greek. To accurately teach the fuller meaning of a Bible verse, it is good to look at the original Greek text. This avoids mistranslations and misinterpretations.
A few different styles or methods exist to translate words from one language to another. Much can be said about this. Using either a literal translation or a dynamic translation method may determine what teaching you arrive at. The reason we have so many different Bible translations available, such as the NIV, ESV, NLT, KJV, NKJV, or NASB, has to do with the way those translators translated the original language into English. We must be careful that we use a translation that is most effective in teaching what was originally written and intended.
When your pastors, preachers, and teachers look at the original Greek words, they are going back to that which is theopneustos, “God breathed, God inspired.” We don’t want to know what sounds good or what is most fun to preach; we want to know what the Apostles wrote. That is what is most important! That is what God inspired!
In summary, you should hear Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words from your pastor because they should strive to teach what was originally written. Being able to translate God’s inspired Word is a gift to be appreciated. The next time you hear your pastor teaching Greek words, don’t blow it off! Be thankful they’re stewarding God’s Word well. When studying the Bible, we must study it diligently, not flippantly. The Word of God holds the most treasured gift in the history of the universe—the gospel. When we know the Bible rightly, we can believe the gospel rightly.