Should Pastors Be Experts in Greek? μη γενοιτο!

The only actual perk of taking Greek in seminary is being able to tell people “I took Greek in seminary.”
@FailingPastor

 

 

The first seminary class I took was a summer class covering three years of college level Greek in 7 weeks. It was intense. It wasn’t easy. I can honestly say I followed quite a bit of it until we got to verb endings, then I began slipping. Luckily, I was able to hang on to my early success to scrape by with a solid C.

I took many more Greek classes, none of which helped me understand verb endings. I took the upper level classes on New Testament books that were for the Greek track students. I wrote papers referencing Greek words and sounded really intelligent.

Sounding intelligent at Greek has never been easier. The tools available today are astounding. I can only imagine what greater minds than mine could have come up with if they had access to the tools I have. To whom much is given, much is required.

On the other hand, to whom much is given, it’s easier to fool people you are better than you are.

I have no idea what Greek verbs are doing to this day. I’ve read books, worked through Greek workbooks, consulted Greek professors and Greek smart people, and I got nothing. I just don’t get it. I was told early on that if you were good with higher level math you’ll have no problem with Greek. Well, there you go. I took Algebra 2 twice in high school.

Frequently people will raise questions about Greek words or how a verse was written in Greek. All the translations of the Bible tend to breed questions about original languages. I can’t answer any of them, but I can consult books that can.

At the same time, if I examine it carefully, most of the questions people have about Greek are because I brought it up. Pastors bring up Greek to appear authoritative. Hard to argue with a guy who consults the Greek regularly, or at least a guy who appears to consult the Greek regularly.

When the questions come, the veneer gives way. I got nothing but what I saw in the book I consulted.

The safer option for most pastors, unless you’re one of those math whizzes who actually gets Greek, is to avoid using Greek.

Original languages aren’t all that helpful for laymen, or for most pastors.

I know, lots of smart people will bash me for saying that. That’s ok, I still think you should only use it if you understand it.

The only people who tell you how important the original languages are, are people who feel special because they actually understand them. That’s great, I wish I did too. But I don’t and I really don’t think my biblical understanding has suffered that much.

There are plenty of people who understand Greek and Hebrew and have provided incredible resources for us. I don’t mind resting on their work in this area. Know your role. Stay in your lane. You smart guys can do that work for the rest of us and blessings on you for doing so.

But don’t badger us dumb people, we have things to offer too. It takes all kinds, and, let’s not forget, the true source of power and ability in doing spiritual work is spiritual gifting. I’m not trying to go to some “I have the Spirit so I don’t need education” thing either. I’m just saying, let’s not make it all about the academics either.

The Body has many members and not all members have the same office. We each bring our own skills to the table. Each of us should have the freedom to use those gifts and defer to others who have gifts we don’t have. No reason to bash on each other.

I wish I could get Greek. I can honestly say I’ve tried multiple times to do so and it just doesn’t click with me. I’m grateful for people who do get it and their willingness to help others. Fine work.

Pretty much the only reason for most pastors to take Greek or Hebrew is simply to tell people they took Greek and Hebrew. It shows you put in some time, that you spent some money and effort to gain knowledge. It might allow you to pronounce some words better and be able to make a little more sense out of information from lexicons and commentaries. But most don’t do much more with it than that, and I think that’s OK.

 

 

And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence
–Acts 22:2

3 thoughts on “Should Pastors Be Experts in Greek? μη γενοιτο!

  1. Honestly, I do think there are good reasons to learn the Biblical languages, because it really will give a reader a different understanding of the texts, but … must say, also agree with the point that the Bible is for Everyone, and that the same can’t be said for Greek and Hebrew!

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    1. Of course there are good reasons to learn the languages, but people who don’t know them should not be made to feel they are spiritually inferior, and certainly telling “laymen” they are missing out on the true meaning of the Bible or something does not do anything helpful. It’s too often been used as an authoritative bludgeon to belittle people to listen to the all-wise pastor who speaks from above. That’s more my issue.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Should Pastors Be Experts in Greek?

    They ONLY need to fully grasp God’s design and purpose for the body… live accordingly… and INSIST that the people follow their example.

    This is impossible in today’s institutional “church”. They would be canned.

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