Thursday, July 3, 2008

Must We Know The Original Languages?

This question comes up time and time again in conversations I have had with various people. I think if you are going to pastor a church, it is non-negotiable. You will be the final word on the Word Of God for many, many people and if you cannot give a definitive answer you should not be in that position.

Let me give an example. We will look at Deuteronomy 24:5 in two of the more popular translations of the day.
First the NIV:
5 If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

Now the ESV:
5 “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.

Look at the italicized part of both translations. Which one is it? Is the man supposed to make his wife happy or make himself happy? Now I know this does not impinge on any essential doctrines but still, if a congregant wants an answer and you can't provide one you will be doing those you are to shepherd a disservice.

Oh, you want to know which one is right? Ok, in this case the NIV happens to have it right. Now don't throw out your Reformation Study Bible and go out and purchase a Ryrie Study Bible, this is an exception rather than the rule. It appears the ESV just brought over an old error from the RSV. You will find the ESV right much more often than the NIV.

This is just the first of hopefully many lessons from "Things I Learned In Seminary." Hope this helps.

In Christ


James Nahrgang said...

Good post! Thanks

Alan said...

You're welcome!

Mark said...

Of course, all us married guys know BOTH translations are right because if you make your wife happy, you will be happy too. Conversely, the old saying applies, "If Mamma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!"

Good post. Happy Independence Day!

John Adams, the man who would become our 2nd president, wrote on July 3, 1776 to his wife, "It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Day’s Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."

David A Booth said...

Some practical advice: Take as much Greek and Hebrew as you can in seminary. The chief reason why pastors don't use the original languages once they graduate is because they don't know them well enough to make good use of them within the time constraints of being a pastor.

Intermediate Greek and Hebrew are both musts, and that is just a beginning.

You wouldn't let someone with only one year of German teach German literature. Why in the world would we let someone with only one year of Greek teach the New Testament?

Keep the faith!

Mark said...

"Why in the world would we let someone with only one year of Greek teach the New Testament?"

I assume you are specifically referring to the responsibility of preaching. I'm sure there are many cases when this would not be practical, but I'll grant you that it is highly advisable for a preacher to have lots of Greek.

However I object if you think Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, Bible study leaders, one-to-one disciplers, and all these other teachers are not qualified unless they have had years of Greek studies. This requirement would be wrong on many levels.

David A Booth said...


Thanks for the clarification.

Yes, I specifically mean for someone who is set aside as a Minister of the Word.


Anonymous said...

Naah! Don't throw out your ESV Reformation Study Bible in favor of a Ryrie, Third Millennium Ministries ( has the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible--the notes are expanded to seemingly outline the entire Bible, and it includes the Belgic and Westminster Confessions and the Heidelberg and Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms in the back. The footnotes throughout the Bible are keyed to the confessions and catechisms. Also, the theological articles often go into more depth. It's a pretty awesome Study Bible!

As an IFB Bible College drop out who never studied one iota of Greek (I've picked up a little on the street), I'm looking forward to your posts on your education. How often have I asked seminary students, "What did you learn in class today?" I'm glad I don't have to ask you. But don't limit it to Greek.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah! The Canons of Dort is also included in the back and keyed to the notes.

Alan said...

John, thanks for the heads up, although my comments were totally tongue in cheek. I won't limit it to Greek when the fall semester begins but as that is the only class I have during summer I apologize before hand for the next six weeks of nothing but Greek.

Alan said...

Of course both are true and this has no theological impact, I just found it interesting. Thought I would start out sharing my classroom experiences with something light.:)