Mounce Archive 11 — How Do You Properly Use Greek in the Pulpit?
Everyone needs a break once in a while, and Bill Mounce is taking one from his weekly column on biblical Greek until September. Meanwhile, we’ve hand-picked some classic, popular posts from the “Mondays with Mounce” archive for your summer reading and Greek-studying pleasure.
Today’s “classic” asks a question I often asked when I was actively preaching: How do you use Greek (and Hebrew) properly?
Mounce’s wisdom and advice applies to seasoned pastor and seminary student alike, because as he suggests it all begins with homework, whether inside or outside seminary: “If you aren’t doing your homework in Greek, or if you don’t have some facility in Greek,” important discussions of grammar and clausal relationships are “almost meaningless.”
But then he get’s practical, recalling someone who asked “Can I not trust my Bible?” after he corrected an English version: “Ouch! So here is one of the big no-noes from the pulpit. Do not correct the English Bible. Ever! Never say, ‘the translators got this wrong.’ The damage you can do to a person’s trust in Scripture is unimaginable.”
One of the more interesting parts of the original post were the responses from pastors. So consider the excerpt below, read the original in the link, then come back and share how you use Greek in the pulpit.
In response to last week’s post, several people have asked this question. I find it interesting that I never thought of it; it is easy to criticize others, but harder to build up. A general principle of life. So how do you use Greek (and Hebrew) properly?
It starts with your homework. The most important place to use biblical languages is behind the scenes in doing your research, whether it be sermon preparation or getting ready for a Bible study. The languages give you access to tools that are far beyond the reach of English. The ICC commentaries are inaccessible without Greek and Hebrew. It is hard for me to imagine preparing a talk on Romans without checking Cranfield carefully.
But even a series like Eerdmans’ New International Commentary on the New Testament really requires a working knowledge of Greek.
Even though the Greek is relegated to the footnotes, I can’t imagine being able to follow the commentator’s line of reasoning without having a working knowledge of Greek. When a writer argues that argument “A” is stronger than argument “B,” behind those decisions almost always lies not just a working knowledge of Greek but a feel for the language and how it works.
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV.