open mic thursday

Borrowing a page from another blogger, here’s an open question:

I’m getting ready for a presentation at work tomorrow on the proper use of Greek and Hebrew in our Sunday School books and annual lesson commentary.  Do any of you have personal experiences with good or bad use of the original languages from the pulpit or in Sunday School curriculum or commentaries that you’d like to share?  Horror stories or enlightening moments both welcome.

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7 responses to “open mic thursday

  1. I heard a Sunday school teacher once argue that since the Hebrew word for God is plural, it was proof of the trinity as far back as the first verse in Genesis.

  2. my rule of thumb from my ezell-harding days was that i would only throw out a greek or hebrew term if it directly impacted the english translation, or if it had a super-rich theological import. off the top of my head i remember hesed and shalom and the discussion about YHWH. greek tended to show up if the english was a transliteration (baptism for example) of the original, or if it was some sort of interesting technical term (like paidagogos or cheirographon). i often used power point to show them what Gk and Heb mss look like. i never tested them over these words, and when i think about it, didn’t even refer to them that often. however, hesed and shalom became favorites of my students, in large part because they were fun to pronounce. i hope they caught some of the theological import.

    most of the time when i see this in ss literature or hear it in classes it reveals more about the teacher than it clarifies the issue at hand for the class.

  3. I have used Greek occasionally and Hebrew once or twice and usually within the context of what Mac said. One of the negative aspects I have seen from it is that people assume that if you use Greek in a sermon that means you are an expert. Me Genoito…couldn’t resist!

    Seriously, there is a tendency of pride on the part of some to say that since the Greek says ______ then it must be authoritative and final.

    Hope this helped.

    • Robbie,
      What you describe is exactly what can happen in a sermon or class context. When disagreement gets sharp and one side resorts to “the Greek” then there isn’t much else to be said. How can I respond to you when you quote Greek? Its a good way to shut down discussion.

      At the same time, needless or misguided discussion should be shut down.

      So much depends on the disposition of class and teacher, of preacher and audience.

      I hope I can be persuasive without having to sprinkle Greek in order bolster my case. I hope when I do reference original laguages I do so in humility and with a spirit of a teacher.

  4. It’s not really a commentary, or a class, or a sermon, but I do have an example I found instructive.

    I was once discussing Matthew 7:14 with someone of extremely eccumenical views. He keyed on “the way is narrow” (NASB) and went into an etymology of “narrow.” He pulled out an illustration he’d read, that it was like squeezing into a narrow space between two rocks. Thus, it didn’t really mean “narrow” but “pressed.” And the reason it was pressed? Because so many people were getting in! I pointed to the closing phrase (“there are few there are who find it”), and he tried some additional redefinition that turned “few” into “many.”

    And, of course, his experience with Greek was reading a few things in a few commentaries and a bit of Robertson’s Word Pictures.

    The lesson I drew: A little Greek can be a dangerous thing – particularly when it’s used to justify our views rather than inform them.

  5. Agreed, Jeff.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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