How Well Do You Really Know Greek?

I’ve lamented before about the use of original languages by pastors in sermons. I wonder when in the history of the church we decided that a good sermon must in some fashion amend, correct, amplify, augment, expand upon, the English translation by appealing to the original Greek or Hebrew. (I have yet to see someone try this with the few passages which are in Aramaic.) Most pastors only have a couple of years in Greek and Hebrew. Yet they comment on the languages as if they’ve studied it for years. In his new book, Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament, Stanley Porter writes the following:

“By ‘knowledge of Greek,’ I do not mean what some people claim is knowledge on the basis of finishing one or two years of Greek study (especially employing some of the widely used but inadequate pedagogical grammatical tools) or traditional grammar or the invocation of the work of outmoded and outdated reference tools. What I mean is a robust and insightful development of appropriate linguistically based methods for study of the Greek New Testament. Such word is the exception to most of what represents itself under the name of exegesis. It is disconcerting to see many of the latest commentaries and numerous journal articles make statements about the Greek New Testament and yet show absolutely no knowledge of any of the recent discussion of ancient Greek. They sometimes even use such naïve and unfounded knowledge as the basis for what can only be called, as a result, highly tenuous exegetical conclusions.” (p. 1-2 Emphasis mine.)

Guess where most pastors get their information about the original languages? Commentaries. It’s rarely from a detailed study of the Greek of their own making.

Who is Stanley Porter and what qualifies him to make such an assertion? Consider this endorsement from D.A. Carson:

“No one in recent decades has matched Stanley Porter in the breadth of his interests in linguistic analysis of the Greek New Testament. Some have worked on, say, verbal aspect theory or on discourse analysis or on sociolinguistics, but Porter has worked on all three and on several other subdisciplines as well–and this both at the theoretical level and at the level of the exegesis of specific biblical texts. This fine volume is neither an introduction to the subject of linguistics and Greek nor a comprehensive survey of the current state of play. Rather, it provides a score of fresh essays illustrating the innovative and stimulating work of the most prolific scholar currently working in these fields.”

Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament is from Baker Academic. It is a paperback with 448 pages and sells for $40.00.

Stanley E. Porter (PhD, University of Sheffield) is president, dean, professor of New Testament, and Roy A. Hope Chair in Christian Worldview at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. A prolific scholar, he has authored or edited dozens of books, including How We Got the New Testament and Fundamentals of New Testament Greek.

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One thought on “How Well Do You Really Know Greek?

  1. Pingback: Christain Blogs and Web Sites | Scripture Zealot blog

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