Acts 17:11 Bible Studies

Use of Greek & Hebrew

1) Word Studies

For teaching preparation, words should be explored in the original languages, not in English. A single Greek or Hebrew word can be translated into a dozen or more English words, and conversely a dozen Greek or Hebrew words can all be translated into a single English word. So we go back to the original languages for consistency.


"What this word really means is..." was fair enough when all we had was the King James Version. Now with 30 or more English translations, it may be a sign of Scripture twisting for laymen to attempt this--if none of the versions translated the text at hand with what we are asserting it "really means". More often than not, resorting to such techniques is an attempt to either:
  1. explain away the verse,
  2. play off the ignorance of the listeners to say whatever is wanted with the verse, or
  3. sound impressive.

We maintain that depth of research should be latent, not obvious, in public teaching. No "hype" is needed by "dropping words" in Greek or Hebrew to gain credibility among men. It is best to simply rely on the Holy Spirit to give any credibility due us for our research and scholarship. By being thorough and deep, we can then speak the simple truth with authority--without the need for any hype.

Thus, it is our approach to avoid the use of Greek or Hebrew in public teaching unless it is really necessary to make the point, or truly beneficial to understanding the Word.

Eph 4:29 (Wey) ... Let all your words be good for benefiting others according to the need of the moment, so that they may be a means of blessing to the hearers.

In general, we think it good to avoid trying to make everyone teachers and language experts, even though this is important preparation to those so gifted.

3) Nuances And Color

As to word "colors" and double meanings, if it is not possible to find an intersection among the many published translations of what we think or have heard the word "really means", then this kind of teaching should be avoided. Launching out on obscure, esoteric, or supposed Greek meanings is not encouraged. After all, Jesus and the apostles conversed in Hebrew/Aramaic. As to the wisdom of this discipline, consider as evidence all the false teachings and silliness that has sprung from this technique.

Rather than claim that a word "really means" thus and such, we turn to translations reviewed by peers and/or published as God's Word for verification. The assumption is, if nobody has translated it thus, it is probably a fanciful or bogus interpretation, meant to sound deep without really being tested and approved. For we have found that the Scripture is all too clear about the important and essential things, and these are the things needful to emphasize. Thus, we should not be chasing shadows and esoterica but rather preaching the solid word. Often--in nervous reflex--we prefer a flight of fancy to clarity, and this is another reason to stick to "what we know". (John 3:11)

1 Tim 6:3-5a (Wey) So teach and exhort. If any one is a teacher of any other kind of doctrine, and refuses assent to wholesome instructions--those of our Lord Jesus Christ--and the teaching that harmonizes with true godliness, he is puffed up with pride and has no true knowledge, but is crazy over discussions and controversies about words which give rise to envy, quarreling, revilings, ill-natured suspicions, and persistent wranglings on the part of people whose intellects are disordered and they themselves blinded to all knowledge of the truth.

4) What? Me, Primp?

The discipline used to combat this temptation is to look for confirmation in one or more of the various translations, and then use those translations to make the point without pontificating about Greek or Hebrew, unless it is really edifying or needful to jump into the original languages. And in some cases it is; albeit much more rarely than popular practice would warrant.

Some have become irritated at us for pointing these things out, but I will nonetheless challenge readers to consider if we should be reviled or imitated in our discipline in this regard. Am I the only teacher who wrestles with these temptations? Am I alone in having "dropped words" in Greek to impress or show off?

Our aim in public teaching is to assist others with their spiritual growth. Thus, let us ask ourselves the question concerning each case of considering use of original languages: is it really a blessing to know this, or are we just primping?


These sections are THREADED. To go to the next in sequence click on bold link below.

Mission Overview | On Use
Group Suggestions | Strategy
Greek & Hebrew | On Translations
Acronym Legend | Principles
History | R & D Section
Extra Stuff | Doctrinal Statement