Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Studying the New Testament Koine Greek Biblical Language

I love the Bible. God's communication to mankind. Instructions on how to live, how to act, how to be saved, how to interact, how to know God, how to know righteousness, how to run a church etc. etc. so much is contained in the Bible it literally baffles my mind. The Bible says the scriptures are inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). The Greek word in that verse is theopneustos which literally means God breathed.

John 1:1-18
This brings up an interesting point. Knowing something about Greek can really help to bring light to specific passages. Studying the biblical languages can benefit all Christians. When I first took Greek a few years back I felt like I was breaking into a secret vault of information. I wondered why my church didn't really teach my any Greek. Especially if the New Testament was originally written in Greek. Now don't get me wrong, it is not necessary to know Greek in order to understand God's message. There is much benefit to be gained thereby however. We take for granted that have the Bible in English! We don't think about this much, but that was a huge accomplishment. Take some time to read about the first English translations and you will see that men literally gave their lives to allow us to read God's words in our own language. Along the line someone needed to know Greek before they could translate it into another language.


Today we have a number of manuscripts (see some images here!) that were not known to exist when the Bible was first being translated from the Greek. (You can actually see the entire Codex Sinaiticus online which was originally written sometime between 325 and 350 AD) We know the variants that exist in the different manuscripts and we have much more advanced text critical theories which allow us to assess and evaluate each manuscript. We can determine which is a more likely the reading of the autographs (that is, the originals as written by the biblical authors). All of this is only possible with a good understanding of Greek.

Recently I have been really interested in textual criticism in general. I have been reading nearly everything I can get my hands on. Which happens to be quite a lot since I have access to a full academic research library!! (I don't know what I will do when I don't have this easy of access to a research library of this calibre!) I find textual criticism so interesting that I have been considering lately actually pursuing a Ph.D. in New Testament textual criticism (just what I need so soon after finishing my M.A.). I don't know if I will end up taking it that far; it is mostly wishful thinking at this point. Imagine pursuing two Ph.D.s at one time . . . yeah, I don't think so either. I am interested in any suggestions you all might have as to where a good place to pursue a distinctly evangelical degree in textual criticism might be. I am sure I would need to polish up my Greek skills quite a bit for that. I think my interest in textual criticism may also be the source of my interest in English translations and study bibles. My recent pursuits in textual criticism has sparked renewed interest in the Greek language though. This is what I want to focus on in this post.  

When one sets out to learn Greek a number of resources are at your fingertips. I spent a lot of time trying to find helpful resources online to learn the language and thought I would share some of my finds with you. The more resources you can get access to the more success you will have in your learning. While there are a number of helpful grammars out there a multitude of different perspectives and approaches will definitely benefit you. There is something to be said about too much too soon of course. I have received a great deal of help from many different resources but only found most of them after my first semester of Greek. You don't want to overwhelm yourself at the beginning. Focus on the basic aspects of the language which can probably be learned very well from a couple of grammars at first. There isn't much difference between how grammars usually approach Greek at the very beginning anyway.

So I set out to obtain as many resources and watch/listen to as many lectures as I could. I had to buy a few but eventually found some good ones online for free. In the next few posts I will walk you through how it went for me an hopefully offer some pointers along the way (as well as links to some good free resources). I will add links back to this page as they are written so you can access the whole series.

Biblical Greek Adventures - Part 1

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