Why Study Koine Greek?

Why would you want to study a particular version (Koine) of Greek that no one speaks anymore?

The straightforward answer is because it is the language in which the New Testament (NT) was written. In addition, there was written a Koine Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint.

Koine (sounds like coin-ay) effectively means common so we have “common” Greek and this was the common tongue in the time of Jesus and the Apostles as well as beyond. Any time you study languages, you will come across the term lingua franca which is used to refer to the common language of a time. For NT times, this was Greek.

  1. With the above in mind, you have to study Koine Greek if you want to be able to read the NT in its original language and grasp a deeper understanding of the text.
  2. What was written in Greek may not have a direct counterpart in English. This is a great reason for the different translation approaches used between the different English translations of the Bible. Read the Greek to get to the source.
  3. The culture in which the original text written in Greek is different from our own present-day culture. This is important for understanding difficult texts that our present-day culture hates or is confused about. 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is a great example. People have often responded to such a passage by siding with worldly culture and thereby rejecting the Scripture (at least on the target passage), or you get those who read it without seeking to understand the full context and thereby conclude, improperly, to take on abusive, error-filled practices. This point also serves to re-emphasize point 2.
  4. Revival. Historically, the early church did all its worship in Greek. This became a problem as the western church and the eastern church grew further and further apart. Eventually, the west broke entirely and did things in Latin and the people largely spoke their own native tongue at this point. This brought about a period of spiritual darkness that stuck around until the Reformation. We are in danger of the same sort of spiritual darkening if we fail to continue to seek out the Greek, the original text of the NT Scriptures. Thankfully, we do have many good English translations today, but we wouldn’t have had them without the Greek; if we forget the Greek, we can endanger ourselves to those who would push forward altered translations of the Bible.
  5. For the one studying Greek (or any language for that matter), their minds become sharpened. As you learn Koine Greek, you come to understand the Scriptures as those did in the times that it was written and beyond. You also become sharper at noticing key details in the text that can have profound implications to its interpretation. For one, this helps to notice what was originally being said in a given text when in the English it may look like something contradictory is being said when compared to another area of Scripture. Such a scenario speaks to the difficulties of translation and emphasizes the benefit of understanding the original language in which it was written.

I’m sure I could make more points but already you can see how each point made easily feeds into the others. Also, many of these reasons to study Greek would also apply to study Hebrew which is the original language of the Old Testament Scriptures. Sure, you could just stick to the Greek Septuagint but that work is a translation of the original Hebrew. Once again, it is good and profitable to get to the original language.

Now, with all that said, I am not trying to say that every Christian must learn Greek, Hebrew, or whatever other languages. I would highly recommend it though. Between Greek and Hebrew, most English speakers will find Greek relatively easier to learn as there are clear similarities between the two languages.

Other languages used in the time of Christ and thereafter include Aramaic and Latin which can also prove useful.


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Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology is a discipline of exegetical theology, one of the 4 that are part of what is called the “Encyclopedia of Theology” – Exegetical, Historical, Systematic, and Practical Theologies (Hagenbach).


Etymonline.com

biblical

1734, “pertaining to the Bible,” from Bible + -ical. Related: Biblically. Earlier adjective was Biblic (1680s). Related: Biblicality.


Discussion/Explanation

Biblical theology is considered by some to be the capstone of exegetical theology. However, it is not exegetical theology itself.

The reason for calling it the capstone is because it presupposes everything else within exegetical theology. To be clear, this means it is keeping in mind the Hebrew and Greek behind our modern translation, historical context, textual criticism, translation approach, the history and canonicity of the Bible, and hermeneutics. Everything done within exegetical theology is taken into account when engaging in biblical theology studies.

Biblical theology is, therefore, the area of theology of the entire Bible. It looks at the Bible as a whole and does not subdivide based upon Old Testament and New Testament. As a result, it naturally traces the entire story of the Scriptures in which you can see God’s progressive revelation.

Now, I do want to point out that biblical theology is not practiced in every corner of Christianity today. There are many who would do everything else found within the exegetical branch and then ignore the capstone and/or use the term biblical theology in an entirely different way – usually to state whether or not a particular theology or theological approach is biblical. With this in mind, the use of the term “biblical theology” can often seem unclear.


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Protestantism

In Christendom today, there are often considered to be three primary branches – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestantism (debating aside whether or not this is an accurate representation of current-day Christianity). Let’s first get started with the usual…


Dictionary.com

Protestantism

noun
  1. the religion of Protestants.
  2. the Protestant churches collectively.
  3. adherence to Protestant principles.

Protestant

noun

1. any Western Christian who is not an adherent of a Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Church.
2. an adherent of any of those Christian bodies that separated from the Church of Rome during the Reformation, or of any group descended from them.
3. (originally) any of the German princes who protested against the decision of the Diet of Speyer in 1529, which had denounced the Reformation.


Etymonline.com

1640s, from French protestantisme or else formed from Protestant + -ism.


Discussion/Explanation

Protestantism and Protestant are terms inherently embroiled with everything involving the Reformation or Protestant Reformation. To see more on this particular and important historical time, see the page on the Protestant Reformation.

I would be a Protestant as I continue in the tradition and theology of Protestants everywhere who separate themselves from Catholicism (in particular). Protestants do not talk about the Eastern Orthodox much as it was from the western, the Roman Catholic, church that the Protestants separated from historically.

Protestantism today is spread throughout the globe. The United States of America was largely founded by those seeking a place to call their own (many of whom Protestants) who came here to escape various hardships as well as religious persecutions from where they came.

I would highly recommend checking out the link above to find out more as you will come to see much of what has made Protestantism different from the “Christianity” that came before.


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Polemics

Dictionary.com

noun (used with a singular verb)
1. the art or practice of disputation or controversy:
a master of polemics.
2. the branch of theology dealing with the history or conduct of ecclesiastical disputation and controversy.


Etymonline.com

1630s, “controversial argument or discussion,” from French polémique (16c./17c.), noun use of adjective meaning “disputatious, controversial” (see polemic (adj.)).


Discussion/Explanation

From the definition, you may start getting the idea that polemics is akin to apologetics. While they are related in the defense that they give, there is a significant difference.

Apologetics is focused outward whereas polemics is focused inward.

“In polemics, unlike apologetics, we are making an inward defense of our faith, rooting out false teachings and false teachers within the body of the church. A polemicist duty is to point out false teaching and teachers while warning others in the body of Christ about said teaching or teacher.”   — Richard Haas

Polemics is effectively an internal or within the church defense. It is the act of engaging and dealing with those who would rise up from within to lead others astray. Call such people the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” as the target of the polemicist. This is yet another hat particularly emphasized for leaders of the church but one that should be exercised by believers in general.


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Poimenics

Dictionary.com

  1. pastoral theology – the branch of theology dealing with the responsibilities of members of the clergy to the people under their care.

Etymonline.com

– – this term isn’t in their database – –

pastoral:

“of or pertaining to shepherds,” early 15c., from Old French pastoral (13c.), from Latin pastoralis “of herdsmen, of shepherds,” from pastor (see pastor (n.)). The noun sense of “poem dealing with country life generally,” usually dealing with it in an idealized form and emphasizing the purity and happiness of it, is from 1580s.


Discussion/Explanation

As you can see, this one is quite straight-forward in meaning. Poimenics and pastoral theology are both used interchangeably though I’d say I see the second more often these days.

As the definition states, this is an area of study that studies the Bible’s instructions for clergy in how they serve the body, the people of the church under their care.


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