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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Messiah

Dictionary.com

noun
  1. the promised and expected deliverer of the Jewish people.
  2. Jesus Christ, regarded by Christians as fulfilling this promise and expectation. John 4:25, 26.
  3. (usually lowercase) any expected deliverer.
  4. (usually lowercase) zealous leader of some cause or project.
  5. (italics) an oratorio (1742) by George Frideric Handel.

Etymonline.com

c. 1300, Messias, from Late Latin Messias, from Greek Messias, from Aramaic (Semitic) meshiha and Hebrew mashiah “the anointed” (of the Lord), from mashah “anoint.”

This is the word rendered in Septuagint as Greek Khristos (see Christ). In Old Testament prophetic writing, it was used of an expected deliverer of the Jewish nation. The modern English form represents an attempt to make the word look more Hebrew, and dates from the Geneva Bible (1560). Transferred sense of “an expected liberator or savior of a captive people” is attested from 1660s.


Discussion/Explanation

Messiah has counterparts, as can be seen above, in Late, Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. It is in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament (OT) – that we see the related term from which we get Christ.

Regardless of which translation used, it remains a term that marks the deliverer, the anointed one foretold to come and save His people. As Christians, we know the Messiah to be Jesus. We call Jesus the Christ or Jesus Christ as this designates the same thing, the same truth about Jesus. The works of the New Testament (NT) were written in Greek which is why we see the term “Christ” so often whereas the OT commonly used “Messiah” as it was written in Hebrew.


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Exegetical Theology

Dictionary.com & Etymonline.com

— see Exegesis —     also    — see Theology


Discussion/Explanation

It is all that explains and interprets the Holy Scriptures in the study of theology.

This area of study involves the study of ancient languages like Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic in order to study the Scriptures from primary sources – the original/early manuscripts of the Bible.

This also includes archeology and study of the canon of Scripture. Archeology in the study of ancient cultures and people surround the original writings. Canon in the study of the process involved in bringing the various books of the Bible together into the Bible as we know it today which was also against a historical background.

Exegetical theology therefore also includes criticism of the Scriptures and, by relation, the interpretation. This probably becomes obvious to you as you stop to think about what would be logically involved in the above-mentioned elements.

In the end, this is a very important branch of theology as it directly connects to historical theology in its studies and therefore directly impacts practical theology. Biblical theology becomes closely tied with the work carried out in exegesis such that it isn’t uncommon for people to argue biblical theology to be little more than part of exegetical theology (more on this later).


Source/Link for Additional Reading:

http://www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/E/exegetical-theology.html


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Exegesis

Dictionary.com

noun, plural exegeses [ek-si-jee-seez] (Show IPA)
1. critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible.


Etymonline.com

1610s, “explanatory note,” from Greek exegesis “explanation, interpretation,” from exegeisthai “explain, interpret,” from ex “out” (see ex-) + hegeisthai “to lead, guide,” from PIE root *sag- “to track down, seek out” (see seek (v.)). Meaning “exposition (of Scripture)” is from 1823. Related: Exegetic; exegetical; exegetically.


Discussion/Explanation

This week’s term, exegesis, is straight-forward and the above definition hits its meaning clearly. Even so, there are a few things I’d like to point out about its use.

Exegesis is at the center of exegetical theology as it deals with the text thoroughly. Because of this, it is closely related to what is called biblical theology. All of this includes particular attention to the original languages that the biblical texts were written in (namely Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic). We also pay close attention to the historical context of the texts and the writers. I don’t want to dive too deep here as this term (exegesis) will be addressed again when I post on exegetical theology. With that in mind, I’ll leave things here for now.

Remember past posts can be easily found under the Series Links which is also where you will find the other series I have created.


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Torah & Pentateuch

Dictionary.com

Torah

noun, ( sometimes lowercase)

1. the Pentateuch, being the first of the three Jewish divisions of the OldTestament.Compare Tanach.

2. a parchment scroll on which the Pentateuch is written, used in synagogue services.
3. the entire body of Jewish religious literature, law, and teaching as contained chiefly in the Old Testament and the Talmud.
4. law or instruction.

Etymonline.com

Torah

“the Pentateuch,” 1570s, from Hebrew torah, literally “instruction, law,” verbal noun from horah “he taught, showed.”

Pentateuch

first five books of the Bible, c. 1400, from Late Latin pentateuchus (Tertullian, c.207), from Greek pentateukhos (c. 160), originally an adjective (abstracted from phrase pentateukhos biblos), from pente “five” (from PIE root *penkwe- “five”) + teukhos “implement, vessel, gear” (in Late Greek “book,” via notion of “case for scrolls”), literally “anything produced,” related to teukhein “to make ready,” from PIE *dheugh- “to produce something of utility” (see doughty). Glossed in Old English as fifbec.


Discussion/Explanation

In this week’s post, things are easily defined. The Torah is the Hebrew term for what is also called the Pentateuch (Greek/Latin). In other words, they are two names from different languages for the exact same thing. You will also hear it called “The Law” in English as this is a translation of the Hebrew term.

Personally, I find both terms helpful. Torah = the law which is very telling of the content contained within. Also, to call it the Pentateuch is helpful as Penta means 5 as is seen above in the etymonline entry. There are 5 books in the Pentateuch/Torah which include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy which are the first 5 books of the Old Testament section of the Bible.

That’s all there is to it. Of course, there are other names for other sections of the Bible but that’s out of the scope of this post. Look’em up if you’re curious!

 


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