Essay / Theology

A Smattering of Greek is Worse than None at All

Do you think it is wise for a man who is a pastor in charge of a church to study Greek? Do you think the practical help that would be derived from it would compensate for the valuable time spent upon it when there are so many other important things to do?

I most certainly do not. A thorough knowledge of Greek is of great help in the study and teaching of the Bible; and, if one is young and preparing for the work, I should advise his taking Greek as a part of his course, provided he has time to get a thorough knowledge of Greek; but there is no probability and scarcely a possibility of a pastor in actual charge of a church getting a thorough knowledge of Greek. A smattering of Greek is worse than no knowledge of it at all. It is a snare to the one who has it. For any one who has not a thorough knowledge of Greek, it is far wiser to depend upon excellent translations that we have of the original Scriptures or Authorized and Revised Versions, than to depend upon his own attempts at translation and interpretation.

A man who has only a smattering of Greek, if he uses it, is pretty sure to make himself ridiculous. He thinks he has discovered something when in reality he has only been misled by his partial knowledge. I have heard man after man of real ability along other lines make an egregious fool of himself when with his very limited knowledge of Greek, he has attempted to give original translations of the Scriptures. Only recently two brethren who have set themselves up as teachers, and whose knowledge of Greek is of the most partial and inaccurate character have been publishing what they regard as a new theory in regard to eternal punishment which they have derived, or think they have, from their original researches in the Greek Testament. But their discoveries are imaginary and not real and they have arrived at results which are utterly false and misleading, and some of their translations which they would substitute for those that the ripe Greek scholarship has given us are simply ludicrous to a Greek scholar.

Originally from, The King’s Business “Questions and Answers” by R.A. Torrey,
January 1914, pp. 44

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