Color not truth

Full disclousure: this post is my version of entering a book giveaway from Marc Cortez. He is giving away Bill Mounce’s Greek and English Interlinear New Testament (TNIV/NLT). The full details about the giveaway can be found here. The opinions found in this post are mine alone. There has been no promise of compensation for this post. Yes I would like to win, but (as always) my words aren’t for sale.

In my early twenty’s, I recall a phase  that every Christian in the young adult age bracket seemed to go through at the same time. There was a distinct push to get as close to the original language of the Bible as possible. The idea was that if we could read scripture in it’s original tongue (or at least a good “word for word” translation) we would somehow get the real, unfiltered truth. There was some unspoken (or in some cases loudly spoken) idea that Bible translates had an agenda [insert liberal complete with scare quotes] and as a result, the “further” away from the original language a translation was the less it could be relied upon to be the word of God.

I fully admit my share in this trend. I went out and bought an NASB translation (because that was the accepted, most literal translation, and all the hip Christians were using it), and even got a hold of a Hebrew and a Greek interlinear Bible. Now, armed with literal translations and my strong concordance/lexicon, I could fully understand the word of God and get the real truth.

You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me,  but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life. -John.539-40

Around this same time, I spent a summer and fall semester at Salt Lake Theological Seminary (which is now becoming The Vine Institute). They offered full courses in Greek and Hebrew. While I never got did take a Greek course, the professor (his name was Chris something or other, I believe) once said something that really stuck with me. He said that knowing Greek or Hebrew was good, but only like a color photograph is good. You get the exact same picture with black and white, same detail, same subject, same focus. A color picture just adds more vibrancy to the already beautiful picture.

Color, not truth.

I’ve heard many pastors use Greek in their sermons, and quite frankly it’s boring. It doesn’t reveal some hidden truth that English obscures. It doesn’t get the hearers to somehow be more like Jesus.  When we get caught up in the meaning of a word or a turn of a phrase, we can easily get distracted in the details and miss the point: Jesus.

I still enjoy digging in and expanding the little knowledge I have about the original languages. The Hebrew and Greek may add color, and that color may stir my imagination and ideas. They may help me connect ideas in the larger story of scripture. They may even inspire new-to-me ways of speaking about the ideas and truth in the Bible.  But, the original languages won’t unlock some big hidden secret, they won’t make me a more faithful believer. They won’t reveal to me one ounce of truth more than the Truth, the Way, the Life.

No matter the language, scripture is preserved and illuminated by the power of the Spirit so that all who come to the Bible will find the Word of God.

And the Word became flesh and mad his dwelling among us..

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  • eliwestfall

    Excellent thoughts. I appreciate your perspective and can say after 2 years of Greek in undergrad i feel the same way. Greek is nice, not necessary. And if Greek was the only way to understand and know the words of God then tons of people would be left out. I believe God’s word is powerful enough to be used regardless of the translation.

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