Thursday, January 05, 2006

True Intellectualism and the Value of Scholarship

I am feeling much better today, and I thought that since every Greek nerd who comes through here is now offended at my last post I should clarify a few things. First of all, I am a Greek nerd. I had some pretty good Greek nerd professors also. I studied under Dr. David Black and Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. They are pretty sharp fellows.

In fact, I actually tested out of first year Greek. I am such a fan of the original languages that I spent a summer studying Greek on my own. That way, I could go ahead and take second year Greek right away. When Dr. Kostenberger found out I had done that without approval, he wasn't thrilled. He found out halfway through the semester somehow and called me to the front to discuss this with me. At the time, Dr. Kostenberger had a broken foot, so he walked with a limp. He's also from Austria, so he has a bit of an accent. He simply said, "Did you take the first year of Greek?" I said, " that a problem? I have an A in here so far..."
He said, "Meet me in my office at 2. Bring your Greek Bible. Come alone."

Needless to say, I was frightened half to death. With the limp and the accent, he reminded me of a James Bond villian. I went in there expecting something like me saying, "Do you expect me to parse verbs, Dr. Kostenberger?" And him saying, "No Mr. Williams, I expect you to die!!" I passed his exam. So he let me stay in the class. He's no villain after all. Actually, he's quite a gracious man.

My point was not to scorn everyone who studies Greek. I think that all preachers should study Greek. What I despise is the use of Greek to belittle others or using it in such a way as to make the common man feel inadequate to read his Bible. I despise it when Greek students use the language like a 'secret knowledge' that only the elite can access, and therefore only they know the true meaning of the text.

I study the original text for my sermons, but I rarely, rarely let the people know that I have used it. If I find a translation or interpretation that I like better than the one I am reading from, then I can usually find a major, reliable English version to point them to. After all, the guys who translated the Bible were no slouches. The are almost never guilty of "mis-translation", but they may not have the interpretation that you like. That's where the bulk of the expositor's job comes in.

So relax O Greek guru. I love you and appreciate you. Keep parsing those verbs and figuring out those participles. Just watch the exegetical fallacies; someone will eventually call you on it. Oh yes, and if you ever start a sentence with, "What this really means in the Greek is...." you can rest assured that you are most likely going to say something redundant, silly, and conceited.

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