Preaching Greek

John Hobbins has pointed us to an interesting discussion about Rob Bell’s use of Greek in the Nooma videos (incidentally, Andy Naselli beat that discussion by a week).

I’ve been invited to comment in the post itself, but for some reason my internet is not connecting to the internet on my normal computer. For some reason I can still connect to the internet on Windows 7 (and the same network), but the IE* beta won’t allow me to post comments on his post!

So I’m writing my own post instead.

To answer the main question, I find it hard to believe that this is where our current seminary Greek education is. I would venture to suggest that the main issue is simply that Bell hasn’t kept up his Greek (hence his stranger comment on the aorist) and misspoke with regard to the Noun/Verb issue (what’s more disturbing is that no one caught it in the video production).

Anyway, overall Rick, in his comment covers things nicely.

With both Rick and John, I think there is a time for responsibly mentioning the Greek text, and even perhaps the grammar.

My father has been preaching for roughly 30 years and is presently working on his DMin. (we all have our demons, he just has to pay for his). My father is a person who has for the most part kept up his Greek and on rare occasions references it in his sermons. This is why: His church has the NIV in the pews and in general, its what people use. For that reason, he uses that translation in the pulpit. But there are times when the NIV doesn’t get it right – or perhaps the NIV looses something that another translation picks up. If a particular point of his message has some sort of dependence on that something, there’s a good chance he’ll reference the Greek and point to a translation that does pick it up.

What does this do? Well…

For one, it gives weight to what  you say and prevents creating the mentality that there are secrets in the Greek that translations don’t give us – such an mentality will lead to Strong’s numbers more than anything else.

And two, hopefully you can teach your congregation something about the value of using multiple translations when studying.

Moving on to the comments in the post, I take issue with some of the grammar discussion too…but I’ve left a comment on the post itself for that.

3 thoughts on “Preaching Greek

  1. Well, I did respond, rather obliquely, on John Hobbins’ site. I have almost never heard a preacher make a useful reference to a Greek word in a sermon; George Buttrick could do it, but he poured time and effort into his preaching; a telling comment explaining the important word περίσσος as meaning “elephant-size” hit the nail on the head nicely, as I recall, a couple decades ago. I think it’s ordinarily a bad mistake to inject a comment on the Greek text into a sermon; it doesn’t really do much for the congregation and usually looks self-serving. I would far prefer that a preacher who has read and understood the Greek well deliver in good English what that tezt is saying to the congregation now.

  2. the othe rside of the coin to using Greek in your sermons is two fold – it presents things as though you know more than everyone else and (in pointing out where a translation misses it) it can either directly or indirectly undermine a congregations confidence in the trustworthiness of whatever bible they are using.

    For me, I’ve settled on just trying to say what I think the Greek says without trying to say what the Greek says.

  3. Well, I was trying to make it clear that my father rarely does it, too – I can think of one time in the past five years at least.

    I also think there’s a difference between mentioning Greek for the sake of mentioning Greek and mentioning Greek and pointing to another translation.

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