Friday, February 23, 2007

"'Ere, what's all this, then?" (blog mission statement)

Turns out I have more to say than two blogs can contain... or so I imagine.

This, however, is the most narrowly focused of my three blogs. Here's what I'm doing.

My cred
I have been studying Greek basically daily for the last ~34 years. Not interlinears, not just commentaries or concordances, but the Greek New Testament itself. I've read the whole Greek New Testament many times, and individual books and chapters many dozens of times.

Though seminary-educated, I will not write as an academic. Rather, I write as a lover of God's Word, as He originally gave it in Hebrew and Greek. You don't love and read and study and translate and write about and preach something that long without noticing and learning a few things.

This blog is about sharing some of what I've learned, along with my enthusiasm and love for God's original Word.

My aim
I really don't have time to do another blog featuring only studied, edited, re-edited, and re-re-edited posts. So these posts will vary in content. Here's the range of what I plan:
  • "Ooh, look at that cool syntax"
  • "Neat wordplay. Too bad it's impossible to translate!"
  • "Every English translation messes this up"
  • "This will preach!"
  • "Nobody ever explains or even seems to notice this. Here's what I think"
  • "This is strange; what does it mean?"
  • "This is usually translated X; I wonder whether it should be Z"
  • "Here's a cool thing about this word"
  • "Preachers often mess this up. If only they used their Greek!"
I hope that what I write will encourage and inspire every Greek student who visits. If you too have been reading Greek for a long time, I hope it will give you some fresh takes, maybe give you a friendly nudge towards being sure to notice and savor what you read.

If you're a pastor who left his Greek in seminary, I hope this will nudge you towards repentance, rethinking, and re-prioritizing. You, sir, are a professor of ancient Greek and Hebrew literature. You must know the languages if you are to teach the literature as a voice, rather than an echo.

Either way, they say enthusiasm is catching. I mean to share mine—and I want you to catch it!

My audience
I am only writing this for people who can read Greek, whether pastors or not. That doesn't at all mean that non-Greekers are unwelcome! It just means I'll be aiming at those who already know (or are starting to know, or re-commencing to know) Greek. So I really won't be explaining it for those who don't.

Being a pastor at heart (though not by employment, at the moment), I am likely to slant what I write towards preaching, teaching, communicating. But if you are learning the Greek New Testament, wherever you are in your studies, you will find something of profit in at least some of the posts to come.

And just pardon one more word. There is no substitute for learning Greek. Interlinears, commentaries, concordances—none of these things teach you the Greek New Testament any more than looking up a few words in Webster's means that you understand any given English sentence.

Your part, should you choose to accept it
There are a few things that you can do, if you would:
  • Invite your pastor (or your fellow-pastors) to visit this page
  • Announce it, and link to it on your blog or web page
  • Email the URL to your maybe-interested friends
  • Comment, contribute (—you can see that this has already been going on in the comment threads, below)
  • If you're a Greeker, and want to, email me your own Greek observations. Maybe they'll make The Big Time!
That's it. I have a ton to share, in my head and in my notes. Should be fun.


Tom Gee said...

Excellent, Dan!

I love the idea of this blog, and hope to learn much. I certainly don't have your background in Greek, but I'm finishing my 3rd year in the language, so I should be able to keep up. (With lots of references to the dictionary. :-)

I also appreciate that you call pastors who have lost their Greek to repentance. A strong term. A good term.

For those who dispute this term, who feel that the excellent English translations we have are adequate, I give you the words of Martin Luther to his contemporaries:

Do you inquire what use there is in learning the languages...? Do you say, 'We can read the Bible very well in German?'

Without languages we could not have received the Gospel. Languages are the scabbard that contains the sword of the Spirit; they are the casket which contains the priceless jewels of antique thought; they are the vessel that holds the wine; and as the gospel says, they are the baskets in which the loaves and fishes are kept to feed the multitude.

If we neglect the literature we shall eventually lose the gospel. ... No sooner did men cease to cultivate the languages than Christendom declined, even until it fell under the undisputed dominion of the pope. But no sooner was this torch relighted, than this papal owl fled with a shriek into congenial gloom. ... In former times the fathers were frequently mistaken, because they were ignorant of the languages and in our days there are some who, like the Waldenses, do not think the languages of any use; but although their doctrine is good, they have often erred in the real meaning of the sacred text; they are without arms against error, and I fear much that their faith will not remain pure.

DJP said...

Ohhhh, bro, don't even get me started on that.

One of the most surreal arguments I ever had was my then-fiancee (now-wife) and I arguing with a guy trying to argue that his pastor doesn't need to know Greek.

So, you tell me you affirm verbal, plenary inspiration?

And you affirm that a pastor's central distinguishing duty is to preach and teach that verbally, plenarily-inspired Word?

And so tell me — in what language were the verbals of that plenarily-inspired Word written?

Otherwise, you're not teaching it. You're teaching a translation of it.

Like I said: don't even get me started.

Tom Gee said...

Heh. Oh, go for it, Dan! I think such a post would be really a great encouragement or rebuke for many.

I once heard someone compare a pastor without access to the languages to a French teacher who doesn't know French, but has a really good translation of the textbook.

One of the things that led me to change to my current seminary was its emphasis on the languages. My former seminary was the only other one I know of that even offered both Hebrew and Greek to pastoral (M.Div.) students, and they only required the students to take one of them. (So, pastor, are you going to preach only from one of the Testaments?)

So, a good DJP thoughtful rant on the subject would be great!

Another quote:
The more a theologian detaches himself from the basic Hebrew and Greek text of Holy Scripture, the more he detaches himself from the source of real theology! And real theology is the foundation of a fruitful and blessed ministry.
-- Heinrich Bitzer, quoted in John Piper's "Brothers, We Are Not Professionals".

Frank Martens said...

Sweet! So you are like... old enough to be my father.

Not sure why I made that statement but maybe because I'm going to say...

I am taking Beginning greek now and plan on going into the next level when I'm done. For sure I plan on keeping an eye on this blog and seeing what I can pick out.

It's great encouragement to me to see guys like you and Dr. MacArthur say that they've studied greek for 34 years and the fruit of it has been great. I plan to do the same, or till the day I die, whichever comes first.

DJP said...

For those keeping score at home, I do believe this is the first time the phrase "you and Dr. MacArthur" has been used, in which I am the "you."


Frank Martens said...

yea, take note.

Also, I just reread what I just said and I'm going... "man I'm a dork."

Stefan Ewing said...

This has the beginnings of a wonderful blog. Praise God that he has blessed in leading me here just as you're getting it started! This isn't the place for testimonials, but suffice it to say that I've had a UBS GNT largely gathering dust on my bookshelf for years while I crawled through the wilderness of quasi-unbelief. Now that I've been reborn in the Holy Spirit, what better way to study the living Word than through the Greek New Testament?

I stumble with it because I frequently have to look words (even parsings) up in the accompanying Greek-English Dictionary, but at least I can sound the words and get the rhythm and gist of a passage. All pastoral arguments aside, when I read the Bible in Greek (even though I stumble), I really feel like I'm in the eastern Mediterranean 2000 years ago, among the very first generation of believers, hearing the Gospel all over again for the very first time. (Granted, many of them heard it in Aramaic and not Greek, but you know what I mean....)

And 34 years? Wow. Your profile photo flatters you!

Rick Bennett said...

I look forward to future posts. Do you plan on going through particular books, or just random passages?
I'd also be interested in a series offering tips for writers of research / exegetical papers.

grace and peace to you...

Matthew LaPine said...

This should be fun. I'm in!

Anonymous said...

Glad I came across your blog. I appreciate your aim and scope with the NT Greek. I hope to come back regularly.

I am probably older than you. Heh. Perhaps related to that, my eyes have trouble with colored fonts on black background. :-)

Matthew S. Harmon said...


Kudos on an excellent idea. Next week I will post on my own blog about this site and add a link.

At some point it would be interesting to start a discussion here on aspect theory (Porter v. Fanning, Wallace, etc.).



DJP said...

Rick—I'm not decided. Almost certainly both.

The most in-keeping with my stated aim (and limitations) would probably be to share observations that go along with my daily readings, when I'm in the NT. Right now I'm only OT. My current reading plan has me starting Hebrews on March 1—and there's definitely a lot to boggle at in that book.

Even those will likely be broken up by, say, continuations of my thoughts on learning Greek, using Greek, keeping your Greek fresh, and the like.

Matt—you're too smart for me. You start the discussion! (c;

Matt Gumm said...

Glad to see you got this baby off the ground. Sorry my suggestions didn't work out for you, but you're probably better off with BW7 anyway, and certainly off to a good start.

As for the blog itself, like so many other commentors, I'm looking forward to seeing the posts as they develop. Because Koine Greek is a dead language (in one sense, anyway), it's that much more difficult to learn. Plus, there is a great amount of isolation in learning/studying it on your own. Hopefully this blog and the people it attracts will mitigate some of that difficulty, and allow interaction, which is one of the keys (for me anyway) of trying to get my arms around it. Sort of like a virtual version of sitting down for a discussion with someone like an A. T. Robertson or Bill Mounce and just picking their brains on Greek stuff.

Can't wait!