Greek Bible Study for Non-Greek People
My Greek is, to say the least, basic. Those funny squiggles just confuse me and when they try and use real letters the results don’t look so much like words as a five-year-old’s crude attempts to write out the periodic table. At least that’s how it looks to me. I never had the pleasure and privilege to study Greek in any formal environment. What I know has been learned either by osmosis, necessity or accident. I’d love to have the time and ability to learn another language, but that will have to wait for now. But that’s no reason not to be able to use Greek in a Bible study.
My first brush with Logos was nearly 8 years ago at college. When I arrived I found Logos already installed on the campus network and so I began to use it in my Bible classes. And what classes they were! I had expected to have to work hard, but these people wanted me to explain the meaning of the words behind the words. That’s right, they wanted me to do Bible studies in Greek. As a bit of background, I am not Greek. I’m not even Koine Greek, whatever that means. So studying the Greek, which I had only a passing familiarity with, would have been impossible without a little electronic assistance. Within a few minutes I had discovered how to get to the Greek roots of words with the provided tools. I even started to figure out what the Voice, Tense and Moods meant, although I must admit I’m still a little fuzzy on the second aorist tense. At any rate I began to sneak little bits and snippets of Greek into my papers. Slowly I found that the skills from these Bible studies were sneaking into lessons I was giving to my Sunday school class. I was studying Greek!
So, what’s the big deal? How come this “Greek” is so important to Bible study? Admittedly, when I entered school I would have been hard pressed to answer that. For me, whatever the English version read was probably going to be good enough. But then I realized something: the Bible wasn’t written in English. In fact, what I held to be “The Bible” is a translation of the Bible. Now, while we trust that most every translator seeks to be as close to the original text as possible, there are times when English just breaks down and we miss the point entirely. Do a Bible study on John 21:15-19 or Matthew 16:18 to see some of the easiest examples of an extra layer that’s added by Greek. But beyond that the highly technical Greek words used all throughout Romans beg for an in depth study of the language in order to rightly handle the word of truth.
So then, how do you do it? How do you do a Bible study in Greek when all you know is English? Simple, look to the tools at hand. Your first, and probably most useful, tool is the Strong’s Concordance. It’s been a staple of Biblical libraries for years for one good reason: it’s an amazing resource. Here, in one easy move, you’ve got the actual Greek word and a definition. You’ve also got a list of all the ways it is translated in that particular English version. Very useful. In the “real world” looking up a word in Strong’s actually requires looking it up twice. Once to find the number, and then the number itself. With Logos, that action is reduced to a single click. Quite time saving. The next most awesomest tool for Greek Bible study is the TVM. TVM stands for Tense, Voice and Mood, which are essential for understanding any Greek verb. I, having never understood Greek entirely, tend to execute the keylink provided in the text, then look up what each of the components mean each and every time. And in all honesty, that’s just fine. But let’s say you’d like to automate this process. Say you want to look at the Greek behind an entire verse. That’s where the Exegetical Guide comes to play.
The Exegetical Guide is an invaluable resource for looking into a passage and seeing the pertinent Greek words. This Bible study tool allows you fillet a verse down to its most basic meaning. It provides insight gleaned from a variety of sources, but does so quickly and efficiently. Strong’s and TVM are here, but so are a plethora of other resources (mileage will vary depending which products you own). There is even a little speaker icon indicating where Logos will actually pronounce the word for you (because nothing is more embarrassing than stumbling over the Greek in front of your class or congregation, right?) All in all you will save virtually hours of Bible study time with this one feature. Time that can either be used to go deeper into the text, or to spend on one of the virtually thousands of other responsibilities that arise in the course of a day. Time saved is never a bad thing, as long as quality does not diminish. And that is what electronic Bible study allows: time saved with no loss of quality.
So, with the right tools you can fake knowing Greek. But, in all honesty, there really is no replacement for the real thing. Conveniently, Logos also provides resources for learning Greek. You can create word lists that can then be printed out as flashcards for use in study, provided you have the original languages add-in. Logos also provides a copious amount of books and even handbooks to help learn Greek on your own. It’s not easy, and it takes time, but the resources are there, and I am working on it, as should you, if you need it.