In the past two days, I was told by no less than five different unrelated people that one should not look to the Greek for help when one is in need of further enlightenment about a word or phrase that might be ambiguous or need further clarification. In fact, I was told by several of those people that God meant for us to rely only on the English version. Further comments told me that it cannot be trusted, and it cannot be understood unless you are a scholar who has studied it, therefore you are better to leave it alone, and other such comments. I have heard it jokingly said that there are people who say, “The King James Bible was good enough for Paul, so it's good enough for me.” Sometimes I think people really are that lacking in knowledge, when I hear some of the comments they make.
First of all, to say that the Greek cannot be trusted seems to be a ludicrous statement. The Bible in English is a translation of the Greek, so if the Greek cannot be trusted, how can the English? Secondly, one does not have to have a degree in ancient Greek in order to pick up an interlinear Bible and a concordance and look up what the word is in Greek (or Hebrew for that matter) and its definitions. Why should we leave it alone as a study tool, as if it were a forbidden book, when it is so available to enhance our studying? Can it be misused by wolves who want to teach heresy? Of course it can, and so can the English. Most people are so unfamiliar with their English Bible that they can be fooled without ever having to go to the Greek to convince them of something, as they never check what information they are being fed against the Word of God.
Is it really necessary? Can't one get the full intent of something from just the context and grammar? Well, most of the time you probably can, but there are times when you miss something, if you don't look to the original language. Let me give an example. Let us look at John 21:15-17 in the English. “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
I have heard sermons on this passage, with all kinds of speculation as to why Peter was grieved and why Jesus said it three times. One is that Jesus knew Peter was going to deny Him three times, so He asked him if he loved Him three times. Another says that Jesus wanted Peter to understand the importance of preaching the gospel so He emphasized it three times by telling him to feed His sheep. I don't know that I ever heard an explanation for why Peter was grieved, except that Christ asked him three times. Now let us consider the Greek. We only need to look at one word, the word “love.” In English we have only one word for all kinds of love. In the Greek there are at least four - “Agape” the kind of sacrificial love that God has for us and we as Christians should have for God and others, “philia” brotherly love (hence the city of Philadelphia being the the city of brotherly love), “eros” sexual love, and “storge” the kind of affection families have for each other. In this case we are going to focus on the words “agape” and “philia.” When we rewrite this passage substituting the appropriate Greek word, we find that the passage reads like this.
“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, agape thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I philia thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, agape thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I philia thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, philia thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, philia thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I philia thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
Now let us look at it the way Christ might have said it in today's English. “Peter, do you love me? Yes, Lord, you know I love you like a brother..................No Peter, I mean, do you really LOVE me, like you'd die for me? Lord, you know that I love you just like a brother.....................Peter...... so...... you love me like a brother then.” And Peter was grieved that Jesus accepted and acknowledged that he loved him like a brother, but not to the point of sacrificial love. And Peter said, “Lord, you know everything there is to know, so you know that I love you like a brother.”
It makes much more sense to understand why Peter was grieved, when you understand that Christ had changed the word from agape to philia, for it was a downgrading of the relationship on Peter's side that Christ was acknowledging. It was a disappointment. You would never get that from the English. And it does not take a degree in Greek in order to gain that knowledge. Merely a copy of Strong's Concordance.
What initially brought on this entire discussion was a disagreement over, of all things, the word “men.” Now who would think that the word “men” would need to be defined, but it did. The verse in question said that “they were redeemed from among men.” Now I had always taken that in the English to mean that the word “men” meant from among all of mankind. The other party was of the opinion that the word literally and specifically meant adult males. So to answer the disagreement, I went to the Greek word in the concordance and looked it up. In this particular case, the Greek word was “anthropos.” Now that word should be recognizable as the root word of our word “anthropology.” I am very familiar with the word, because my one son is an anthropologist. Anthropology is the study of humans, as in mankind. And the Greek definition of the word was “human beings,” not specifically adult males. So going to the Greek proved that I had indeed interpreted the phrase correctly that they were redeemed from among mankind or human beings. Unfortunately this person was one who fell into the category of people I mentioned at the start. The Greek was not trusted, therefore my going to the Greek did nothing to end the debate.
One of the arguments given to me by one of the aforementioned group of five, was that the original manuscripts were inspired by God and without error, but the copies were merely that, copies that were suspect as to accuracy, but God has told us that He would preserve His Word (the intent more or less) so the KJV was the Bible we are to use and God will tell us everything we need to know through that, as since we don't have the original manuscripts, this is as good as you can get. I would take issue with that. Jesus said that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was fulfilled. Now the law is the Masoretic Hebrew text which is far, far older than the Greek New Testament. Yet here is Christ telling us that a copy (as they probably did not have the original either) of the Old Testament is still perfectly preserved word for word, even to the jot and tittles on the words (Jots and tittles are the equivalent of the dots over the “I's” and crosses on the “T's”.) and it would continue to be until all is fulfilled. If God could preserve that, and continues to, why could He not preserve the Greek New Testament as well even in its copies. In this case, the copies that I would say are the accurately preserved ones are the copies of the Received Text, which was circulated around the area of Antioch and Byzantine. They are very different from the Alexandrian texts, which were found in Egypt. For more on this and why the difference, read my article on the KJV Bible. https://bibleconundrumsandcontroversy.blogspot.com/2011/01/king-james-version-only-controversy.html
The copiers of the original manuscripts were very exact in how they copied it. They checked in every way possible to make sure that there were no mistakes. And the large number of extant manuscripts that we have of the Received Text show extremely little differences, meaning that they kept any mistakes to a bare minimum. Any mistakes have been easily caught by seeing upon what the greater number of manuscripts agree, thereby giving us a very accurate Greek version of the New Testament. The same can be said of the Masoretic Hebrew texts as well. So while we may not have the actual originals, just as we may not have the originals today of some things, but copies made from a computer or copier machine, the content is just as accurate as the original. Therefore it can be trusted. And as pointed out at the beginning, if you cannot trust the Greek, how can you trust a translation of it, when no translation is perfectly word for word, although the KJV does that as much as a translation possibly can. There is a slight loss of information though, to a certain extent, as pointed out in the passage of John that I quoted above, as English does not have as precise a language as Greek had. To be able to check into the Greek can only bring greater understanding, unless it is your deliberate intent to want to make a passage say something other than it intends, because you want to try to push a theory or private interpretation which is not actually taught there. And there are people who will do this. But they do that with the English as well. It requires being studious, discerning, and a Berean, and checking what people teach against the Scriptures to catch things like that. And for the record, yes, I encourage people to check anything that I write against the Word of God. I want people in their Bibles learning what it says, and I am not afraid of being challenged, as so many who want to deceive are. If everybody were in their Bibles as they should be, I could quit writing.
So, in conclusion, while true understanding does come from the Holy Spirit teaching you, it makes His job easier if you use all the tools at your disposal. If you want to get a little deeper into your study of the Scriptures, by all means, get yourself a KJV Bible, Greek interlinear Bible using the Received Text, a Hebrew text (Masoretic) , and a good concordance, along with a good Bible dictionary, lexicon, maps, and etc. Don't listen to those scholars who say that you can't possibly understand how to use them. They just don't want you being able to study the Bible on your own without their input. You might find out that they aren't always right, and that might put them out of a job.