Last month, when we announced the addition of the SBL Greek New Testament to our library of online Bibles, we invited you, dear Bible Gateway users, to tell us your answer to the following question: Why would you recommend reading the New Testament in the original Greek?
We were thrilled to receive many excellent responses; thanks to everyone who wrote in! Here are two of the thoughtful answers sent in by Bible Gateway users. First up is Edwin:
When we read an English translation of the scriptures, there is a “veil” over the text. This veil is the cultural reinterpretation that translators by necessity must undertake. This is compounded by the number of different popular translations that are available. My experience leading Bible studies is that when faced with the task of harmonising say the NIV, ESV NASB etc., many Christians conclude they can’t come to a clear understanding of the meaning. This places the burden of interpretation on the study leader, the “specialist,” if they are able. Reading in the original language removes this “veil,” so we are forced to interpret the text in context of the original culture. I’m not saying everyone has to learn Koine Greek and Hebrew, but those who can, and who hold teaching roles, should if at all possible.
And Marilyn talks about the pay-off at the end of all the hard work:
It takes a tremendous amount of time and strength of commitment to learn koine Greek, but it is worth every bit of it. If you can read the original Greek New Testament, you will not have to wonder about what it “really says in the original.” You will not have to read a text through a curtain of political correctness or a translator’s bias. If you are not very skilled, you will still have the thrill of knowing you are reading the true text of Scripture or at least the closest thing to it.
Many people who wrote in echoed these observations that reading the Bible in its original languages lets you go deeper into the text. While it’s certainly not necessary to understand the original Greek to appreciate and study the New Testament—praise God for the long tradition of Bible translators he’s provided over the centuries!—reading the original language can highlight nuances in the text that are sometimes lost, or diluted, in translation.
Learning a Biblical language is a big challenge and not for everyone. But even if you’ve never studied a word of Hebrew or Greek and have no intention of doing so, it’s fun to see Scripture in the ancient languages—for instance, take a look at John 3 in the NIV alongside the Greek. Maybe you’ll be inspired to pick up a textbook or talk to a pastor or seminary professor about learning Greek!
Thanks again to Edwin, Marilyn, and everyone else who took the time to share their thoughts with us!