John T. Willis

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Why is it imperative for a teacher or preacher or minister or missionary to learn Greek and Hebrew? In some of my blogs, I will demonstrate WHY this is imperative for individuals desire to communicate the message of the Bible correctly and to build up the church. Here is a simple beginning example--the little word YOU.

Let me give a little background of my own experience through the years, then give three biblical examples.

FIRST--ONE of my experiences having to do with Churches of Christ.
In the 1950s, scholars began to translate the Hebrew and Greek into English in addition to the old King James Version in 1611 and the old American Version in 1901. Hence, the Revised Standard Version--then the Jerusalem Bible--the New International Version--the New Revised Standard Version--and now there are several others. For several years, Church of Christ "leaders" [preachers, teachers, etc.] dug in their heels and insisted on maintaining the KJV and the ASV. These new translations are "heresy."
To give one example, several writers declared that it is "unscriptural" to pray to God at church [or elsewhere] to address God as "YOU." The BIBLE [KJV and ASV] use the word "THOU." SO, the person leading a prayer MUST use the word "THOU," not "YOU." The assumption is that a person "honors" God and "worships" God by using the words "thou, thine, and thee." This is obviously VERY LAUGHABLE up front. Here ae two quick examples.
a. In the KJV of Matthew 4:10, Jesus said to SATAN, "Get THEE behind me, Satan." OKAY, that means that one MUST "honor" or "worship" Satan, because Jesus addressed Satan as "THEE," the direct object of the nominative "THOU." Of course, something is very wrong in this kind of thinking.
b. When you listen to a person praying to God using "THOU" and "THINE" and "THEE," you have to laugh out loud. The person has no idea how to use the verbs connected with these words. "THOU"--are? is? am? art? etc. People usually misuse these words.
Now, the reason for all this is that, like all languages, the English language has CHANGED over time. In the seventeeth century, people daily used the terms "thou," etc. But they KNEW what they were saying: "THOU" is SINGULAR; "YOU" is plural. BUT, in 2009, we do not use these words. We use "YOU" for the singular and the plural. And THAT is why a person must learn Greek and Hebrew. Here are three examples.

1. Matthew 5:14-16: "YOU are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let YOUR light shine before others, so that they may see YOUR good works and give glory to YOUR Father in heaven."
WHO is the "YOU" here? By learning Greek, you learn that "YOU" in this text is PLURAL. This does not refer to an individual Christian. NO!!! This refers to the people of God COLLECTIVELY or TOGETHER. If the people of God TOGETHER do not function in unity, they CANNOT be the light of the world. The text makes this very clear.

2. Luke 22:31-34: "'Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift YOU like wheat, but I have prayed for YOU that YOUR faith may not fall; and YOU, when once YOU have turned back, strengthen your brothers.' And he said to him, 'Lord, I am ready to go with YOU to prison and to death.' Jesus said, 'I tell YOU, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until YOU have denied me three times.'"
Who is "YOU" in these lines? By learning Greek, you learn that "YOU" here is singular sometimes and plural sometimes. SO, you have to be very careful. Let's retrace the story.
a. Jesus says to Simon: Satan has demanded to sift YOU [PLURAL--all you disciples] like wheat.
b. But I have prayed for YOU [SINGULAR--Peter] that YOUR [Peter's] faith may not fall, etc. ALL the disciples of Jesus will abandon Jesus when the Jewish authorities arrest Jesus, BUT PETER will be the first of the twelve to return to Jesus, THEN Peter will strengthen his fellow-disciples.
c. In verse 33, Peter replies to Jesus: "Lord, I am ready to go with YOU [SINGULAR--Jesus] to prison and to death."

3. 1 Timothy 6:21--The last line in the epistle of 1 Timothy says: "Grace with with YOU." One might think that this epistle is Paul's letter to Timothy. But when one examines the Greek of 1 Timothy 6:21, the biblical reader learn that YOU here is PLURAL. Paul is addressing the entire church of which Timothy is a member, NOT Timothy individually alone.

The little word YOU is a veritable "mine field" throughout the Bible--Old and New Testaments. One attempting to understanding the Bible needs to be constantly aware of the value of the Greek and Hebrew languages in which the Bible originally arose. We will examine numerous other types of issues along these lines. I hope this will be helpful to everyone. I hope this will inspire you who are beginning your journey into Bible study. Learn the languages. This will also open the cultures and traditions and societies of ancient Near Eastern peoples.

How is YOUR study of the Bible going? We are all on a journey. We are all growing. Let's help one another as we come closer to God and to the church and to the world. Let me hear from you. Share your ideas with others.

John Willis


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