One of the challenges I have decided to take on this year is to read the whole New Testament through in Greek. Now, my Greek skills are unrivaled by anyone with experience in the language, because people with experience can actually read it well. For me, to just sit with the NT and read it, without the English, is not going to be easy. I acquired some Greek in college, and can use it like many people use their cooking skills: I know what a word means like you know what cooking terms mean, but you still use a recipe. I still use translation tools, lexicons (dictionaries), stuff like that. Mainly I am good with Greek when I see an English-language reference tool refer to Greek grammar structure or vocabulary.
So, this is going to be a growth experience for me. Which is good. So, today, I was reading Matthew chapter 1. I noticed a couple of things:
1. The genealogy names are easier to read in Greek, because English uses funky letter blends to sub for letters that Greek doesn't have.
2. Matthew expected in verse 7, that all of his readers would be familiar with David's sin with Bathsheba. He simply refers to Solomon as 'out of the of Uriah.' Seriously. Which reminds me that God has been angered by His people's sin, but has never worked to cover them up. We should acknowledge that, and not try to cover ours up, but instead work to not sin, and use our weaknesses to help others be strengthened. There are plenty of principles to extract from the David-Bathsheba-Uriah adultery and murder, and there just might be things we can learn from each other when we confess our sins and pray for each other.
3. This is what got me. One thing I do know about Greek is that 'word order' is used for emphasis, not sentence structure. In English, our sentences usually go :Subject-verb-object, for example: Steven threw the ball. In Greek, word endings show structure, such that you could write: threw the ball Steven, Steven the ball threw, or the ball threw Steven, but the word endings would show you that what happened was that a little guy propelled a ball at a high rate of speed. The word order in Greek shows emphasis. So, the the various sentences above show what you want to emphasize. Now, why is that important?
Matthew 1:23 records "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." (NASB).
Which is the right translation and quotation of Isaiah 7:14. But Matthew writes "God with us" as "with us God," which doesn't change the meaning, but shows a very important emphasis:
That Christ came that 'us' would be with God. Most of us know that God is. Even agnostics acknowledge the possibility of God, and most people that claim atheism are really agnostics (because they'll admit they don't know everything, which will usually allow for the possibility of God somehow, somewhere, but that He just doesn't matter, which is agnosticism.) Matthew, and the Holy Spirit who is inspiring this, wants us to know that God is not distant, but with us. No longer do we have to spend our days seeking God on this mountain, in this experience, with that person or the other, but that right here, with us is where God has made His dwelling place.
Which is, when I boil it down, a very comforting thought to me. God is not absent from this world, not detached from the people. Neither is He the same as the people of this world, but He is with us all. So, as we go through 2009, let's realize that we are not alone in this universe. God is in the whole of the universe, but is also "with us, God."
The occasional thoughts of an ordinary man serving an extraordinary God. Come with me as we learn, teach, and laugh along the way.
Friday, January 2, 2009
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Great thoughts! Looking forward to seeing more from your NT Greek readings!ReplyDelete