The Greek Tribulation: Biblical languages enrich study of Scripture, proclamation of Gospel

The Greek Tribulation: Biblical languages enrich study of Scripture, proclamation of Gospel

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Although he once thought that the study of New Testament Greek would bring great tribulation to his life, David Norman now uses the language to enrich his understanding of Revelation.

After 12 years in ministry, Norman enrolled as a Master of Divinity student in 2011 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary because of the school’s commitment to reaching the world and preaching Scripture. He recognized his need for learning the biblical languages, and he enjoyed a challenge. But he could not stir up any excitement for learning Greek.

Then, as he studied Greek under Associate Professor of New Testament Paul Hoskins, “a whole new world” was opened into the text of Scripture. The study of Greek allowed him to see the repetition of words and themes in the text that he had never before noticed.

Recently, Norman explored the Greek text of Revelation. He took President Paige Patterson’s class on Revelation in fall 2012, continues to study the Greek exegesis of the book under Hoskins, and plans to preach a sermon from Revelation 19:6-9 during the seminary’s nationwide revival program, Revive This Nation, March 10-13.

According to Norman, the study of Greek has allowed him not only to see how the verses of Revelation 19:6-9 fit together in the structure of the whole chapter, but it also augments the meaning of various phrases in the passage. A great multitude in verse 6, for example, cries out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!” The Greek verb form used in this verse highlights the significance of this shout of praise, Norman says.

“The Lord, the Almighty, who has always reigned, is now displaying his reign, is now displaying his seat on the throne,” Norman explains. “He is finally, finally flexing his sovereign muscles.

“That is huge,” he adds. “Otherwise, you don’t understand the power of (this phrase), ‘the Lord God Almighty reigns.’ He reigns throughout the whole book, so why is this such a big deal? It is because, at the destruction of Babylon and at the invitation to the wedding, His reign is obvious. It is visible. It is here. The time has come.”

Like Norman, other seminary students have also come to recognize the value of learning Greek for shedding light on the meaning of the New Testament.

“It’s easy to look at the amount of time and commitment it takes to learn a language and feel intimidated,” doctoral student Katie McCoy says. Nevertheless, she testifies that students can gain much when they “dig (their) heels in and learn Greek.”

“There are nuances to the Greek language that our English language is simply incapable of communicating with a simple translation,” McCoy says. “But what a gift that God gave us His written Word in a time and culture where such details were built into the very structure (of the language).”

Likewise, Master of Divinity student Geoff Simmons, who studied mechanical engineering in college, was surprised to find that he enjoyed studying the Greek language at Southwestern. After beginning his Greek classes, he began to see its benefit for his personal study of Scripture. Now he tries to translate a verse or two from the Greek New Testament as part of his daily devotion.

The study of Greek can also be a helpful tool for apologetics and evangelism, says Simmons, who leads students in Southwestern’s effort to reach the communities that surround the seminary. He consistently shares the Gospel and disciples new believers at the nearby Times Square Apartments.

While sharing the Gospel with people near the seminary, Simmons has met several people who have joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Because of his training in Greek, Simmons is better able to explain to these people how they can understand New Testament passages, like the first chapter in John’s Gospel, which undergird the doctrine of the Trinity.

In this way, Simmons hopes that his study of the Greek New Testament will help him lead other people to faith, so that they can someday join a multitude of believers from every tribe, tongue and nation in praising the Lord God Almighty.

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