Gems From Greek, Basil Overton
The term etymology means “The origin and historical development of a word, as evidenced by study of its basic elements, earliest known use, and changes in form and meaning.” (American Heritage Dictionary, p. 451). At Centralia High School, I took a year of Latin that has forever impacted my view of language. The study of words—etymology, has always been intriguing to me. Another person captivated by etymology is brother Basil Overton, or as he put it during our recent visit “I am a word nut”. Brother Basil has written an excellent work on the language of the New Testament—Koine Greek.
Koine Greek was the common Greek language of Jesus’ day. Koine Greek was an enigma for many years. Koine Greek is different from the more popularly known classical Greek. There existed a popular theory among scholars about Koine Greek:
Within the last hundred years scholars still thought that the language in which the New Testament was written was a special language of the Holy Ghost. They said the Holy Spirit moulded a distinctively religious mode of expression with which to write the New Testament. (Gems From Greek, p. 5.)
Imagine the embarrassment of such scholars when the efforts of biblical archaeology discovered numerous documents containing Koine Greek including receipts, grocery lists, contracts, love letters, military documents, and business letters.
Many are familiar with the World Evangelist, which Basil Overton founded and has edited for nearly 30 years. One of the featured columns of this paper is “Gems from Greek”. After sixteen years, these were collected into book form and are now available through Christian bookstores and The World Evangelist.
Sadly, our culture has moved away from encouraging students to learn other languages. By learning another language, a person’s view of the world is greatly enhanced. I do not know Koine Greek, but I do fully agree with Brother Overton’s assessment about learning about words of the Bible:
This book is the product of my curiosity. I believe one can become a Christian, live the Christian life, and go to heaven, if he never knows a word of Greek. But, there is personal satisfaction in gaining insights from the study of Greek…. I have never taught a class in Greek. I have studied it for personal satisfaction. The lessons in this book are designed to help everyone who reads them not just to learn a few Greek words, but to learn some great spiritual truths and lessons, and to be encouraged to serve God better. (Forward).
This book provides a good introduction to the topic including the relationship between Greek and English. It explains the difference between translation and transliteration, which is very important to understand. It includes word studies on various topics and from various books in the New Testament, which are indexed in the table of contents. Speaking from personal experience, the study of this subject is very profitable. A person who finds great satisfaction from the study of New Testament words finds it disappointing when he or she cannot convey this enthusiasm to others who have lost a thrilling method of studying God’s word. If you have the resources, then purchase this book. Upon my recommendation, a Christian brother, Chris Funkhouser, purchased the book as a gift for his father-in-law. He later told me his father-in-law was thrilled with the book, and you will be too.
Originally printed in West Virginia Christian, Vol. 9, No. 4, April 2002, p. 8. Reprinted by permission.