Friday, September 5, 2008

Treasures from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Wayne Jackson

Treasures from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Wayne Jackson

Archaeology is a fascinating field and offers insights that have puzzled many until it unearths the missing pieces of the puzzle to present a clearer picture of the situation. For example, it was commonly thought back in the 19th century that the language of the New Testament was so unique that it was used by the Holy Spirit exclusively. There were four basic types of Greek known at the time: Homeric, Attic, Byzantine and Modern. Archaeologists discovered that this specialized Greek was not so unique, and in fact was widely used in correspondence, legal documents and was the language of the common people. This type of Greek is referred to as koine or Hellenistic Greek. It was the predominant form of Greek after the death of Alexander the Great and was used throughout the known world approximately 300 years before and after the life of Christ. One source says the Roman Empire used this form of Greek as much as they did Latin in their writings. Wayne Jackson writes:

“Koine Greek was the most precise instrument for the expression of human thought that the world has ever known. Little wonder then that, in the providence of God, this medium is used to convey the final revelation of heaven to humankind.” (Preface).
The study of a foreign language is very rewarding, but not everyone has taken the opportunity to study a language other than English. Studying Latin for a year in high school, I was fascinated to learn the history, culture and other aspects of the Roman Empire where Latin was predominantly utilized. Attempting to learn a new language is a daunting task to many, but accessing koine Greek has been made easier due to the work of religious scholars who have developed tools for those unlearned in the language so these can also explore the sacred text. The challenge is often “Where do I begin?”

This makes Wayne Jackson’s book so valuable. It is written for those who have not had the opportunity to study koine Greek. The book is simplistic in its approach, but weighty in its applications to the New Testament. It deals with the letters, moods, tenses, prepositions, articles and other areas of Greek grammar. The book includes an extensive bibliography referencing other works that may help one reach the next level in their study of this vital language. Plus, there is a very helpful Scripture index that will be important for those seeking to incorporate what they have learned into their study.

One point that is imperative one knows: be aware of the background of a writer when reading their religious material. This is likewise true when studying writers on the Greek language and their application to doctrine. Wayne Jackson does an excellent job of pointing out the bias of some writers in relation to the Greek preposition eis. Some attempt to twist this preposition in Acts 2:38 to teach that baptism is for sins previously forgiven rather than for the purpose of removing sins. For example, “Noted grammarian A. T. Robertson, of Baptist persuasion, in a discussion concerning eis in Acts 2:38, confessed that sometimes theologian’s opinion must take precedence over the grammar.” (page 78). Imagine that…it does not matter what the Greek reads, what matters is what Robertson thinks it should read! It would be difficult to find a more clear confession of a theologian’s bias with the sacred text.

Treasures from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader indeed is a valuable introduction to a world of enriching study of the language of the New Testament.

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