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Excellent post. In my experience, the issue with using biblical languages from the pulpit has less to do with pride and humility--although that is significant--than it does with the pressure the speaker feels to come up with something new and unique. It's dangerously tempting to pull a linguistic slight-of-hand in order to get a novel interpretation. But the damage, especially long-term, to the hearers is exactly the same as your example of correcting the English Bible. The message your congregation gets is that they cannot really get the message of Scripture for themselves; they must rely on the trained exegete with the hidden gnosis to dig it out for them. Once that happens, they will quit trying to unearth God's truth for themselves, and become susceptible to anyone else who also claims to have a novel interpretation "from the original Greek."

I tell people that the greatest benefit to my own study of the biblical languages was to inoculate me against bad biblical teaching, and to reaffirm that the English translators really have done a pretty good job. I also tell them that the answers to most biblical questions don't lie in an appeal to biblical languages; reading the original tends to raise as many questions as it answers.

Good response. There are many modern-day gnostics aren't there? People who think they know something that most others don't. Humility is hard when everyone (at least many) want you on a pedestal. But a good point, that languages can keep you from error.

Great post. I concur fully. I think one's motives for citing the original language are paramount. A preacher's desire to elevate himself can be quite transparent at times.

I have a unique experience. I pastor a congregation with a very high degree of literacy in the biblical languages, especially Hebrew (we are a messianic congregation). So my congregants actually love it - in fact, they expect it - when I bring Hebrew into the discussion. It is as if I am giving them the salient points of biblical Hebrew grammar and how they can influence our interpretation of any given passage. I happen to love the biblical languages and, strangely and happily, my congregation does too! (Maybe they're not the norm, but I am not too disappointed about that!) Nothing jives them more than to see, from the grammar, support for what hopefully is the correct interpretation.

This past weekend, for example, I preached on Exodus 6:2-8. The title of my sermon, as could be found in the bulletin, was 'Ani Yahweh,' ("I am Yahweh"), since that term occurred four times in those few short verses. Whereas God was not known experientially to the patriarchs by His name Yahweh (according to all that is conveyed by that name), He would be known in that way by the generation of the Exodus. Anyway, I consider myself fortunate that my congregation shares my love for the biblical languages. They actually want me to provide that information for them. Many in the congregation have Diglot bibles and can often be seen glancing at the original language text. I'm spoiled, aren't I?

Any way, great post, Dr. Mounce!

Excellent post. I wholeheartedly beg of you (okay, a bit of an exaggeration), to do a blog on the two topics you mentioned. "I don’t believe in congregational rule (another blog post) and I do believe that Paul gives us a hierarchical structure for the church — a teaching elder supported by deacons in each house church (another blog post)". I would love to get your take on these topics as one who struggles with the correct balance in church hierarchy.

I will write those topics down with the others I have. It is a bit off topic for this blog, but important. In the meantime, why don't you try to find any evidence in the teachings or practices of the early church that shows there were multiple elders in the same house church, recognizing that, for example, the "church in Philippi" was not a "church" as we tend to think of it but a way of referring to all the house churches in the city.

Alexander Strauch, in his book 'Biblical Eldership,' attempts to plead the case for multiple elders in the same church. His model of church leadership opts for multiple elder rule. While I've always bought into this, it seems hard to prove it definitively from the scriptures (definitively being the operative word). Dr. Mounce, if I had to guess from your last post, I'd say that you were calling this notion into question. I could be wrong; so far, you have left your position unsaid. But you certainly whetted my appetite to hear your further thoughts. But even if a scriptural case could not be made for multiple elders within the same house church, I would think that it would be equally difficult to demonstrate the case for multiple deacons (serving in support of one teaching elder) within the same house church. Would this not be so? At any rate, I am anxiously looking forward to a future post from you on this subject (if and when you are amenable to doing one). Thanks much.

I had always accepted this position of multiple elder leadership, but when I read Strauch I was shocked to find no evidence to support the position. I think I disagreed with almost every conclusion he drew (I think in chapter 4) because the verses did not support his conclusions (my opinion). It is in the queue for blogging.

Thanks, Dr. Mounce. I have enjoyed your writings and books immensely. Thanks so much for your service and ministry to the body of Messiah!

Thanks Dr. Mounce. Very helpful.

Do you think that word studies can do the job for Bible teachers?

I am not sure what you mean. Can you clarify?

I just try to explain what the Greek or Hebrew is saying without explicitly saying "the Greek says.." or "the Hebrew says.." if a point of clairification is needed, otherwise, I just leave it alone and make my points.

it is refreshing to read someone with as much knowledge of the Greek as you have suggesting a more inductive manner of preaching.

"Do not correct the English Bible. Ever!"

This is possibly one of the most dangerous statements I have ever heard.

The danger that such a statement engenders is that of Bibliolatry - the worship of the scripture more than the Logos of God itself.

Translations are translations. They are the work of humans. They are fallible as Romans 3:23 points out. Miss that and you miss the incarnational nature of Christ, and the danger is that you try and capture God between the pages of a book - this does not glorify Him.

Our congregations surely need to be taught with a little more intelligence than a blind "don't correct the bible" closed approach. If we open the minds of our congregations to the nuances of the actual Word rather than the words (remembering that a comma in a different place can make a world of theological difference to a text written without punctuation), then we serve God better.

If you don't let people explore beauty, the poetry, the layers and the subtexts of Holy Scripture then surely the first time they read it properly, they will feel that you have cheated them. For goodness sake, let the new faithful grow in faith and understanding and treat them like adults! Lie or obfuscate and they will catch you out! Honesty from the pulpit is surely the best policy.

From either an academic or a hermeneutical perspective, this is a dangerous statement. I agree that the use of the original languages should be used with caution, so as to avoid showing-off but not shied away from. The faithful should be encouraged to grow, and I would suggest this using multiple translations and interlinear works and not just the one you choose because it supports your argument.

Have you ever had a person from the congregation ask you how they can trust their Bible when you are showing on a repeated basis that the translation they use and love makes errors? You may want to think through the pastoral implications of that first.

It is not bibliolatry. There are many ways to help people see the correct and/or fuller meaning of the text without making them distrust the only form of the Bible they are able to read and understand. This was the point of my blog, but you have taken it out of context; I wonder whose statement is truly "dangerous."

It is always interesting to me to see how people argue. Calling my blog "blind" and "closed" is hardly appropriate. I am neither blind nor closed. Ad hominem arguments may work in politics, but not in the church.

RE: "Never correct the English Bible from the pulpit"...

Understand and typically agree. But what exactly is the difference from doing it in the pulpit or in print? I recall D. A. Carson stating in his For the Love of God Vol 1 re: Titus 1:

“The NIV translation is unfortunate. The Greek should be rendered “whose children are faithful” or, more literally, “having faithful children” τέκνα ἔχων πιστά.” That is, children are not to be “wild and disobedient.” The servant-leader must demonstrate he is capable of ordering the church by having parental control in his home. If Titus 1:6 were understood to stipulate that children be believers, one might ask, “From what age?” Moreover, children of believing parents are not guaranteed salvation, which is the work of God’s sovereignty and grace alone (cf., Rom. 9:15). Finally, this corrected reading of Titus 1:6 fits well with instructions to Timothy (1 Timothy 3:4).”


Excellent post and thanks, Dr. Mounce. I have enjoyed your writings and books immensely. Thanks so much for your service and ministry to the body of Messiah!

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