The only way to keep your Greek and Hebrew is to read Greek and Hebrew. I think you probably already knew that was the answer. You just didn’t want to admit it. But the languages are just like everything else: if you don’t use it, you’ll loose it. So what we really need is not a trick or a gimmick, but a reading plan. In the rest of this post, I will offer two.
The μυστήριον for Paul is less the “secret” of Christ’s Messianic identity and more like the “surprise” that the Gospel, as it is fulfilled in the resurrection and Pentecost, goes out beyond the Jews; it goes directly to the Gentiles too, and to the ends of the earth.
We think exegesis is at its best when we arrive at “the answer,” when we reach “understanding,” but actually exegesis is at its best when the text seems strange and alien to us. We need to make the text strange again.
The question is really a matter of “how many exegetical decisions am I going to answer in my translation.” The more you leave ambiguous, the more burden you put on the reader. The more exegetical questions you answer, the less burden you put on the reader.
Your audience might be under the assumption that the “original languages” are possessed with a kind of magic, a deep meaning that they cannot get from their plebian translations. In appealing to the original you may be reinforcing that conclusion, sowing the seeds of distrust of translation, or worse, cultivating mistaken conclusions about biblical interpretation.
As a working guideline, then, I propose we evaluate translations on the basis of three criteria. A good translation (1) has a well-defined, well-reasoned, and useful translation philosophy, (2) applies that philosophy consistently over the “many parts and various ways” God has spoken to us in his word (Heb. 1:1), and (3) uses the “best of what’s around” to understand the original Hebrew and Greek text. The NLT gets an “A” in all three of these categories, as I will establish in a bit.
When to Use Your Language Knowledge, Part 2: Only if it’s Absolutely Necessary (and it probably isn’t)
Even if you can utilize your knowledge of Greek or Hebrew syntax and vocabulary, there’s probably a better way to prove your point, and you should take that route instead.
So you think that the person you’re talking to (or preaching at) needs to fully appreciate what the Greek or Hebrew really says? I recently tweeted out the following conditions that must be true before...
For the last 4 years I have told my students at Reformed Theological Seminary and Westminster Seminary to forego the expense of Logos (and, by extension, Accordance, and BibleWorks, though each has different advantages and disadvantages) in favor of the relatively inexpensive subscription to BibleArc. But with recent advancements in digital resources, I’m changing my tune a bit.