I’m not and I will never be a pastor.
But I understand why my denomination hammers Greek and Hebrew endlessly to its students. SO many false teachings and misunderstandings come because, while the English translations of God’s Word are nice, they are translations of God’s Word. Translation is, by definition, interpretation. No one who knows more than one language will argue this. There simply isn’t a 1:1 correlation between any two languages that I know of, even closely related ones like French and Spanish or Italian. Now take stuff from 1900 years ago, many times removed, and it becomes very plain.
It is not a new or a radical idea that every educated Christian should try to learn the language of the Bible. Author Willa Cather, who lived during the years of World War I, when the Wild West was a living memory (that means that eyewitnesses still lived who remembered it), doesn’t have illiterate cowboys like western movies. She depicts cowboys or ranch hands whose priests will ride them if they don’t translate 10+ lines of Caesar (That would be The Gallic Wars) every day to keep up with their Latin!
I have listened to most of the Epistles on audio book over the past two weeks, and I have found a lot of times when big or little things depend on hearing something in English and thinking it was written in English for Englishmen to easily understand.
Biggest example: Concerning the spiritual gifts, brothers, I have no need to write to you…
Um… the word “gifts” does not appear in the Greek at all. It is: Concerning the spirituals. Now, there is a word for gifts that Paul uses freely, but he doesn’t use it here. There is no such phrase in all scripture as “Spiritual gift”. It’s something Tyndale inserted into the text as his best guess, but it was just a guess. It could be “spiritual people”, “spiritual rocks,” or “spiritual tadpoles” for all the Greek states explicitly. You can’t get any more specific than spiritual… somethings (plural).
I’ve noted that Colossians 3 doesn’t say: Whatever you find for your hands to do, do it with all your might. It says, “Whatever you find to do, do it from out of your soul.” Is it a BAD translation? Not really, but it doesn’t capture the sense of working from the core of your being in service to Jesus.
You have to dig into Greek terminology to understand how to apply Roman law to 1 Corinthians 6 about the law and believers.
There are a hundred places where there is an emphasis, a direction or emotion to the language that simply won’t, can’t fit into English. A translator has to pick one of maybe a dozen ways to get closer, but that decision will itself be informed by the translator’s own understanding and approach to the text.
So… it’s not KJV, or ESV, or even NIV. It’s Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. That’s why we spend so much money and respect greatly our pastors, who do the work that many of us cannot spare to go to God’s Word when we cannot.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to get there myself.