A comment that I read today over on another blog reminded me once again why online Greek resources are too often insufficient. There are a number of Greek-English lexicons (Louw-Nida, for instance) available online, and there is the ubiquitous Blue-Letter Bible website, as well. All of these resources are touted as making it easier for Christians to understand the Word of Christ better. In reality, the often do the exact opposite.
As far as I’m concerned, there is rarely anything as dangerous as someone with access to a Greek or Hebrew lexicon, but with no training in the biblical languages. The first problem is that most people have no idea how to read a lexicon. I can’t possibly count the number of blog posts I’ve come across where a lexicon entry is referenced for a particular Greek term, and the author of said blog post attempts to force every possible meaning for that word into its appearance in a particular text. Ultimately, it is context that determines the meaning of any particular word. Just because a particular word can mean five things doesn’t mean that it does mean all five things simultaneously.
Another issue is that these online resources lead unsuspecting Christians to believe that the bare meaning of a particular word is sufficient for exegesis, without having any knowledge of the various noun cases, verb tenses and voice, participle usages or infinitival usages. Each of these various aspects of Greek grammar affect translation, and how words are understood in their immediate context.
Even if you do grasp the most basic translational issues surrounding the noun cases (that the genitive is translated with “of” and the dative with “to/for”) that only opens the door to more questions, not less! So you know that the particular term you’re looking at is a genitive…but the genitive noun can fall into four different categories (adjectival, ablatival, verbal, and adverbial, which isn’t to mention it’s use after specific words) with twenty-nine possible usages! Determining which usage is the correct one does affect the meaning of the word; figuring out a word’s meaning in a particular text isn’t always as simple as leafing through the pages of your copy of Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon.
I point all of this out in order to encourage the unwary to be careful how they use online resources lest they stumble into error.
- Linguistic lunacy (pausingplace.com)
- Why Should I Learn Greek and Hebrew? (cwoznicki.wordpress.com)
- Was the Virgin Birth a ‘mistranslation’? If Stavrakopoulou had read the LXX… (timothymichaellaw.com)