Thursday, June 28, 2007

Greek in Sermons


I struggle whether or not to use Greek words in my sermons. I know the arguments on both sides...on the one side there are people who say, "If you want to show you are educated, hang your diploma on the wall...don't use Greek in the sermon!" And it can be awfully dry and boring. I know that I have had negative feedback from using it ("We're not in a college class!")

On the other hand, the Bible was NOT originally written in English. The nature of language and language translation is that it is impossible to directly translate the meaning of one word in a perfect way by using another word in the second language. Cultures, multiple meanings, implications, etc. differ too much for there ever to be a word-for-word correspondence in translating one language to the other. And I have had people thank me repeatedly for the Greek words I use in my sermons. (BTW: I almost NEVER use Hebrew...my Hebrew skills have been dead for several decades now).

This arises because I really struggled with whether to deal with the meaning of pneumatikos found in I Cor. 12:1 in Sunday's sermon on spiritual gifts. I mention Greek meanings or constructions in 1/3-1/2 of my sermons. But I was really struggling with this word. The NIV (& TNIV which I preach from) translates it as "spiritual gifts." But three previous times in I Cor. it is translated as "one with the spirit" The normal word for spiritual gifts is charismata. But here they translate pneumatikos as "spiritual gifts" And the Baker Commentary noted that some translaters prefer to translate it as "the one with the spirit" here as well. And so I made the point that spiritual maturity involves a proper understanding and use of spiritual gifts. I made more of this Greek word than I usually do, and am still not comfortable with it. I have not gotten feedback on it, but I think that if I am still uncomfortable with it 36 hours after preaching it, it probably was unnecessary. This is one of the very few times when I have felt uncomfortable using Greek in a sermon AFTER the sermon was done.

What about you? Do you mention Greek (or Hebrew, you genius, you) in your preaching? Do you have limitations or guidelines of what you will or will not use? How has it worked for you?

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