Exploding the Myth of the Greek
This is a reprint from an Article that I wrote for Pastor Frank Townsend's excellent Old Paths Publication. It is also Chapter 2 in my Book Further Thoughts on the Word of God.
Preachers believing in the King James Bible can be roughly divided into two groups. The first is those who have seen through the absurdity of the new versions and the texts behind them. They don't necessarily see the King James Bible as infallible. They merely find it fundamentally safe to carry and preach it as a bulwark against the folly of the new versions. The second group sees the King James Bible as the Word of God. They have varying ideas about the veracity of the actual English words. Some, like me, believe the actual English words to be given by inspiration of God. Others find it intellectually safer to believe that God was somehow involved in the translation, but they shrink from concept of the absolute, utter infallibility of a King James Bible. The common sticking point against believing the English words of a King James Bible is a mythical concept of the Greek Bible. The purpose of this first article is to explode the myth of the Greek. If you are reading this article the odds are very high that you do not know anyone who speaks Greek. Yet you have probably heard countless preachers allude to knowing Greek. For the most part these would be Greek scholars are like young boys on a play ground who square off with each other and claim to know karate. They parlay, get into their stances, hoot and holler, but you have to be very ignorant of karate to think they know what they are doing. Whenever I preach to a crowd loaded with preachers I like to ask if there is anyone who speaks Spanish. There is almost always a fluent speaker of the Spanish language in attendance. I ask him from the floor if he could translate a few sentences for me. I then give a sentence similar to this "Take this twenty dollar bill upstairs and give it to grandma so that she can buy some ham downtown. He can readily rattle that off in Spanish. He speaks Spanish. He can think in Spanish. He really knows the language. I then ask if there is any preacher in the house who knows Greek. They are strangely silent. Many of them are doubtlessly guilty of making people believe they know Greek, but in the context of the last test, they keep their mouths shut. They don't know the Greek language. I then ask the Spanish speaker if he would consider me to know Spanish if all I could do was read the alphabet, conjugate a few hundred verbs and read a few texts with the help of a lexicon. The Spanish speaker will usually grin and say no. Others in the audience begin to see the point. The self-purported Greek experts begin to shift uncomfortably. I lived in the nation of Greece for three years. It is an incredibly superstitious nation whose idolatry is medieval. Every one of the priests of this superstitious system can read ancient Greek fluently. In fact, anyone who has graduated from high school can read ancient Greek, because in one year they study in the Modern Greek and write their lessons in ancient Greek, while in the next year they study in the ancient Greek but write in the Modern Greek. What confounds the Western student is the pronunciation. Western schools pronounce Greek differently. John Lacsaris reintroduced Greek to the Western Church after the fall of Constantinople in 1490. John Lacsaris would have spoken Greek with the Byzantine accent. Western scholars quickly gave it a Latin pronunciation. Accordingly, a word such as eulogia with the Latin pronunciation would be pronounced as evlowgeea (the g is hard) in Greece. The word eucharisto is pronounced efcahrdistow. Every few years I hear another story of some Western student getting off of a plane in Athens and trying to say something in Greek. What he says is absolutely incomprehensible to the Greek. The Western student will shake his head sadly and remark that they don't even know their own heritage. What the student doesn't realize is that if he had written his remark, the lowliest janitor in the airport could have read it and responded in kind. When I first returned to the states I began to hear preachers make remarks about how knowing the Greek would clear up mysteries in the Word of God. I found that puzzling. I had lived for three years in a land where everyone could read it and think in ancient Greek, and yet they crawled up hot dusty roads to light incense for idols. The people I knew who professed salvation by grace and walked in the light of God's Word were reading an English Bible. Even Greek professors in a typical bible college don't really speak Greek. For example, they can't interpret a preaching service for foreign visitors by doing the translation in Greek. That was a common technique with the Latin language a hundred years ago. When a professional group encountered difficulty in a given tongue a colleague would begin interpreting in Latin. Everyone was able to participate. I doubt that any reader of this article will find anyone in any bible college able to render that service in Greek. Someone might object that it is primarily used as a written language and not spoken. Tell them to write it in Greek, or at least take notes in Greek. The King James translators could have done either. The little boys in their karate poses will not be able. Today the brightest of students are most apt to go into the sciences or engineering. Occasionally we hear of a student who scores a perfect 1600 on his SAT test or some other remarkable achievement. Universities line up to court students of this caliber. When they graduate, the doors of industry are flung open to them. Today those same students do not study the classics. In the 1600's young men of that caliber went to Oxford or Cambridge and studied the classical languages. The same zeal used today to reach outer space, strengthen computers, study the atom or other such research was channeled into the classical languages. They didn't go to college to learn Greek. They had been reading, writing and speaking Greek since their earliest education. In C. S. Lewis's autobiographical work, Surprised By Joy, he gives glimpses into the typical classical education he received via private tutor. He recounts afternoons when he and his tutor would just sit around and chat in Greek. Even his light moments of relaxation were immersed in the Greek language. Imagine their mirth if they were to encounter the average preacher today claiming to know Greek. The sad reality is that the average so-called Greek professor could not have been hired as a tutor to a high school student one hundred years ago. The average janitor at the Helenikon International Airport in Athens is more fluent in the ancient Greek tongue than most supposed experts in the Greek language practicing karate poses for their unsuspecting and adoring students. Dr. Bill Bradley, author of Purified Seven Times: The Miracle of the English Bible, states in his lecture series that there is only one, maybe two scholars living today who would have been qualified to have sat on the King James translating committee. In 1611 two universities produced fifty-four such men. In my twenty-two years of salvation I have yet to hear anyone who changed the wording of the King James Bible because he felt compelled by the Greek. Every single change I have ever heard attempted, and I have heard many, was made because the text the preacher was reading did not as fully support the preacher's current point or doctrine. The preacher then reached into the Greek and found a justification to exalt his point of view. I am reminded of a statement made by my eleventh grade health teacher about rationalization. Coach Chadick wanted every boy present to know the first rule of rationalization: Anything can be rationalized if you want to do it badly enough. Being able to rationalize an action does not make it right or wrong. Not being fluent in the Greek language, but only having access to lexicons, makes a preacher able to rationalize any correction he wants to make. If I were to give a statement to a gathering of foreign students, imagine the confusion if I were to allow them to use a dictionary and render my statement any way they saw fit as long as they could find some justification in the dictionary. A statement such as, " Everyone move to the back and find a seat, should make sense to anyone. If that statement were to be interpreted like the average preacher interprets Greek it could have many meanings. One student might get up and say that when 21st century Americans talked about moving they were referring to a change of address. Another enterprising linguist might suggest that the word "back" was a reference to moving back in social order. Another might say it most generally referred to the spinal area. One who really had access to more sources than the others might call attention to the American habit of calling a move from the Western United States to the Eastern portion, going back. Take note. The students who made such a mockery out of the simple statement were not stupid. In fact, the more resources to which they had access, the more capable they were of confusing their audience. The more resources they had, the more able they were to render their interpretation to whatever best suited their needs. Imagine when they reached the word "seat". Today's Greekifiers work similarly. When they find a clear-cut passage in the King James Bible that doesn't say what they want it to say they run to the Greek. Keep this in mind. They do not speak the language. They just look at the various words and try to find some historical or linguistic justification for making it say what they want it to say. If Greek were such a panacea for understanding the Word of God, we could expect the top Greek faculties to agree on key issues. Once a man learned Greek he should be firm with all scholars on such issues as election, the charismatic movement, the deity of Christ, a pretribulation rapture, etc. One would think that all true Greek scholars would be in one denomination. Every denomination has supposed experts in the Greek language. The Jehovah Witnesses do. The Mormons do. The Catholics do and so do the Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and every other denomination. The layman in his pew has a false sense of security that somewhere in the upper echelons or possibly in the pulpit is a man who can back up everything with the Greek. He is sadly mistaken. There is no excuse for Baptists to use such hocus-pocus. The King James Bible as it is written is a Baptist book. It is the proof for Baptist doctrine. The great miracle behind that statement is that the men who translated the King James Bible despised Baptists. They were divided between Arminians and Calvinists as well as Episcopalians and Presbyterians. They all believed in a state church. In their intellectual honesty they forged a book that destroyed the bedrock tenets of their various denominations. The Presbyterians, Episcopalians and all their offshoot denominations have had to abandon the King James Bible in order to uphold their respective theologies. Taken as it is written, keeping each context straight, the King James Bible refutes current Protestant and Catholic theology. A person cannot teach a state church without changing the last preposition in Luke 17:21. Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. The Arminian position falls apart if 1John 3:9 is left exactly as it appears in the AV 1611. Whosoever is born of God (the inward man of I Pet 3: 4) doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. Calvinists rage against Hebrews 2:9b as it appeared in 1611. That he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. A King James Bible will always teach the Baptist position. Yet, the Baptists did not create the King James Bible, the King James Bible created the Baptists. The other denominations have been forced to constantly re-edit and rework their bibles every few years. They refuse to change their doctrine. They must, therefore change their bible. They all grope through a morass of faulty manuscripts in a language that is foreign to them. They will stay in that state until the antichrist appears to give them a common faith. Not surprisingly, there is as much ambiguity and confusion among Greek scholars as among those who know nothing of the language. Men do not learn their doctrine from reading Greek. They learn their doctrine in English and then spend a lifetime trying to justify it with the limited Greek they know. A true Bible believer is one who believes the words as they are written. A simple rule of thumb for determining if a preacher is in error is to see if what he says contradicts the King James Bible in any point in its proper context. Changing a passage to make it fit a theological point, even if that point is a true one in a different context, is like a person who carves a piece of a jigsaw puzzle to make it fit the picture. He may make it fit where he is, but somewhere else something will not go together right. A King James Bible will never contradict itself in any point. Any change using the Greek will make it do so. After its holiness and power, the greatest single proof that the King James Bible is the Word of God is that by keeping each verse in context, and quoting it just as it stands, it is impossible to teach a heresy. Why would anyone tamper with such a Bible?