Monday, March 6, 2023

Do We Really Believe Greek Is Indispensable?

I happened to be on campus today for a meeting and ran into one of my favorite colleagues who has a new book about Zwingli coming out this year. I can't wait to read it. When I lived in Switzerland I decided to make a personal "Zwinglireise" (Zwingli tour) that included his birthplace in Wildhaus (pronounced Vild-hoose) and the battlefield in Kappel on which he died. 

Zwingli's "Geburtshaus." 

Like Zwingli, I am a graduate of the University of Basel, where we both learned to love New Testament Greek. I can honestly say that Greek is an indispensable tool for ministers of the word. I suspect that this statement will sound shocking, even outrageous, to leaders of ministerial education in our day. Why, in North American seminaries, one can take courses in biblical preaching and not know a single word of either Hebrew or Greek. But readers of Zwingli and other great preachers of the past such as John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards will easily see, if they know what they are looking for, how much use those ministers made of careful grammatical reasoning. We could say the same thing about writers of a later period such C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, at whose feet I had the privilege of sitting. They all made relentless use of Greek, and to good effect. With none of these men was it a matter of trusting in Greek rather than relying on the Holy Spirit. They understood that studying grammar and logic was simply meeting the conditions by which the Holy Spirit works. Wesley once asked himself, "Am I a tolerable master of the sciences? Have I gone through the very gate of them, logic? If not, I am not likely to go much farther when I stumble at the threshold."

Preacher friend, don't shortchange yourself, or your Lord. The issue here is: Have I done my very best to exegete a passage of Scripture before expounding upon it? Our efforts often fall short of what they should accomplish. After all, we are all frail human beings. Perhaps the deeper issue here is one of faithfulness. God has been faithful to preserve for us his inerrant, infallible, and perfect word. And now we must answer with our fidelity. The only question is: Will we? 

Zwingli's pulpit in Zurich.