It is possible that a generation of preachers may grow up relying on the great translation work of the ESV and other translations and preaching from the English Bible with infrequent reference even in preparation to the original languages. Would such a situation be less or more problematic for the church than people with the “little knowledge” that is often described as a dangerous thing attempting to revise Bible translations themselves? How important is it in your view for every preacher to learn the original Greek and Hebrew for themselves?
Watch Vern Poythress respond (Windows Media format).
One of the questions is whether every preacher should learn Greek and Hebrew, or whether it’s sufficient to use an accurate translation like the ESV. I don’t think that’s an easy question to answer because it depends on so many questions and context. I believe that continued study and access to the original texts is an important part of the life of the church as a whole because we constantly need to check our own perceptions of what God is saying against what he said. And that’s most accurately represented, of course, in the original manuscripts.
The other side of it, however, is that we need to disseminate this Word of God broadly. And that means that there will be people who preach because God has called them, but [who are] without all the gifts and all the time of study that it takes to learn the original languages. And I’m in favor of that aspect, too.
I think it’s important to see that Lord designed his people, the church, in a way that we work together. So that if a preacher, for example, without good skills in the original languages has a question, or if he’s challenged by some heretical view that claims that it’s based on some funny thing that supposedly is found in the original languages, that preacher can go to somebody else who does know the original languages and say, “What about this?” And then get aid and get ammunition if it’s a heresy that he’s dealing with to address that thing on the basis of very good knowledge.
If we work together, some people’s very good knowledge of Greek and Hebrews is going to help those with little or no knowledge. I think it’s important to realize two things: One is that the ultimate criterion for settling controversies in doctrine and in the rest of living is the Bible as it’s found in the original, what God originally spoke and caused to be written. The other side of it, however, is that an English translation like the ESV is really a very good representation of that original message, and that we can use that English translation with great confidence. So you don’t have to have knowledge of Greek and Hebrew in order to be even a preacher of the Word. But you do have to have humility enough to go to other people when you need help.
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