Why More Pastors Need to Master This Biblical Language

We need more teachers who can plumb the depth of God's Word. (Photo by Amy Velazquez on Unsplash)

I dreaded Greek more than any other class in college. It had me awake at 7:30 a.m., enduring lectures until 9 a.m.—and it was torture. Back then, I wouldn't have been voted the student most likely to write studies from the Greek.

Admittedly, however, the Greek did make reading the New Testament come to life in high definition. At least, when I graduated, I could appreciate it.

After I had been in full-time ministry for around six years, I grew discouraged. I had come to see God's Word get abused by a lot of popular teachers. It was getting to me.

One evening, I was reading a popular Christian inspirational book that had made The New York Times' bestseller list. I hurled it at the wall. There was no conviction. No depth. It was oversimplified to a fault. The author even alluded to this. I paced my home office.

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"We need more teachers who can plumb the depth of God's Word, break down passages that are commonly avoided and excite others about it," I mused. In that moment, I found an additional purpose in life.

I knew the only way to do this was to dust off my Greek studies and have at it again. This time I had a reason, purpose and single-mindedness. Within a month I was a student again—a student with fire in my belly.

My free time became filled with exegetical papers and syntactical exercises necessary to complete my studies. But it was enjoyable because, within my heart, I knew I was doing something the Spirit of God had nudged me to do.

Toward the end of my master's work, I began praying about how to merge the complex Greek language with the everyday lives of people who couldn't care less about koine Greek. How could I interest corporate professionals, busy parents and young people who are glued to their phones? An answer came on a humid, August night.

"God bless you. It's Greek for the week!"

I initially said this while filming the first video of a set of teaching videos I was doing on social media. It sort of just came out of my mouth, unrehearsed, and was followed by a practical teaching on the Greek from Colossians 4:6. It was a hit. And soon people were looking to me as the "Greek Geek" or the "Greek Guy" on social media.

There was one "Greek for the Week" that sort of opened up the eyes of those who were following me—where it all began to make sense why I was teaching Greek when others were overlooking it. I pointed out how 410 out of 678 verses in Mark begin with the Greek conjunction kai (καὶ), which means "and" or "even." (That's 64% of the verses! More than three-fifths).

None of my pastor friends had ever noticed this. It really doesn't stick out to us in the English. But in the Greek, it is too obvious to ignore. The implications of this are several, but for those seeing it for the first time, it suggested that maybe God's Word is an abyss and they aren't probing the ocean floor as they thought. Perhaps they were just getting out of the boat.

My inbox became full of pastors asking for sermon helps, theological advice and recommendations for Greek resources. I was also being asked how I could be a Spirit-filled Pentecostal and be so academic. (In other words, how can I pray in tongues, cast out devils and lay hands on the sick, but at the same time, be wholly given to academic scholarship?) It seemed as though "Greek for the Week" had begun to short-circuit some stereotypes out there.

In the past, it was common for Pentecostals, charismatics and "faith people" to say that the halls of scholasticism would make us too "heady" and choke our faith. This idea came fully equipped with all the quips, including: "So you go to cemetery ... I mean seminary?" I get it. But this sort of generalization has discouraged a lot of good scholarship and has kept Christian minds from seeing all the brilliance in God's Word. Something needs to change.

As "Greek for the Week" and my studies from the Greek continue forward, it is my hope that they inspire ministers and lay people alike to be optimistic about pursuing scholastics and taking upon themselves the challenge of thinking, and thinking all the more deeply. I pray that my Greek studies are able to help shape great Christian thinkers for the cause of Christ.

In this social media- and information-driven society, we find ourselves in a battle for ideals and worldview. We will either plant ourselves in God's Word or we will be tossed by the never-ending vortex of new information. May the Spirit-filled thinkers arise. And no better way for them to begin than by studying God's Word—especially from the Greek.

Chris Palmer is host of the popular podcast "Greek for the Week" and pastor of Light of Today Church in Michigan. His first book, Letters from Jesus: Studies from the Seven Churches of Revelation, released in September 2019.

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