Sunday, December 7, 2008

Greek Words

In some abusive churches and cults of Christianity, leaders pay too much attention to some Greek words and even base their doctrines on them. This is why it may be helpful for ex-members to find out the true meanings of those words.

The following material is based on two books:
1. Gordon D. Fee New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors
2. David Alan Black Using New Testament Greek in Ministry: A Practical Guide for Students and Pastors

Every word has a spectrum of meanings. However, in the context, the word usually has only one meaning. This is why the purpose in studying the word is to find out what the word means in that context and what the author meant using that word.

In the word study, it is helpful to find answers to the following questions:
1. What are the possible meanings of the word?
2. What meaning is the most suitable in the context?
3. What is the meaning of the word in other passages of the same author?
4. Does the word have any additional connotation?
5. Are there any synonyms or antonyms of the word in the context that can help to find its meaning?

The most frequent errors in the word study:
1. The meaning of the word is defined only from its etymology.
2. All the possible meanings are applied to the word in every place it is found.
3. The word is considered to be the main idea of the text. However, the idea of the text depends on more than one word.
4. The word study is overemphasized and other methods of the exegesis are neglected.

Two examples given by Gordon D. Fee:
1. The Greek word for church is ekklesia. This word is derived from ek (from, out) and kaleo (to call). However, in the New Testament time, this word did not mean "those who are called out."
2. John used the words "phileo" and "agapao" (both mean "to love") interchangeably.

In order to find the spectrum of meanings of the word, it is good to find the meaning of that word in Greek:
1. Outside of the Bible
2. In Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament)
3. In the New Testament
4. In the writings of the same author

After you have found the spectrum of meanings, you can find the meaning of the word in the context. Try to find some hints in the context that can help to find the meaning.

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