Summary: How to preach a sermon from a Greek word.
To preach a sermon explaining the ins and outs and application for us today of a Greek New Testament word.
The New Testament was written in Koiné Greek, the Greek of the market place, street language, not the highfalutin Classical Greek of scholars. Yet so often, the Bible is translated into anything but Koiné English, if you care, street English. It is sometimes translated to sound so "religious" that people on the street don't think that it is relevant. It is one of the jobs of preaching to translate the Bible into everyday English. A number of Greek words are traditionally poorly translated in the New Testament, because we have attached a certain religiosity to them that did not exist in the common language of its writers. For example, in ancient Greek culture, words like apostle and repent were everyday words. Yet, we have translated them into English words that only religious people use, rather than using everyday words with similar meanings such as messenger and a change of heart. Occasional preaching on a Greek word can really help to bring God's message to average people, in everyday language.
This chapter expands upon the idea in chapter 15 but applies it to a Greek word. We will look at the Greek alphabet for those who have not yet studied it. We will also look at the origin, dictionary meaning and usage of a word in the New Testament.
The Greek Alphabet
As students of Hebrew and Greek will tell you, learning Greek starts off easier because the letters are easier to learn than Hebrew letters, but gets harder because the grammar is much harder than Hebrew grammar. However, God chose Greek for the New Testament. He could have chosen any language on earth. Greek does have certain advantages in explaining the Gospel over other choices, and even over modern English. That is why scholars really love the New Testament in Greek.
[[insert Greek alphabet]]
Learning the Greek alphabet is the first and most important thing that any preacher ought to learn. If you don't do any more with Greek than that, at least do that. For those of you who have learned a little Greek, can you still write the alphabet out including lower case and capital letters? The table usually includes both, and for sigma, its final form is included second. A rough English equivalent is usually included. However, most English speaking people do not always use the exact modern Greek pronunciation because, for instance pi (pie) is pronounced "pea" by Greeks, which can be confused with our letter p.
Analyzing a Greek word involves a detailed analysis in three steps: -
1. Etymology (Origins)
It is important, when studying a Greek word to discover its etymology, what it used to mean. For instance, the word apostle actually was originally an everyday word meaning official messenger. In pre-Christian times it also meant a fleet or embassy and carries with it the sense of the official authorization of an individual.
2. Lexicography (Dictionary Meaning)
A lexicon is merely a dictionary between two languages, but usually contains the morphemes or ways that words morph in that language. For instance, our English word talk morphs into talked, talking, talks, etc. If we look up the word apostle, we see that it comes from a verb meaning to send away, so an apostle was someone sent. The Friberg Greek Lexicon says that apostolos means one who is sent on a mission with full authority, apostle, messenger, and envoy. The UBS Greek Dictionary simply says apostle, messenger. The Louw-Nida Lexicon says that apostolos means one who fulfills the role of being a special messenger.
In order to more fully understand how a word is used in the Bible we also need to examine how it was used in ancient society. This is why some Bible scholars study Plato, Aristotle and other Greek Classics. It's not because they want to mix a syncretism with ancient Greek philosophy or are liberal pinkos as some people claim, wanting to water down the truth, but because they want to understand how Greek words were used in archaic culture.
A word may have been used in a certain way in ancient society, but if a Bible author uses the word in a more specific sense, then we need to understand what that writer meant in context, when he used the term. That is the case with many New Testament words. The word apostolos occurs 97 times in the New Testament and refers to those witnesses of the resurrection who were appointed to a special task, commissioned and empowered directly by Christ to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.
No modern missionaries, church envoys, great preachers, church planters, or great leaders of church movements have that same special status. Hence, any use of the word apostle for people today, although etymologically and by definition correct, is in a very much secondary sense, and can sound like pure arrogance. Biblical usage of the term seems to limit the word apostle in a sense that moderns cannot claim. They may be apostles (with a small a) in a generalized linguistic sense, but only the authorized witnesses to Christ's resurrection were Apostles (with a capital A).