Must I study the Bible in its original languages to understand it?


by Shawn Brasseaux

We are constantly urged to study the Bible in its original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek form. Is this really necessary? What is wrong with reading the English Bible?

The argument goes something like this: “The original Bible had 11,280 Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words, but the average English translation only has 6,000 words. Shades of meaning can be overlooked, so we should appeal to the original languages just in case the translators missed something, or in order for us to get a fuller impact of the verses.” You might have heard someone say, “In the Greek (or Hebrew), the word is …. and its meaning is …. , so a better translation is ….” (This is an extremely convenient tool for those who prefer to justify their denominational bias as opposed to allowing God’s Word to expose their doctrinal errors. By appealing to the “original languages,” one can simply “correct” the parts of the Bible that disagrees with his or her particular theological persuasion, and the common man [who is ignorant of Greek and Hebrew] will never know otherwise and will never second-guess the “experts!”)

While there is nothing wrong with studying Hebrew and/or Greek, you must be mindful of the fact that not all Hebrew and Greek Bibles are the same. In fact, there are actually two general sets of manuscripts for the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), and two general sets of manuscripts for the Greek Bible (New Testament)—there is also a Greek Bible of the Old Testament (called the Septuagint, or LXX). It should also be pointed out that, as some have mentioned in the past, you can do Hebrew and Greek word studies without a Bible even in the room! Thus, Greek and Hebrew studies are not necessarily Bible study, and under no circumstances whatsoever should they be used to undermine and/or change God’s Word.

In Bible days, educated religious leaders usually deceived the unsuspecting, trusting, common people. Remember what Jesus said of the Pharisees and scribes of His day: “[1] Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, [2] Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: [3] All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:1-3). The scribes and Pharisees were highly educated religious leaders in Israel. These “lawyers” and “doctors [of theology]” were Mosaic Law experts, and they demanded everyone obey it. However, Jesus repeatedly exposed these “experts” as hypocrites. Despite their godly outward appearance, they were not God’s servants. In fact, they persecuted and killed God’s servants, under the cloak of religion too (Luke 11:45-52).

Archeologists report that a stone seat is found in front of every synagogue: this is “Moses’ seat,” where the authoritative scribes would sit and teach the Law to the people (Matthew 23:1-3, quoted above). These scribes felt they were successors of Moses (a man of faith). They held a place of authority, but they were “blind guides” because they lacked godly wisdom (Matthew 23:16,24). Unlike Moses, these religious leaders were not experts when it came to faith in God’s Word. The Bible even tells us they manifested their unbelief by refusing John’s water baptism (Luke 7:29,30).

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were guilty of faithless religious activity. It appeared good, but it was spiritually wicked because it was hypocritical. But, behold the hypocritical “blind guides” of our day! Theologians and seminarians, “experts” in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin, are destitute of expertise in faith (believing what God said). They all claim to be Bible “scholars” (ha!), yet how many really believe what God’s Word says? FEW! They seek your proficiency in the “‘original’ Greek and Hebrew,” but they have no real interest in teaching you to believe God’s Word in English. Furthermore, they encourage you to join them as they faithlessly mimic Israel’s rites, rituals, and ceremonies (formalism).

Remember, according to Jesus Christ, despite an educated person’s charisma and eloquence, he or she is not necessary an expert when it comes to faith in God’s Word. Furthermore, just because it looks nice, does not necessarily mean God approves it.

“…And the common people heard [Jesus] gladly” (Mark 12:37). Whether in the Greek or English Bible, we read that God’s Word is for “the common people.” Once, after I read a seminarian’s “Bible” study article, I concluded that that was more of a Hebrew study. It left me, a Christian, with more questions than answers. (I can only wonder what confusion it brought to the poor lost souls who read it!)

Oftentimes, theology (mis)leads us to believe that we must go to school for 10 years to learn Koine Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and/or Aramaic, in order to fully grasp the Bible’s concepts. If God required that from us, hardly any of us could ever be saved, or even know God’s will in the first place!!

Contrariwise, God’s Word, the King James Bible, is for the common people. Its 54 faithful, Holy Spirit-filled men who translated it in 1611 knew the Bible languages. They purified and perfected the language of the existing English Bibles to provide us—the common people—with a Bible we could own and read personally (rather than it being chained to a church altar, or “shackled” in Rome’s Latin “bible”).

Mark 12:37 says how our Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the common people. He did not depend on the “educated” religious leaders to reach the common people (these “scholars” were too corrupt, and would have perverted His pure doctrine!). Observe what Christ told His Father: “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Luke 10:21).

The key to understanding the Bible is not a college or seminary education. If you have an ear to hear, an eye to see, and you are willing to study God’s Word and learn, the Holy Spirit will illuminate your mind: “Which things we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13).

After all, the Bible is for the common people!

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). They were not entirely “unlearned and ignorant….” Christendom often requires one to have a degree to teach the Bible… or, ludicrously enough, even to sing in the church choir (!). Dear saints, memorize Acts 4:13, and let it, not traditional thinking, be your authority in that matter.

Again, studying the Bible’s original languages of Hebrew and Greek is not evil in and of itself. Regardless, our King James Bible says in English exactly what the divinely preserved Bible texts read in Hebrew and Greek. Also, it is critical to note that knowledge of Greek and Hebrew does not necessarily make one a sound Bible authority. Millions of heretics and apostates are Hebrew- and Greek-literate!

Music degrees are not evil either, but they do not necessarily equip us to worship God with musical instruments and singing. Millions of hell-bound Bible-haters have prestigious music awards and impressive discographies: their lyrics and lifestyles are certainly not bringing the God of the Bible any glory.

The second greatest blunder of the professing “church”—ranking just under its failure to study the Bible dispensationally—is its emphasis on education. Frankly, unless you have attended seminary for a decade, and save you have been “approved” by some denomination, you really are a nobody. While you certainly want a degreed surgeon, you might want to reconsider that principle when seeking a church leader! Why? Some of the most ridiculous, heretical, and blasphemous statements I have ever read and heard came from the pens and lips of preachers and teachers from seminary! Remember what Jesus Christ said, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Luke 10:21).

In Acts 4:13, Israel’s “educated” religious leaders were amazed when they observed the Apostles Peter and John. “Look at those silly fishermen who lack our education! How can such unlearned and ignorant men boldly preach such wisdom?!” HOW? “They had been with Jesus.” They had the Lord of glory as their personal teacher, as do we (1 Corinthians 2:11-16). Beloved, be not intimidated by the “sort of educated” (1 Corinthians 1:25-31). 🙂

Also see:
» What about the original Bible manuscripts? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Can a Bible translation be just as reliable as the Bible in its original languages? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Why should we trust the King James Bible? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)