Seeking out “the words of Jesus”…in Greek

In this post I mentioned about a good priest who taught me a new way to pray.

Well, that has led me to a vigorous “seeking out” of the words of Jesus in all their glory and wonder. And for some reason, I have been driven to seeking out the meaning of the words “in as-close-as-I-can-get to-the-source” as possible.

What do I mean by “source”. Obviously, the true source of Jesus’s words are the words as they were spoken by Jesus Himself at the time. Mostly in Aramaic I believe. But as far as I understand those words weren’t specifically written down at the time, so they were recorded in the memories of Mary and the Apostles, and shared verbally.

So when were they written down?

There is fairly universal consensus that the first Gospel was written down by Matthew, an Apostle and close friend of Jesus (Matthew was the tax collector who “came good” after Jesus had dinner with him). Surprisingly there is evidence that exists that Matthew wrote the Gospel in Hebrew (even Aramaic). That would have been done within Matthew’s lifetime, so it was pretty soon (relatively speaking) after Jesus had spoken the words. Sadly, no originals of that Gospel have ever been found. There also aren’t any copies, because it would be safe to assume that if there were any copies, they would have been made in Greek (the universal language of the time). This leads me onto the… Greek.

Now here is where it gets interesting….

One would assume that any copies of Matthew’s Gospel in Aramaic were directly translated into the Greek, and then circulated around the place. Therefore, one could assume that the Greek copies are fairly close to the “source”. Understandably, over the centuries the reliability of the Greek New Testament has been constantly under attack. Then I found this article which shows the “relative reliability” of other ancient texts (such as from Pliny or Euripides, where less than 10 copies have ever been found) as compared to the 5,600 New Testaments texts that have been found, and are incredibly consistent with each other. It is a remarkable article, so go and read it.

So, I can reasonably assume that the New Testament in the Greek is very close to the words Jesus actually spoke.

OK…so now we have a fairly close representation of the words, as Jesus spoke them. But they are in GREEK – and I speak ‘Australian’. How am I ever going to understand the meaning of the Greek words as Jesus actually intended them 2000 years ago?

Fortunately, persons-much-smarter-than-I have spent lifetimes of academic research on this very problem. And they have come up with something called the “Interlinear Greek Bible”. Interlinear basically means that the Greek words are on one line and the english words are on another – making it pretty easy.

Fr. David Nugent introduced me to this one, which I have found immensely useful: Scripture Direct.

This is from their website:

Each Greek word is linked to the modern and scholarly New Testament Greek-English Lexicon based on Semantic Domains, published by the United Bible Societies and edited by Johannes Louw and Eugene Nida. The main editor of this dictionary, Prof Johannes Louw, was also the main translator of the ScriptureDirect Interlinear Translation. He was assisted by Dr Bennie Wolvaardt, Founding President of Veritas College International.

One of the good things about this one is that it is available on your mobile device of choice, so you can easily take it with you into Adoration, and it is readily available. If you want to see the meaning of any particular greek word, you simply tap the word…

Selecting a Greek word in Scripture Direct
Selecting a Greek word in Scripture Direct

…and some choices appear. According to the algorithms of the program, it works out which English word best fits the Greek word in the context that it was written, and highlights that as blue.

Selecting the right context
Selecting the right context

When you then tap that word, it shows you the meaning based upon ‘semantic domains‘ (that’s a whole another area of study in itself), with some alternate “translation words” and some examples:

Showing the meaning of a word
Showing the meaning of a word

Getting closer to Jesus’ words in this way has been an amazing blessing to me this year (well – last year 🙂 ). I am excited to see what He wants to tell me in 2015.

Caveat: I am not a scripture scholar, so any theories I propose are my own cogitations.


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