About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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Original Languages

For the most part, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, while the New Testament was written in common first century Greek. Knowing something of these languages opens the pages of the Bible, much like a rose opens into full bloom in the summer.

Do you need to be an expert language scholar to understand the Bible? Not really. If you follow the rules of logic that Iíve spoken of, youíre well on your way to a good understanding of Biblical truth.

At the same time there are books that can help the amateur in understanding the Bible. Vineís Expository of New Testament Words is a good starting point. Itís a relatively easy book to comprehend that gives you simple definitions of Greek words and how and where they are used in the New Testament. From this book you can progress to more complex reading material explaining verb tenses and other such things. You just need to remember that youíre still an amateur with a "little knowledge", and sometimes a little knowledge can get us in trouble.

Before I give you an example of the rose blossoming into full bloom, letís have a little grammar lesson. Sorry, I did say grammar lesson. The word "leaders" is a noun because a noun is defined by being a person, place or thing. Do you remember that from grade 5? The word "leads" is a verb because it is an action word. The phrase "the ones leading" is a participle because it is half noun and half verb. "Ones" is the noun part. "Leading" is the verb part.

With this in mind Heb. 13:17 says, "obey your leaders and submit to their authority". Many have used this verse to promote a heavy handed authoritarian rule of church leadership over the church. Itís similar to a husband saying, "submit to me wife because Iím the leader around this house". I canít see these words producing too many positive responses from your wife.

The word "leaders" used in our English versions is a noun, but in the Greek text it is a participle, having some action associated wit it. So the Greek text reads, "obey the ones leadingÖ" Now think this through with me because this is more than semantics and double-talk. The difference between the English "leaders" and the Greek "ones leading" is that the Greek emphasizes the action of leading with the addition of the verb part of the participle . The English word "leaders" emphasizes the "office" of a leader because thereís no action involved in the noun "leaders". Can you see the difference? The Greek implies action while the English implies office.

According to the Greek text we are to submit to the "ones leading", that is, those who are actually doing the Biblical job of leading". Therefore I conclude, if the leaders arenít leading according to Scripture, we donít submit. We donít submit to church leaders merely because they hold the office of a leader, as the English version seems to suggests. Once again, I derived this understanding from the Greek text and its use of the participle.

Thereís many leaders who are leaders in name only and arenít performing their duties according to Scripture. Those who use this verse for an abuse of power are misunderstanding its meaning. Heb. 13:17 is saying just the opposite to this authoritarian teaching. Thereís other Scriptures that show this principle where you donít need to delve into the Greek, but this is an example where you can see this truth more clearly by understanding the Greek text.

So did you see the rose opening up here? You would not have understood what Iíve just said from the English text alone, but with a little knowledge of grammar and Greek, this text has blossomed into a wealth of Biblical truth.

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