Searching For The Original Meaning

Q. Why do we hear scholars talking about Greek or Hebrew meanings of words in the Bible? When does one know that he must look for a Greek or a Hebrew meaning of a word?

A. I search for the meanings of words in the original languages when there appears to be some confusion as to the English translation or when the translation of a word or passage seems to conflict with other similar passages. For example, many people believe the word repent means to change your behavior. If that was the case the phrase “repent and be saved” would mean a person would have to stop sinning before he or she could ask for salvation. But in fact it really means we need to change our mind and accept the fact that we are sinners and we need a Savior who can save us from the penalty for our sins.

Another example is from Rev. 7:14, where speaking of a multitude newly arrived in heaven, the angel tells John, “These are they who have come out of the Great Tribulation.” That doesn’t make any sense in English because the Great Tribulation will not begin on Earth until Rev. 13. Looking up the Greek word translated out of we find it means out of both the time and place. It means they will be martyred before the Great Tribulation begins. That makes more sense.

No matter what English translation you use, you’ll find dozens of such examples in the Bible because Greek and Hebrew words have more precise meanings and often are not easy to translate into English. The problem is not the translation, the problem is the language.

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