The issue of Greek and Hebrew: Why the Bible-Believer has no need of them


Among Christians today who actually read the Bible, we can broadly identify two groups that use the Authorised Bible published in 1611 (AV 1611). While there may be further sub-groups within them, for our purposes here, we will focus only on the two. In addition, we will also keep to English-speaking1 believers. Why this is so will be clear in a minute.

Who is the Bible Believer?

Now, the first group believes that the AV1611 is the perfectly preserved, perfect inerrant word of God (also known as Holy Scriptures) today for English-speakers. It is both complete and sufficient for all saved blood-washed born again believers. The AV1611 is therefore the absolute final authority on all matters of faith and practice, and so there is no need to read any Greek or Hebrew texts including the perfectly preserved ones, the Textus Receptus and Masoretic Text.

All understanding can be gotten with a careful, prayerful, reverential, open-minded and honest study of the AV1611. At most, an old Webster 1828 dictionary could be used to learn the definition of a specific word(s). However it is also fair to say that the definition and meaning of any word in the AV1611 can be derived from within the pages of the bible itself. By this, I mean that if a particular word is unfamiliar to the reader, the definition or meaning can be obtained from the context or from other chapters or books in the AV1611.2 The crucial point to grasp here is that rightly studying (and dividing) the bible will enable the faithful believer to get to what God meant or intended for mankind to comprehend, when He inspired a particular word to be written.

Notice the use of the word `perfect’ twice in our definition of what the first group believes i.e. “…perfectly preserved…perfect inerrant word of God,..”. This sentence is not a typographical oversight. It was used deliberately to show that the process of preservation, i.e. handing down over the ages, was divinely led and so as a result, the words of God we have today is also perfect. It is in fact the only perfect thing on planet Earth. How I have described this first group of AV1611 users will be important as we shall see later. They would and should, in my view, be rightly called bible believers.

Them to whom the AV1611 is not enough

Then there is the other group who uses the AV1611, some of whom would even actively profess or make a stand that it is the perfectly preserved word of God in the English language. So what is the issue? Am I being vexatiously contentious, straining at literary gnats? Not at all. There is a very subtle distinction but the end result is a universe (or a few) apart.

While all would use the AV1611, some believe that it is the best translation only. For them it is a preference thing. They would never acknowledge it to be perfect. Some would even say it is perfectly preserved, as noted earlier, but deep down they don’t really mean it. Why? Because, to them, `perfect’ here does not include believing the AV1611 to be complete and sufficient revelation. Do they explicitly state this? No, only a few extremely honest ones would. Then how can I say or even imply this?

By the fact that these people regularly recommend the need for reading the Greek and Hebrew texts such as the Textus Receptus and Hebrew Masoretic. Have you ever heard people say “A better rendering from the original languages is `this-and-that’.” or “It is more accurate to say `so-and-so’ means `this’ according to the Greek or Hebrew”? Well that is simply calling into question the integrity of the AV1611, or at the least, its sufficiency. The worse culprits are naturally those that sought to alter the English word used in a particular passage of the AV1611. All such people are most definitely not bible believers by any stretch of the word `believers’.

Better understanding of the English from the `original’ language?

But strangely these are not the most dangerous. Why did I say that? Simply because you can easily spot them a mile away. They wear their colours (and proudly too, I suspect) for all to see. Of greater insidiousness within this second group are those that claim that better understanding is possible by the use of the original languages. They will `defend’ the appropriateness or presence of the words in the AV1611. But these also teach that greater insight can be gotten from reading the Greek and Hebrew, that the `original’ languages are able to `better’ convey a meaning of some words which would not be possible when reading in the English. Now doing so is in effect saying the AV1611 is not sufficient, full stop; it is not perfect, otherwise there would be no need to go to external literary sources to enable further or better understanding.

Notice also these people do not say the words in the AV1611 need to be changed nor altered in any way or that any sentence need be reconstructed. They simply hold the view that a better understanding and/or greater insight can be gotten from reading the Hebrew or Greek text equivalent of passages in the AV1611. Again, is this really a problem?

Now think before you speak. We are talking about English speakers here, a group defined to be regular and frequent speakers of the language. In most cases, it is the only language they know, the one in which they think and form (internal) thoughts in. To have to learn another language just to study God’s word when you have a perfectly good one in your own language…now that really takes the cake. I cannot think of a more effective way of running from 2 Tim. 2:15 than doing just that. Remember 2 Tim. 2:15? Look it up, it says…“Study to show thyself approved unto God…”. Study what? Why…God’s words of course. And how much study are you going to get, Mr or Ms English speaker, when you have to spend hours to learn Greek and Hebrew from scratch? This is probably Satan’s most brilliant device to prevent people from reading God’s words.

And taking a Greek/Hebrew lexicon/concordance is not the answer. The effort would be disjointed and one would actually not be studying but just akin to an exercise in transliteration. As someone who can read and write another language, I can honestly say if one did a straight word-for-word transcription into English, without considering the sentence, context or flow of words, the end result would, in many cases, be a disjointed and confused English statement. You will, with great likelihood in my view, end up with sentences that misrepresent the `original’ intention or point of the author’s writings.

Of course, this is assuming the person who devised that Greek/Hebrew to English lexicon cum concordance is an honest person, resisting attempts to add his or her understanding or worse, inherent bias into the lexicon. I know the standard Greek alphabet but putting a bunch of them together into a word and trying to make sense of it in English escapes me 99% of the time. You really have to be a fluent Greek/Hebrew speaker and thinker to be able to go seamlessly between both languages. And don’t forget the Textus Receptus was written in Koine Greek which is not exactly the same as its modern cousin.3

Inconsistency in going to the Greek and Hebrew

Now back to those who claim the need to use the Greek and Hebrew to clarify or explain the words in the AV1611. Firstly, it really is to me an odd exercise for two English speakers to resort to two infrequently used and somewhat obscure languages to clarify a word in English. This may seem understandable if one made oneself out to be a language scholar or expert, and therefore placed on a superior intellectual platform. However, this is a form of pride and `Nicolaitanism’, and the Bible in Revelations 2 clearly shows what the Lord thinks of such people.

But do we not use our own words or phrases to explain or clarify in the AV1611? Yes, of course we do, in teaching or preaching. However please note this: to use different English words or phrases to explain or clarify a passage of text, e.g. stating that the word `world’ in John 3:16 means `you and I’ etc., is not the same as using so-called original languages, Greek and/or Hebrew, to teach that a certain English word in the AV1611 means this-and this. Why? Well, firstly the word under consideration in the AV1611 is in English and we are using English words or phrases to explain another English word (or phrase for that matter). And, while Scripture does interpret Scripture, one can always look up that word in a Webster’s 1828 dictionary to find out what it means.

So English to clarify English. Why resort to a language which one isn’t adequately familiar with to `clarify’ English? Think about it, please…is that reasonable? You are an English speaker and thinker. God has gone to all that trouble to give you an inerrant English scripture, not to mention the many brethren who were tortured and murdered, to ensure that today we can buy an AV1611 as easily as a carton of milk.

The cost of going to the Greek

But isn’t all scripture profitable? Aren’t the Greek and Hebrew texts also scripture? Yes, of course, but it is profitable only if you can read it legibly, regularly, reverentially, with all your heart and soul if possible. Remember God said “Study”, not `Read’ “to show thyself approved …”. So how can one achieve that with Greek and Hebrew when one is not sufficiently fluent in them? How can you rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), be as noble as the Bereans in searching scripture daily “…whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11) or to “…try the spirits…” (1 John 4:1)? You an English speaker have the AV1611. Why not just study it?

Other commentators have made the remark that there’s nothing one can find in the Greek and Hebrew that one cannot find or unearth in the AV1611 if one is an English speaking Christian. While I commend their zeal, I would rather emphasise the benefits of staying with the AV1611 if you are an English speaker. Firstly you get to please God directly by following his commands such as 2 Tim 2:15. Then you get to partake that choicest of `cuisine’ enjoyed by the prophet Jeremiah as recorded in Jer. 15:16.4

You can’t study and `eat’ any Greek and Hebrew unless you learn those languages first and I don’t mean scrounging through a quick basics course or, as stated earlier, using a lexicon. How long does the average person take to learn English properly to come to a state whereby adequate proficiency of comprehension is obtained? I find it hard to believe that learning Greek or Hebrew will be any easier. All that time could be better put to use studying and meditating on God’s word in the language you know, rather than expending it figuring out all them alphas or alephs.

Gaining historical perspective from reading scriptures in Greek and Hebrew: benefit or potential hazard?

Some within this `original languages’ crowd try and skirt the issue by saying that reading the Greek or the Hebrew is necessary to gain insight into the historical context. In other words, reading scripture in the original languages gives a better understanding of the historical environment or societal norms or practices during the times pertaining to the relevant Bible passages.

All fine and good…nothing wrong with that. Learning about history and historical events particularly in relation to biblical subjects is as good an activity as any other, maybe better. But to use what you have learned outside the AV1611 such as history to better understand or worse, `clarify’ God’s holy words is asking for trouble. There is a danger that one can end up `interpreting’ scripture through the lens of external sources rather than letting God provide you the interpretation from the context of that particular passage of scripture or from other verses, chapters or books (see Gen. 40:8 and 1 Cor 2:12-13).

So remember, if you want to learn the Greek and Hebrew for historical purposes, as academic knowledge, fine, it is your liberty, although the effort might give you a hernia. But please notice the difference here. If you want to do it out of interest, hobby, whatever, by all means, go for it. You have the freedom to do so, it is just a vanity like any other hobby and I cannot find anywhere in the Bible that God explicitly forbids us to do so. But to do it so you can better understand or clarify God’s AV1611 when you are an English speaker is a different matter. You are implicitly denying the completeness and the sufficiency of the AV 1611 to feed you.

God’s words are pure in every way (Ps. 119:140). For me as an English speaker the AV 1611 is perfect and that means nothing outside it (except prayer and the Holy Spirit) is needed to clarify the words that are contained within its pages. And God will not contradict His words (see Psalms 138:2). Given the busy lives we lead, I can attest to the inadequacy of my personal bible study time. Even if I have some basics in Greek, to take further time to learn it in depth in order to properly study, not just read, the Textus Receptus, would only decimate what little time I have for feeding on God’s word.

Using a Greek/Hebrew lexicon is not the same as using an English dictionary

Now a note of caution – uh-oh, I can hear sniggers of derision out there as I write. That’s okay by me; after all I am only a worm (Job 25:6, Psalms 22:6). But may I remind you we are dealing with God’s word here? I know some people are thinking that if no Greek/Hebrew lexicon is required, why then do you use a dictionary? Isn’t it the same thing? Not quite. You see, using an English dictionary to learn or find out what a particular word means is not nearly the same as using another language to `clarify’ or uncover the meaning of an English word. A dictionary is used to explain the `raw’ unadulterated meaning of an English word, period. No doctrine is taught. You just get the meaning of a word. Doctrine will come when you put a series of words together.

But when you use Hebrew or Greek, to clarify a particular word, then teaching and doctrine will inevitably enter the equation. How so? Firstly, English words will have to be used to explain the Greek and Hebrew (resorted to in the first instance) to clarify the English. Sounds weird? You bet!

Secondly, it is not just the raw unadulterated meaning of the word that is revealed or defined. Sometimes with a bi-language lexicon, a doctrine can be appended to the English word(s) used to explain the Greek/Hebrew word. Take one look at all the lexicons on sale out there, even one based n the Textus Receptus, especially the way it is structured. There is no way that you can avoid reading anything remotely resembling a neutral or `raw’ unadulterated explanation of a particular Greek word. It is not just `x’ is defined as `y’. The explanatory phrases are, at times, lengthy and even cross-referenced to another chapter or book. If that is not crossing into `private interpretation’, I don’t know what is and you know what God thinks of that (read 2 Peter 1:20).

Think about this for a moment. Which other area of study or discipline in the world is there where you use another language to teach a native English speaker (and who in most cases is also monolingual) about the meaning of an English word? Does it sound reasonable to use English to teach the meaning of a Chinese word to a Chinaman who has never encountered English? The only reason I can think of, in my view, is if you believe the reading in Chinese is inadequate and there is more authority in the English. A similar logic applies with the use of Greek and Hebrew on the English AV1611, that is, people like that believe the Greek and Hebrew is more superior.

Now I am not saying you are not allowed to believe the Greek and Hebrew texts have more authority. Liberty, remember? You are free to believe and have faith in whatever you want. You are just not a bible believer in the sense that was defined earlier. But look, you are definitely going to have problems if you persist in being inconsistent in your beliefs and practices. Saying you believe the AV1611 is perfect, inerrant, final authority etc. etc. and then claiming that it is profitable to use Greek and Hebrew to gain understanding and clarify the AV1611’s verses is as inconsistent as they come. Ask any independent linguist or logic-rationalist practitioner and he or she will be more than happy to tell you the same, some may even send you a bill for it.

Ok for the Greek to go to the Greek

What about the non-English speaker then, for example, in the case of a Chinese-speaker? Firstly let me come straight out and say I am in favour of a Chinese word of God translated from the AV 1611. With the international status and widespread use of English I’m sure it would not be an insurmountable task to learn it. Furthermore English is for the most part a `mongrel’ language. It has borrowed so much from other languages (and I am not talking slang terms here) to the point that most ethnic groups have been able to identify with facets of that language in some way or another thereby facilitating the learning of it.

However, if God has given His word in Chinese, then I believe the faithful Chinese Christian will be profitably fed from his or her Chinese language Scripture by reading and believing it. And likewise for the Greek speaking Christian. I believe such people will gain more understanding and clearer revelation from studying the word of God in their respective languages than an edition in another language. This is just the same sort of reasoning why it is far more profitable for us English speakers to read Scripture in the English language as opposed to reading Scripture in Greek and Hebrew.

The fallacy of the evolving English word from 1611 to 2006

There is also a school of thought out there which claims that the English language has changed. So while they are not saying a `more modern’ translation or revision of words may be required to reflect the `modern’ meaning of the words, they do `recommend’ reading the Greek and Hebrew to gain better understanding. Now this variant of the `archaic words’ argument is nothing but the same old doubt-casting and disdain of God’s perfect words and the refusal to submit to a final authority. This sort of rhetoric is just another push for bible corruption.

But you will be surprised at how many `original’ languages promoters pile on to this devilish band-wagon to push their agenda. As if the apparent `out datedness’ of the English language in an AV1611 validates the corruption in a modern version. And going back to a more antiquated, (and lesser used) variant of the Greek (or Hebrew) language is the solution for the English speaker…? This just smacks of arrogance and complete witlessness of self.

Look, when God intended for us to read and comprehend some particular point, He deliberately inspired a specific word or words to be written. The meaning or definition of that word (or words) were fixed (and settled) by the Lord at the time of writing. So all we have to do is to simply read it and believe it, not try to wrest it or re-interpret it to line up with our own inward biases. If we foolish human beings choose to alter the meaning or definition of a word today from what it originally was intended to be when God first inspired men to write them, it is NOT God’s fault. And by the way, words don’t evolve on their own. Nor can they eat, sleep or scratch their noses. They (or rather their definitions or meaning) change because mankind decides to change them. It is sheer inconsistency and foolishness, at best, to change the meaning of a word and then loudly proclaim that since the word has evolved, we should adopt the `modern’ meaning or `update the word’.5

Kicking the chair from under the scholars: the fallacy of nuggets in the Greek/Hebrew

As an aside, let me point out what I consider to be a most (if not the most) serious rebuttal to those who claim Christians must go to the original languages. I have refrained from elaborating or adding further comment on this point and will simply to the appropriate (and very adequate) references down at the footnote.6 These fervent Bible believers present very compelling evidence to show that reading the Greek, at best, adds nothing to understanding God’s words and will, for us English speaking Gentile believers in this age of grace.

Furthermore, they reveal the defects in the usual evidence used by `go-to-the-Greek’ supporters and show up the utter futility of reading the Greek when an AV1611 is just as easily available to the English speaker. For example, they show that the classic `Phileo vs. Agape’ distinction (that is supposed to lend greater insight as opposed to just using the word `Love’) is nothing but a smokescreen. These Greek terms were actually used interchangeably in the gospels, so there is nothing more to gain compared to just reading the English term `Love’. There are more such examples in the cited writings in the footnote.

The greatest danger in going to the `original’ tongues

We now come to what I consider the most deadly (and I mean that in all seriousness) outcome of `going’ to the Greek and Hebrew.7 In a nutshell, it is the opening one gives to pride and puffery of self. I don’t care how hard anyone tries, it is easier to dig out the root of a tooth than to pry loose that last glint of conceit in a man. If you think human beings are capable of 100% humility 24/7 you would probably be interested in this contraption I have that grows dollar bills on trees. Even the meekest man that ever lived fell victim to self-inflation (Num.12:3). Let me elaborate by describing a hypothetical but highly realistic event. In fact I have personally witnessed this occurrence and I am sure others would have seen firsthand the scene I am about to describe.

Picture this: two Christian men are studying the Bible and focused on some issue. They discuss and reach a point of disagreement. Like all good Bereans, they search the scriptures, context, other chapters, books even, to understand what God meant by the passage and the lesson that the Lord wants to impart. Suddenly one of them says “Now the word or words in the Greek actually meant `this’ so this text in `so-and-so’ book is actually implying that it is `this-and-this’ and we need to look at this passage in `this-and-that’ way.” You can just imagine the following moments. Stunned silence. End of discussion.

By resorting to the Greek, one of the discussants has effectively shut off the other and implicitly raised himself intellectually above his fellow brethren. Worse still the final authority for these two English speakers has been invoked or appealed to from outside the AV1611. Can you grasp the ramifications of that outcome? It is not just about gaining understanding or clearer insight. It is simply this: one person with a flick of the page in another language has positioned himself as being more superior to, and in possession of greater authority than the other. The person who is unfamiliar with Greek must concede even if he did not agree with the implication or conclusion, unless you disavow the Greek as erroneous.

There is no way these two can continue to study God’s word, openly and honestly, any further. There is no longer any common basis or framework for debate or discussion. Unless both knew Koine Greek proficiently. But how realistic is that amongst English speakers? For the linguistically disadvantaged to attempt, from scratch, to learn the Greek is really not a viable solution. Because arriving at a point where you are able to read and ponder that text of contention would mean putting off a satisfying study of God’s word until you learn the Greek. In addition, there is no guarantee everyone is able to attain similar levels of fluency. Don’t forget we are talking about getting to a stage where you can think and dream in the language. Ask anyone who studies languages. So once again going to the Greek (in this instance) is just another victory for the devil.

The alternative is to submit to the intellectual superiority of those who know Greek or Hebrew. In short, we create an upper class of people who are deemed to have better understanding of God’s words just because they know the Greek or Hebrew. Not from more intense and reverential study of God’s word in English that is available to other English speakers in a pure English language Bible. It is not a level playing or should I say studying field.

But aren’t we also supposed to submit one to another in love? I know we are to allow those who have given us the word to have the authority but this is not an immutable fixed office…any one who has given the word if it is rightly divided, must be submitted to. Not because of who they are but because they have delivered God’s word. That is why 1 Peter 5:5 reemphasised the need to submit one to another. That is why Gal 5:13 tells we have liberty but to use it to love and serve one another, not as an occasion to the flesh and self-elevation. Prideful endeavour and activities that puff us up and causes us to think of ourselves as being greater or superior to others is not the right way to use liberty. How are we supposed to exhort each other as called for in Hebrews 10:25 if there are class structures amongst the brethren?


Let me end by conceding the point that nowhere within the pages of Scriptures does the Lord explicitly and expressly forbid the use and study of His word in other languages. After all He used two different languages to give mankind His perfect words.

Nor am I disparaging the efforts of bible believing brethren who have worked to develop proficiency in reading scriptures in Greek and Hebrew. In fact a select group of such people have, I believe, been called by God and hence enabled by him, to be skilled in Greek and Hebrew for the primary purpose of defending the AV1611 from the `faith destroying’ scholars. These men have been used of God to stand as bulwarks against the efforts of the `original languages’ crowd who seek to undermine our trust and faith in the AV1611 as the final authority for English speakers. Those I have in mind, to my knowledge, have never taught from the Greek or Hebrew, just from the AV1611. But they will not hesitate to pull out from their `original languages’ arsenal to thwart those who seek to undermine the faith of believers who read and study the AV1611. The people I have in mind will go unnamed but I suspect bible believers will know who they are.8 I appreciate them and I thank God for them. But I would not recommend just any old believer follow their paths in this regard. If God wants you to play that role, he will call you and enable you.

So for the rest of us, the AV1611 will just have to do. Because when one studies the AV1611 with a prayerful, reverential and honest attitude, one cannot help but conclude that God intends English speakers to read and study His word in English. There are way too many indicators that He will not be pleased by the consequences of English speakers going to the Greek and Hebrew. And that, dear reader, is the crux of it. For why do we exist in the first place? It is simply this: to give our Lord pleasure in all that we do – please, please read and memorise Rev. 4:11. And the first place to start that journey is to secure our Lord and Saviour’s approval from studying His perfect, inerrant, perfectly preserved Scriptures – the AV1611 if you are an English speaker – and simply believing it and submitting to it as your final, absolute, complete and ultimate authority.

1. By this I mean people whose first language of choice when speaking and reading is English – it is the language they are most comfortable with and fluent in. In fact it may be the only language they know. Finally, it is the language that they choose to rationalise internal thoughts and form ideas in.
2. Note that a dictionary can only provide the `raw’ technical definition of a word from a purely (English) language point of view. The scriptural and doctrinal definition and meaning of a wotd in the Bible must be from the Scriptures itself (see 1 Cor.2:10-13).
3. Although that veritable source of secular general knowledge, Wikipedia, states that “…today Koine Greek is largely intelligible to speakers of Modern Greek” (
4. Jer. 15:16 Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
5. I appreciate the efforts of bible believing brethren who go to much effort to rebut the bible perverters by demonstrating that the English in the AV1611 is actually quite in line with today’s English. Personally I would not even be that charitable to bible correctors. God intended those words to be there and to be like that. And that should be final. Our opinions don’t matter one jot or tittle.
6. See “Q.47” in The Answer Book by Sam Gipp, reproduced in and “ The Greek Game” by Timothy Morton in
7. By the way, I am not disparaging the divinely preserved manuscripts in the original languages such as the Textus Receptus. They are certainly God’s words but they are final authority only for Greek and Hebrew speakers.
8. The mere mention of some of their names will drive more than a few `good godly’ Christians into apoplectic fits.

This article is written by Brother Patrick Er, a King James Bible believer.