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Why Hebrew and Greek?

Posted by: David Carroll

Is there a reason why God would have chosen the Hebrew and Greek languages to communicate His word to us? Investigating this, I found out that Hebrew and Greek are very different from each other. Is there a reason why Hebrew was particularly suited for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament? It turns out there are some very good traits of each language that are well suited for the differing purpose of God's revelation in the two major parts of our Bible.

Hebrew is a very pictorial language, using vivid, bold metaphors. A Hebrew speaking person thinks in pictures using concrete nouns. There are not so many adjectives in the Hebrew. What you get when reading the Old Testament in Hebrew is vivid pictures of the events using lots of imagination, puns, word plays.

Hebrew is a personal language appealing to the heart and emotions rather than to the mind and reason. The message of the story is felt rather than thought. Every place, person and event come across as concrete realities rather than as abstract ideas. Even nations are given personalities. When the Hebrew language speaks of God, it uses anthropomorphisms that we as humans can relate to. The Hebrew relates to what you see and observe. Such a language is well suited to tell a story to be used as an illustration for future generations.

1 Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV)

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

While Hebrew is a very dense language where one word can have multiple meanings depending on the context, Greek on the other hand is a very precise language. A Greek verb has 5 attributes: tense, mood, voice, person and number; the verb can say who, how many, when, one time or process, actual or wished for, active or passive or both. The Greek language speaks more to the mind than the heart. It is very useful for reason and argument. Greek is the language of Aristotle and Plato.

Whereas Hebrew is well suited to depict God's deeds in a biographical sense, Greek is ideal for expressing the doctrines and theological truths of the New Testament. Furthermore, being a universal language spoken by the entire world of that day, it was ideal to propagate those ideas to a wide audience.

I had never thought about this before but it appears that God not only breathed the words of our Bible but he did so in the most appropriate languages and cultures to suit his purposes.

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