Danny Zacharias is a Greek grammar specialist with a passion for distilling his years of study into friendly formats for lay learners. Recently, Danny spoke with Bible Study Magazine Podcast host Mark Ward about essential Bible study tools.
1. There are people who would say, “Why do I need any Bible study tools? Why not just give me the . . . Bible, and I have the Spirit? Why do I need extra help?”
I will frequently take students to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37). Part of the punch of the parable is at the very end when Jesus says, “and he was a Samaritan.” Luke never really tells us about the animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews. The Gospel of John does, but not in connection with a parable.
So Luke says something there. And he assumes that the readers know what he means—that they have this background cultural knowledge. So Luke didn’t have to say, “wink-wink, Jews don’t like Samaritans.” He just assumed that readers would know that. And Jesus assumed that the person he was talking to knew that, and the Bible assumes that you know it.
But if you do know it, it’s likely because a pastor has filled in that knowledge for you. So you’re already bringing things to your study of the text. It’s just a matter of asking, “Who else do I want to bring into this conversation and learn from?” Checking secondary resources and Bible dictionaries simply means you’re looking for more information so that you can learn better—because you’re forming yourself and you’re forming your mind. And those things that are within you are the very things God will make use of in your learning.
2. What are the advanced Greek resources you find yourself reaching . . . for?
I often turn to the Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament, just to get a perspective. The other important thing about these resources is they are all conversation partners. None of this is infallible, beyond the Bible itself. The Bible is the inspired text that we’re looking at. There are times with the Syntactic Greek New Testament when I disagree with their assessment, but it’s that additional conversation partner. And the other one I’ve come to enjoy recently is the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. Discourse is kind of a wider, 10,000-foot-level view of how the argument is being shaped—those little words that are doing big things to shape the discourse.
3. You’re teaching students how to teach the Bible for the church. How often would you expect them to mention Greek in a sermon?
You can mention a Greek word once in a while. If you’re using Greek sentences, I think you’re going too far. . . . Greek is just a tool to help you understand the Bible better. And it’s not the only tool. There are people who are very competent in Greek, far more competent than you and me, but they too need to go to the wider cultural context and literary context. And if they don’t, they’re only going to understand that verse or section just a little bit better than an English reader. There’s a variety of questions we need to ask the text. And Greek grammar is just one of those.
Danny Zacharias is an assistant professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada, and a faculty member with NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community. He’s the author of Biblical Greek Made Simple (Lexham Press).