Thursday, August 17, 2006

A. T. Robertson on the Value of Greek for Preachers

Robertson is probably the most prominent New Testament scholar to emerge from Southern Baptist ranks. He was not an ivory tower academician, however. His concern that study be translated into good preaching for the building up of the church is evident throughout his work. In fact on my count, his published works fall primarily into two camps: Greek grammar and helps for preachers. Here is an excerpt from his book, The Minister and His Greek New Testament:
It ought to be taken for granted that the preacher has his Greek Testament. This statement will be challenged by many who excuse themselves from making any effort to know the Greek New Testament. I do not say that every preacher should become an expert in his knowledge of the New Testament Greek. That cannot be expected. I do not affirm that no preacher should be allowed to preach who does not possess some knowledge of the original New Testament. I am opposed to such a restriction. But a little is a big per cent on nothing, as John A. Broadus used to say. This is preeminently true of the Greek New Testament.

We excuse other men for not having a technical knowledge of the Bible. We do not expect all men to know the details of medicine, law, banking, railroading. But the preacher cannot be excused from an accurate apprehension of the New Testament. This is the book that he undertakes to expound. It is his specialty, and this he must know whatever else he does or does not know. Excuses for neglecting the New Testament are only excuses after all. Dwight L. Moody made himself at home in the English Bible, and he shook the world. Spurgeon made himself efficient in Greek and Hebrew in spite of insufficient schooling. John Knox studied Greek when over fifty. Alexander Maclaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture are the wonder of modern preachers because he steadily throughout a long life pursued his Hebrew and Greek studies. He had consummate genius and he added to it fullness of knowledge by means of laborious scholarship. … A popular preacher like Dr. G. Campbell Morgan is a close and laborious student of Greek New Testament grammar.

The full chapter from which this quote comes can be read online here.


Perry McCall said...

I found this book in a stack of throw away books left behind from previous pastors. In fact, I am found the bulk of the Robertson Library complete with some copies of class notes from Southern. I have read this portion of his book four or five times. It is truly inspiring.

Ray Van Neste said...

I got my copy from a group of books being 'tossed' as well!
Were these class notes of one of Robertson's classes? If so, that is really a find!

Perry McCall said...

Yes! What I have is a copy or two of his published syllabus for his NT class. I will get the exact info. tomorrow and get back with you. I also have a very old set of Mathew Henry’s commentary with an introduction written by John Broadus. Also in the throw away stack was a collection of B.H. Carroll sermons given in chapel. I can’t remember the publishing date on that one. The MH Commentary doesn’t have a copyright date in it.

I will get the specifics to you by e-mail. Maybe I have something that would be good for the Ryan Center?

I also have an "unrevised" volume one of the Broadman commentary!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding us once again of the necessity of learning NT Greek. Would you say the same thing regarding Hebrew for the OT?

Ray Van Neste said...

Wow, Perry! This was quite a find. I will eagerly await hearing more.

Matt, yes, I would say the same about Hebrew. Greek is given pride of place for a number of reasons. One though is simply that in not so distant days (see comments from Robertson, C S Lewis, etc.) Greek and Latin were considered basic parts of basic education. Thus, one ought at least to have these languages, was the idea. How far we have come!

Unknown said...

One of my favorite jokes is told by Randy Harris, a professor at Abeline Chirstian. He says, you don't have to know greek to go to heaven, you just won't undersnd anyone once you get there.

Great post.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Van Neste,

I wish you would quit throwing out such challenging, convicting material. Didn't you know I was just about content remaining in my ignorance?!? Now I'm going to have to get back to work again!

Love in Christ,


Kent said...

Have you seen the new collection of A. T. Robertson books from Logos Bible Software? I thought you might be interested!

A. T. Robertson Collection

Unknown said...

This is the first time I have written on someones blog... pardon the intrusion. I am using logos and saw their offer for Robertson's Greek. I am interested in this collection and wondering if it would be recommended as well as if the price they are offering it for is good.

Thanks for your blog and the challlenge to stick with Greek. I am going back to it looking into Phil. 2:2-4.


Ray Van Neste said...


I think the price is good, esp. since you are already using Logos. Now, the study of Greek has moved on a bit since Robertson, so whether or nto this is the best resource for youat this time I cannot say. The big grammar is very useful if only because there is nothing else like it. His sermosn and commentaries are useful though you would need also to consult some mroe recent commentaries.
I hope that helps.