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Spring Edition
Volume 96, Number 4

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It's all Greek to me
Jonathan Vaitl '06, an English major, finds surprise and intrigue while studying the Greek language.
Jonathan Vaitl '06, an English major, finds surprise and intrigue while studying the Greek language.
As an English major, I’ve experienced many delightful surprises in learning the language of the Bible  

When I attend the elective chapel Kairos, I recall that its Greek name means “appointed time or season.” Kairos chapel is a time of contemporary worship service: good music, good speaking, good people, good times. And when I hear the student chaplain say, “Welcome to Kairos,” pronouncing it as KYE-ros, I can smile and mumble, “That’s not how you say it.” Ah, the benefits of studying Greek. (In case you are wondering, it’s kye-ROS.)

But that’s a modest example. My experience with studying biblical Greek has yielded many other benefits. One has been my better understanding of perfect tense. In English, perfect tense includes the helping word “has,” as in, “He has eaten.” This always seemed like just another way of referring to a past event, but studying Greek has shown me a nuance to perfect tense. Although it does refer to an already completed event, it also states that the event has had consequences that are still relevant in the speaker’s present.

So in the Greek, there’s a more notable difference between “Jesus rose” and “Jesus has risen.” The first simply refers to a completed event; the second recognizes the completed event’s continued relevance in the present. Jesus did rise, and that event still makes an impact. In the English translation, we often lose sight of this, making it harder to understand the fullness of what the biblical writers were teaching us.

It’s that kind of surprise that makes studying Greek so exciting. Studying Greek for two semesters has not only grabbed my imagination and passion for learning languages, but it has made me more committed to studying the Scriptures, to understanding what was meant by the writers, and what it means to us today.
—Jonathan Vaitl ’06
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