I was speaking to a friend yesterday who told me that he’s interested in Hebrew and Greek. He said that he’s been using Strong’s for his study and wanted to know if that was the best resource. I told him that it wasn’t and that there have been significant advancements in what we know about the languages since Strong wrote and I suggested a few resources. But after I made all of my suggestions I suggested that he just focus on English unless he has the time to actually learn the languages and learn them well.
My basic point was that English translations are produced by teams of scholars who have been laboring in these languages for a long time. We can trust them for the most part. But I told him to compare a number of English translations and then, when he notices differences that seem significant, turn to resources that help to explain what’s going on in the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek source. At the end of the day I’d prefer a preacher who knows his English Bible really well over one that dabbles in Hebrew and Greek and couldn’t parse or conjugate their way out of a paper bag.
To my mind there are few things worse than someone who picks up a lexicon and thinks that they’ve uncovered all the secrets that translators have kept hidden. I cringe when I hear someone who doesn’t know the languages say, “Now what this really says is…” or “They’ve mistranslated this word; it should say…” Their intentions might be pure but it ends up sounding like hubris. So again, my advice to those who don’t have the time to learn the languages well, is to learn English, i.e., learn the Bible you can read.