So you're a pastor, and you're preaching this passage, and you want to mention some Hebrew or Greek word that is in the passage. Fine. Great, in fact. Terrific.
Say it right, or don't say it.
Now, many would advise that you just not say it, period, because it's not going to help your largely (linguisitically) unschooled audience, and may just look like preening. Most of the time, I think that's good advice.
But because I know we pastordudes can be a bit thick, let me break it down and be very specific.
You're preaching a passage. There's a Hebrew or Greek word in it that is cool, that you think is worth commenting on. Fine.
If you do not actually know Hebrew or Greek:
- You should learn Hebrew and Greek. (After all, you are an instructor in ancient Hebrew and Greek literature. Your Principal wrote the class textbook in those languages. Your students have the right to expect that you're conversant with them, or working on it.)
- Until then, you probably should not say any Hebrew or Greek word.
- If you do, find someone who has studied, and ask him whether you're about to say it right.
- Tsk. Make time. Get current. (See #1, above)
- See #3, above.
Now, I know a lot of you are thinking, "So? Good heavens, man — only you will care!" To that, three thoughts:
First: I'll admit, it's a reflection of how seriously I take the pulpit. I think the pulpit is a terrifying place in which to stand. I think everyone should think that same way, or not stand there (James 3:1). Most people should not stand there at all, if you think about it.
I'll admit this, too: when I see a guy in a pulpit, chatting and yarning and speculating and obviously casually pulling things off the top of his head... well, you know, even typing this, I stop and struggle for words. I just cannot fathom that. C-a-n-n-o-t.
Simplest and most charitable way I can put it: obviously such an one and I view the pulpit very differently.
Second: if you don't know it, you shouldn't be preaching it. Do I really need to expand on that? Say what you know, know what you say, or shoosh.
(I do, by the way, strive to practice what I'm preaching here. I may be current in Hebrew and Greek, but I don't really know French, or Latin, or German. Yet I've had occasion over the last 30+ years to use words from those languages — and I've done due diligence before doing so. You know, they're not just funny-looking English words. If you apply American pronunciation canons to a Latin word such as oratio, or a French word such as métier, you will mispronounce the word.)
Third: think about overall credibility.
Suppose I choose to draw an illustration from the field of biology, or anatomy, or a physical science, or an historical event. Suppose, further, someone in my audience happens to be well-studied in that field. And suppose he instantly recognizes that I'm full of beans, that I pulled out some old chestnut that every well-studied ____ist/ian/ologist immediately knows to be an urban myth, or a common but long-since-exploded misconception.
What will he think of my faithfulness? of the seriousness of my intent? of the thoroughness with which I research what I am about to hold out for people's trust and acceptance?
He'll instantly know I'm willing to say things of which I haven't taken the time to make sure.
And he'll wonder — he'll have good reason to wonder — how thoroughly I have researched and thought through the other claims I'm making. He'll have good reason to think, "Okay, I know anatomy, and I know that what he just said is simply beans. But I don't know Greek, or theology, or much about the Bible. How do I know whether he knows what he's talking about on those subjects, or whether he's just as sloppy about them as he was about this?"
Think about it, brothers.