I received a number of complimentary emails on yesterday’s article. Some asked what the best translation is. They all have their problems. That’s why I recommend having a basic knowledge of Greek so you can determine what the text actually says. This doesn’t mean that you will have to give up your English translation. It does mean, if you really want to study the Bible, that some extra-mile effort will have to be made to stay one step ahead of the translating committees. The Greek alphabet can be learned in a few hours. You know most of them already. The English word “alphabet” is made up of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha (a) and beta (b), a and b. You can be reading the NT in Greek within a week, although you might not know what you are reading since learning vocabulary and grammar takes more time.[1] With a Greek-English interlinear cross referenced to Strong’s Concordance numbering system and a basic Greek dictionary you will be able to determine the meaning behind each Greek word.

A concordance lists every word in the Bible and gives its English translation. A concordance like Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance also serves as a basic Bible dictionary. Strong’s comes in a printed and an electronic form. It is keyed to the KJV, but it’s the Greek you’re after. Different Greek words are often translated with a single English word. Consider the word “world.” Three different Greek words are often translated as “world,” when each word has a distinct meaning: (2889–kosmos: John 3:16), (3625–oikoumenā: Luke 2:1), (165–aion: 2 Cor. 4:4). Knowing Greek will make this clear.

Matthew 24:14 is most often translated, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world [oikoumenā]. . . .” The casual Bible reader might conclude that the fulfillment of this verse is obviously in our future since the Gospel was not preached throughout the whole world in the first century.

Someone familiar with Greek will note that the word most often translated “world” in the Bible is kosmos. But kosmos is not used in Matthew 24:14. Matthew uses the word oikoumenā which means “inhabited earth,” “Roman empire,” “Roman world,” or “political boundary.” Matthew 24:14 is the only place in Matthew’s Gospel where oikoumenā is used. Is this significant? I believe it is.

The same word is used in Luke 2:1 and Acts 11:28. The NASV translates oikoumenā in Luke 2:1 as “inhabited earth” with a note that reads, “I.e., the Roman empire.” In Acts 11:28, oikoumenā is translated “all over the world” with no note. The New International Version translates oikoumenā in Luke 2:1 and Acts 11:28 as “Roman world,” but translates oikoumenā as “world” in Matthew 24:14. Why? The translators have a futuristic prophetic bias that restrains them from revealing the truth.

Kenneth L. Barker, a spokesman for the translating committee of the International Bible Society that produced the NIV, writes: “Many—perhaps—most translators and linguists today think the greatest faithfulness and accuracy are attained when they are as true to the target or receptor language (in our case English) as they are to the source language (in this instance, the Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek of the Bible).”[2] The source language of Greek has oikoumenā not kosmos; therefore the target language (English) should reflect the difference.

The best single volume interlinear crossed referenced to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance is the Word Study Greek-English New Testament by Paul R. McReynolds (Tyndale). The unique feature of this interlinear is that it has Strong’s bound with it. The numbers that appear over the Greek words are keyed to the Greek words in the Concordance section. There are additional lexicon and dictionary references.


[1] John H. Dobson, Learn New Testament Greek, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005). This edition includes a CD-ROM of lessons 1–21 that helps with memorization and provides repetition of exercises.
[2] Kenneth L. Barker, Accuracy Defined and Illustrated: An NIV Translator Answers Your Questions (1995): www.ibs.org/niv/accuracy/NIV_AccuracyDefined.pdf