1. All somebody needs to do is learn enough Greek to be able to use study tools and look the word up in a dictionary/lexicon or on the computer, find its definition, and apply it to the verse in question. Therefore, we only really need to know enough Greek for Word Studies. If we can do that, then there is no real other need to go deeper.
This belief results from the assumption that Greek words typically have one meaning which can be found by looking in the dictionary, then applying it to the passage. Most Greek words do not have just one meaning. There are several factors which determine the final outcome of the meaning of the word, namely context. Yet, how often do we hear in a sermon, “This word in the Greek means…”? or "In the original text it says" "In the original this word means". When you hear these words it's often time to be wary. Those words often provide the introduction to misleading information. It would be more accurate and truthful to say, “This word in the Greek/original translates here as…”
In the words of David Alan Black, "Most Greek words are “polysemous”, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called “illegitimate totality transfer” by linguists.)”
It can be then, very dangerous to define a word simply based on looking in a lexicon and then applying what you find there or clicking a button in a computer program and getting a quick answer, without actually knowing the language and its grammar and correct function. While word studies can be profitable if done correctly, for the above mentioned reasons, they can also be highly dangerous if the user does not know what they are doing. It can be just a matter of moments before a detrimental exegetical fallacy is committed that does no justice to the text, but only harms it and its hearers. Even more so, Greek is useful for far more than just word studies. It is such a rich and deep language in which many treasures are found. Why settle for a translation, second hand knowledge, when we can go to the original source?
For info about correct word studies see this page: Functional Greek
Also see this blog post about Common Exegetical Fallacies
2. Greek is a very difficult language to learn. Only those with special language learning abilities or language gifting can learn it. The average Christian probably could not learn Biblical Greek.
Regarding language learning, there is no easy route, there are no shortcuts that can be taken to learn any language, and there is no exception here with NTG. Language learning is hard work. Language learning is demanding. Learning Biblical Greek is hard work. I don't want to make it sound exceptionally easy, but we also don't want to make it seem so difficult that it appears to be entirely unattainable or inaccessible for the average person. Some who have never attempted to learn this language for themselves will no doubt assume that NTG is so difficult and unattainable that it is only accessible and able to be learned by the "few and chosen" Christians who possess "special language gifting" or who are "linguistically gifted". This is not so. Alas, a person cannot know how easy or difficult NTG is until they attempt for themselves to learn it. It is demanding and challenging, but its not that hard. Time, dedication, desire, determination, resolve, discipline, consistency, and perseverance are the determining factors in learning a language, not "special linguistic abilities". This includes New Testament Greek.
When someone learns a foreign language, it is a common tendency for those around them to label the learner as "linguistically gifted" or "possessing language abilities", as if learning a language is easier for them than most people. We may often hear, "Oh, so and so learned the language, but they are very specially gifted with languages, it comes more natural for them than for most." This is a great misunderstanding regarding language learning and cannot always be the excuse for why so many people "just can't learn a foreign language". Though there do at times exist people such as William Carey, who may have possessed a special and rare ability with languages, the issue of language learning most often does not have anything to do with some special language learning ability, but rather with the motivation, desire, resolve, and refusal for failure which the student does or does not possess. It is the difference in attitude between, "By the help of God I will learn this language, I will not quite, I will endure until I have learned it" and "I would like to learn it, but just don't think I can, I'm just not sure about it, languages aren't really my thing". The first person will usually learn the language, while the second has counted themself out before ever beginning, and so, will not learn it.
If someone wants something bad enough, they will exert themselves until they obtain it. Though the study of NTG will be challenging, demanding, and take many years to master the language well, it is well worth the effort. In the words of A.T. Robertson, 19-20th Century Greek Scholar, "There is no sphere of knowledge where one is repaid more quickly for all the toil expended."
3. Greek probably cannot be learned through self-study. Seminary or Bible College will give the student the best chance to be able to learn. This is one of those languages where formal education and instruction is just necessary.
Can this language be learned on one's own by self study using books and materials? The answer for the determined, serious-minded student who has the desire and time to set forward, would be an astounding yes! In centuries past, the resources for learning the Biblical languages were very limited, relatively speaking. Nevertheless, many pastors and preachers knew at least Greek. Today though, the means to learn Biblical Greek are much greater, there are many more resources which can be easily and reasonably accessed by the general public, especially in the English speaking world, and we are today in a sense, with less excuse for not studying it. At the same time, we live in the technology age, where turning on the TV or watching a movie require much less of the human mind, than say, reading a book or learning a language. Those of old, with their limited resources, accomplished much more than is often expected of us today, perhaps because they did not spend their free time surfing the internet or watching movies, both of which I do in balance.
This language is attainable and you can indeed learn it! Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. You can learn this language without seminary or formal training; you can learn it well through simple self-study, if using the right materials. Either one of the two following books are excellent for learning NTG by self study:
Basics of Biblical Greek – William D. Mounce
Learn to Read New Testament Greek – David A. Black
You can also find more self study resources here.
4. Studying Greek commonly causes the one studying to become prideful, arrogant, and puffed up. Therefore, this is not something we should promote or teach in our churches.
It is indeed a tragedy and a great shame for a man who does not have an experiential knowledge of New Testament Greek to discourage others, especially young men, from endeavoring to learn and study this language, while their opposing argument is merely based upon the supposed snare of pride that learning a Biblical language could present for the learner. There will always be snares and temptations for pride, but we must not run to the opposite extreme and ban the intellect altogether. If we are led by the flesh then we are doomed for pride and arrogance, but if we study and learn while being led by the Spirit, then it will be a profitable endeavor. There have been many humble pastors who have taught year-one Greek classes for those interested in their congregations, and the result is more often than not genuine humble Christians learning to understand and read God's Word in the language of the New Testament.
It is indeed a false notion that knowledge always puffs up, and it is false that learning Greek will puff up. There were problems in the church at Ephesus regarding a misuse of the law (see 1 Timothy). However, Paul did not discourage the study of the law, rather he taught what the true purpose of the law was. This is the same with NTG. If one becomes prideful from studying Greek, is there fault to be found with Greek? By no means. The fault is with the learner. 1 Corinthians 8:1 is often quoted out of context to state that knowledge puffs up, especially when someone who is anti-intellectual desires to prove their point. For those who are opposed to the study of the original languages based on the argument of possible resulting pride and arrogance, you may find this previous blog post helpful:
Rightly Handling the Biblical Languages
5. Pastors will be just fine using bible software programs and the abundance of English translations we have today. The reality is that today most of them are just too busy to study and learn Greek.
It is true indeed that the Christian can know their Lord and make Him known through translation. I would not dare to venture and say that a man must know Greek to be a preacher or pastor. Many men are able preachers, called and used by God, who do not have a knowledge of the New Testament language. But to know the oddities and intricacies, the nuances and deep secrets which translation does not and cannot reveal in any translation, these are reserved for the Greek New Testament. The computer program can shed some knowledge and insight, though theoretical to the learner. A groom can kiss his bride through the veil, it is a kiss, though it is not as real, vivid, and personal, it is not the same as if the veil were lifted. And so it is taking instruction through a computer program or other second or third hand source, yet remaining intellectually unattached and distanced from the language of which you are being told. In the end, when asked by our hearers “How?”, “Why?”, “What?” etc, we will simply be left saying, “Because so and so says so” or "Because the computer program...", for we will not be able to explain from a knowledgeable and informative stance what the Greek language is saying. We want firsthand knowledge of the Scriptures through its own language, not to always have to turn to second or third-hand witnesses telling us their view. This language can be learned, and we can have first-hand experiential knowledge of the New Testament Scriptures in its own language. People learn to read, write, speak, and translate foreign languages with great fluency; learning to read and understand Biblical Greek is no different.
It has been observed that those who are usually the quickest to negate a need for learning Greek due to an abundance of English translations and resources are often, if not always, the same who do not know the language themselves. It yet remains to find a man acquainted with his Greek New Testament who would discourage others from studying the language due to the English translations and tools available today. If you desire to embark on the life-long journey of learning Biblical Greek, and you want advice on whether or not to do so, ask a man who knows the language. For, how can someone who does not know the language recommend or discourage something that he does not have experiential knowledge and understanding of? One cannot appreciate what they do not have.
Regarding time: Though it is true that ministers of the gospel are busy men, they should not be so busy that the study of Biblical Greek is neglected. Though there may be other excuses or exceptions, let busyness not be one of them. If God left us the New Testament in the Greek language, then we ought to make time to pour out the effort to study it in its original language. Though we are all busy in our respective areas, we will find time to devote to what we truly deem to be important. For more on this topic, please read the following articles:
Biblical Languages as a Spiritual Discipline
The Minister’s Use of His Greek New Testament
6. The study of Greek often kills or destroys zeal for Christ and evangelism. It tends to become a purely intellectual study. So then, it is probably safer not to study it at all.
Some people study Biblical Greek as a hobby, others because they just like "old things". Then there are those who are enamored with the details of grammar syntax and morphology, whose study is but a dead and dry intellectual exercise, and yet others study so they may simply add to a long list of formal educational accolades. While these things may at times be true, this misunderstanding, just as number 5, is a purely straw-man-argument, being easily disarmed.
Many people study doctrine and theology, many people study sound reformed theology, yet it may at times be nothing more than a dead intellectual exercise. What does this mean? Should we abandon doctrine and theology? By no means! We therefore must say that same about NTG. God chose to have the NT Scriptures written and preserved in the Greek of that day. Through those Scriptures He still speaks to us. Therefore, it is not a dead language, but rather a living language, in that it still speaks to us today. There is nothing zeal destroying about NTG, if it is studied and understood properly!
If by learning the language of the New Testament, we may know the Scriptures better, and thus know Christ better and more intimately, then we have every reason to diligently strive to attain this language. Someone may study Latin and consequently be able to read the Philosophers, among other things. One may study Biblical Greek and read the New Testament! Or, one may stay on the side of translation and be left wondering what is on the other side. You choose where you want to be.