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Biblical Languages, Gospel, Martin Luther, Pastoral Ministry, Seminary

>"Languages are the sheath which hides the sword of the Spirit"

>Martin Luther“Insofar as we love the Gospel, to that extent let us study the ancient tongues. And let us notice that without the knowledge of languages we can scarcely preserve the Gospel. Languages are the sheath which hides the sword of the Spirit, they are the chest in which this jewel is enclosed, the goblet holding this draught. So although the Faith and the Gospel may be proclaimed by preachers without the knowledge of languages, the preaching will be feeble and ineffective. But where the languages are studied, the proclamation will be fresh and powerful, the Scriptures will be searched, and the Faith will be constantly rediscovered through ever new words and deeds.” Martin Luther

Quite a statement. As someone who has begun to invest some blood, sweat, and tears into the study of biblical languages I might want this statement to be true but is it really? The statement about the preaching of those who do not know biblical languages being “feeble and ineffective” was too strong for my taste but apart from that one sentence I think this is a good commentary upon the importance of studying biblical languages in pastoral ministry.

For those who are in pastoral ministry or are preparing to enter pastoral ministry, what is your opinion concerning the value of having a good, working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew? For those who studied Greek and Hebrew, was it time and effort well invested? Or did you discard these tools once you graduated from seminary? For those who are in ministry and have not learned Greek or Hebrew, do you wish you had? Looking forward to your repsonses.

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Discussion

32 thoughts on “>"Languages are the sheath which hides the sword of the Spirit"

  1. >Incidentally, Luther also thought rather highly of classical learning in general–among the many things he blamed for the corruption of the Roman church, a decline in popular literacy was among them.So we teachers of letters have a place in things after all! Nate the Erasmean

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | June 23, 2008, 5:54 pm
  2. >”but even to know those one has to know one’s aorist from a hole in niphal.”Nate’s back! :)Seminary was worth it just so I could understand that joke.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | June 23, 2008, 5:36 pm
  3. >I know that I’ve found my semesters of Greek and Hebrew (four of each) quite valuable as a lay teacher. Because I also have to keep up Old English and Latin (for my college teaching), I tend to rely fairly heavily on BibleWorks when I’m planning lessons and sermons, but even to know those one has to know one’s aorist from a hole in niphal.

    Posted by Nathan P. Gilmour | June 23, 2008, 3:31 pm
  4. >To paraphrase Keanu Reaves from Parenthood: “You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car – hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let anyone teach the Bible.”

    Posted by Matt | June 23, 2008, 2:18 pm
  5. >”there’s a part of me that wishes we could license exegetes, theologians, and pastors the way they do automobile drivers before they are let loose on the road.”This should surely appear on a “quote for the day” page somewhere.My second oldest son returned to the parking lot after his failed road test. The wide-eyed, flush-faced, tester walked up to me shaking his head, “It wasn’t good.” I wonder what my first sermon’s audience looked like as the exited that train wreck of a worship service! 🙂

    Posted by ChiefsSuperfan | June 23, 2008, 2:01 pm
  6. >”there’s a part of me that wishes we could license exegetes, theologians, and pastors the way they do automobile drivers before they are let loose on the road.”Along with a 20-30 hrs of continuing education (CE) requirement every couple years just like I have to do with my insurance license. 😉

    Posted by Jeff Wright | June 22, 2008, 11:04 pm
  7. >”Now, however, a host of scholars deny the Gospels are either history or biography. They have determined that they fit into an entirely new genre, that of “story.” I would be in agreement with this view. I think Ryken at times tries too hard to see all narrative literature in the same light when the gospel narratives are truly unique. The gospel writers not only wrote historical events in the form of stories but also collected other traditions and sources that were worked into their own. Redaction criticism highlights the marks of this activity. What makes these accounts so unique is that the writers placed the historical events in no particular chronological sequence (at least in relation to one another), and pieced these other traditions together into a working narrative. All of this was done in an effort to bear testimony to the truth of the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ.While these unique works may not bear the smoothness of some other fine literary works, they are trying to accomplish a much greater purpose. They were not designed for entertainment or reading pleasure but more for dispensing truth and the engagement of the reader in this truth. One can only imagine putting together in the form of a working narrative, bits and pieces of historical events, incorporated together with ancient Jewish traditions in such a way as to try and provide evidence that the King of Heaven has taken on human form and visited the earth. Moreover, that he died at the hands of sinners, for whom he died. The irony is quite comical and even scandalous.As far as the idea regarding Chronicles, I think your right on with that. In fact, the gospel writers were heavily dependent on these and other biblical traditions in an effort to support their understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. Luke is probably the most thorough in this by way of including a second volume to the story (Acts). So I would classify them as gospel narratives or theological narratives that use history and biography but are more concerned with the theological significance of the facts rather than the facts themselves.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 22, 2008, 9:44 pm
  8. >”Of course, there’s also the whole issue of sharing Greek (or Hebrew) when necessary in such a way that the common man doesn’t leave thinking his English translation is a waste of his time. But, of course, that’s another issue.”Gunny,Very good input and well said. A great example of a pastor who knows the language but rarely mentions it is John Piper. He taught Greek for seven years and you can tell in his sermons that he knows it well, yet he is seldom explicit with it.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 22, 2008, 9:12 pm
  9. >Mark wrote:”… I have heard all too many sermons from people who have had this ‘little’ exposure and they would have been better off with none.”I think the problem is not that they have a little knowledge when none would be preferable. I think the problem is when people who know rather little think they know much or, worse yet, try to give the impression they know much.But, yes, I would agree that a little Greek improperly used can be dangerous and there’s a part of me that wishes we could license exegetes, theologians, and pastors the way they do automobile drivers before they are let loose on the road.Mark wrote:”Often preachers will be doing a fine job and then screw it all up with a major exegetical error that they have obviously misunderstood from one of the many helps available. The reason this happens is that the really good helps assume much more than a cursory knowledge on the part of their readers.”I hate hearing a preacher say, “And in the Greek this REALLY means …” or “The Greek word here is …” and I’m thinking, “The Gehenna it is.” Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies identifies many of these popular faux pas occurrences.Share it when it’s needed AND when it’s helpful AND when it’s correct!It also beats me down to see preachers wear their Greek on their sleeve, so to speak. The motive, it would seem, is more to impress than really contribute anything to the discussion.The finished sermon is/should typically be the tip of the iceberg of all the study that went into it. Of course, there’s also the whole issue of sharing Greek (or Hebrew) when necessary in such a way that the common man doesn’t leave thinking his English translation is a waste of his time. But, of course, that’s another issue.Jay, some interesting quotage. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by GUNNY | June 22, 2008, 8:09 pm
  10. >The reason I ask is that I would categorize them all simply as narrative. Even Kings and Chronicles use the narrative genre as a basis for their theological points of view. While historical events make up these narratives, historical chronology and precision seem to be secondary.I agree. The Gospels could be classified along with the more historical works as narrative. They both narrate events. In my mind the distinction comes in how and why the events are narrated. Interestingly, I think Chronicles is like an OT Gospel with the Davidic dynasty as Messiah. If we were to retain the Hebrew arrangement of the OT, placing Chronicles at the end, we would have the OT ending with Gospel and the NT beginning with the same. In the OT Gospel the good news is “God is establishing and will establish his kingdom through David and his sons.” In the NT Gospel, the good news is “God is establishing and will establish his kingdom through the son of David, Jesus Christ.” What do you think?

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 22, 2008, 7:17 pm
  11. >I think Leland Ryken says it well:”If we come to the Gospels with the usual narratives expectations of cause-effect plot construction, a strict beginning-middle-end framework, and the principle of single action, we will be continuously frustrated. The Gospels are too episodic and fragmented, too self-contained in their individual parts, and too thoroughly a hybrid form with interspersed nonnarrative elements to constitute this type of unified story. The Gospels are an encyclopedic or mixed form. They include elements of biography, historical chronicle, fiction (the parables), oration, sermon, dialogue (drama), proverb, poem, tragedy, and comedy (How to Read the Bible as Literature, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984], 132).”Also Richard R. Melick, Jr. writes:”Scholars differ on the genre found in the New testament. Basically, four genre occur–history, gospel, epistle, and apocalyptic. Each has unique characteristics which set it apart from the others, and proper interpretation demands sensitivity to these characteristics. . . . “The second type of genre is gospel. Again, scholars debate literary characteristics. In the past, many scholars often considered the Gospels as history. Although most modern scholars deny that parallel, some have revived it. They claim that especially Luke and Acts conforms to a Hellenistic pattern of historical writing. Others view the Gospels as biography, and other suggestions occur. Now, however, a host of scholars deny the Gospels are either history or biography. They have determined that they fit into an entirely new genre, that of “story.” The Gospels clearly show the characteristics of stories. They have introductions, plots, and conclusions. These stories however, clearly witness to Jesus Christ. This classification does not deny their historical nature. Nor does it deny their biographical interests, since the writers recorded actual events from the life of Jesus. This classification claims more, however. The Gospels combine biographical and historical materials into a strong witness to Jesus.”As literary constructions, the Gospels contain specific forms and conventions, sometimes called subgenres, used by the writers to accomplish their tasks. These include the categories of pronouncement stories, proverbs, parables, poetry, hymns, midrashim, and miracle stories.”Gospel genre calls for specific hermeneutical methods. Although most of the events may be handled like historical material, another step is needed. The interpreter must determine how a particular story or event calls people to consider Jesus as the Christ” (“Literary Criticism of the New Testament” from Foundations for Biblical Interpretation, ed. David S. Dockery, Kenneth A. Matthews, and Robert B. Sloan, [Nashville: B&H, 1999], 436-37.See also Craig Blomberg’s description of the Gospel genre as “theological biography” rather than historical narrative (“The Diversity of Literary Genres in the New Testament” from Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues ed. David Alan Black and David S. Dockery, [Nashville: B&H, 2001], 273-77).I think the Gospels are extraordinarily multiform. They include many types of literary genre and thus become a kind of genre of their own.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 22, 2008, 7:05 pm
  12. >The reason I ask is that I would categorize them all simply as narrative. Even Kings and Chronicles use the narrative genre as a basis for their theological points of view. While historical events make up these narratives, historical chronology and precision seem to be secondary.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 22, 2008, 6:50 pm
  13. >”Also, I may be non-typical in doing this, but I don’t consider the Gospels as historical narrative. I consider them to be their own special literary genre. I take books like Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, etc. as historical narrative.”Interesting! Could I ask how you differentiate these?

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 22, 2008, 3:17 pm
  14. >Narrative literature is by far more complex than straightforward epistolary literature.I would say that both are complex. My statement wasn’t really meant to address complexity, just the importance of grammatical studies in epistolary literature over historical narrative in general. Also, I may be non-typical in doing this, but I don’t consider the Gospels as historical narrative. I consider them to be their own special literary genre. I take books like Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, etc. as historical narrative.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 22, 2008, 3:09 pm
  15. >”I would say even if a guy does Jack Squat with the languages post-seminary it’s worthwhile to take the classes and be exposed to at least that much.I agree exposure is fine, but as you very well know, exposure doesn’t last long in the real world. I have found in my studies now that the exposure I got in seminary really was just that, a light exposure, and I was a NT major and took a Greek exegesis class (sometimes 2) almost every semester. I now find that a deeper understanding of the language itself, and not just an introduction to it, helps me to recognize that many of the helps available err in many ways and have to be engaged critically. There is this wholesale mentality that all the helps available are in some way inerrant. When one considers the degree of differing opinions out there, it is overwhelming. So more than a cursory knowledge is necessary. Otherwise a person gets just enough to get them in trouble. “In other words, better some or a little than none. I think it would be a shame to do nothing with it, I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time.”It is obvious from your comments that you are not one who does nothing with the languages. In fact, it sounds as if you make quite an effort to do everything you can while also being considerate of your other responsibilities (the Harley riding being a very important one). However, I think this statement needs a bit of brake tapping as well. While it sounds reasonable, I have heard all too many sermons from people who have had this “little” exposure and they would have been better off with none. Often preachers will be doing a fine job and then screw it all up with a major exegetical error that they have obviously misunderstood from one of the many helps available. The reason this happens is that the really good helps assume much more than a cursory knowledge on the part of their readers. Thus, they present the material in a way that is often misunderstood by someone with only a light exposure.”It has been my experience that understanding the original language is far more important in the tightly argued NT epistolary literature than in the historical narratives, poetic writings, and prophecies of the OT. “I find the opposite to be true. Narrative literature is by far more complex than straightforward epistolary literature. It requires a good understanding of discourse analysis, a recognition of different rhetorical devices used that are often not present in epistolary literature, and an acknowledgment that what is often seen as “historical” is meant to be more more theological and than an actual account of chronological history. This is evident in Synoptic studies where the authors use many of the same events yet in different chronological sequence. But I also acknowledge the importance of grammar in epistolary literature.I guess mine is a knee-jerk reaction. And I have to admit I am not a pastor and I know you guys have a lot of other responsibilities. What is encouraging is that I am hearing from each of you the fact that you do spend time engaging the text in the original languages. So that is music to my ears!I also think one can go overboard with anything and this is one of them. So I think balance is necessary as well. It is my belief that the Word has the power to change lives. And if pastors are faithful to deliver the word it will achieve its purpose (most of the time a purpose quite contrary to what we design or intend).

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 22, 2008, 10:35 am
  16. >Word. Plus, a lot of that PM training you can only get in a church and some of it wasn’t quite transferable to my church situation anywho.

    Posted by GUNNY | June 22, 2008, 3:13 am
  17. >”My final thought: If I could do it over again, I think I would have focused my ThM studies on Greek NT instead of Pastoral Leadership. That’s not a rejection of my calling, but I think in the long run it would have been of greater benefit.”Yup. Unfortunately a lot of the PM stuff you can simply get from conferences and books while that is not really the case with the NT training.

    Posted by Jeff Wright | June 22, 2008, 3:09 am
  18. >From Mark’s 1st post:”If one is planning to drop the study of languages after seminary, I would say drop it now because it is but a waste of time if you don’t continue to use it.”While part of me wants to shout out, “Amen,” the more sensible side of me says, “Well, let’s tap the brake there just a bit.”I would say even if a guy does Jack Squat with the languages post-seminary it’s worthwhile to take the classes and be exposed to at least that much. In other words, better some or a little than none. I think it would be a shame to do nothing with it, I wouldn’t say it was a waste of time.In response to Jay’s 1st post, I agree that a working knowledge is necessary. But I think it’s debatable as to what that is.Matt asked, “Why should we expect people to show up Sunday morning and sit through a 30–45 minute sermon if we don’t understand the Scriptures better than them?”Ouch! Now THAT is quite a compelling argument.For me, what I’m preaching makes a big difference to what kind of original language study I do.I will say this, however, I about killed myself the first year as a pastor because I bought into the notion that I’d be allowed my 40 hours of study per week for my Sunday morning sermon.I wasn’t expecting to teach Sunday school, preach, teach on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, disciple a group of men, be the secretary, be the janitor, be the plumber, be the referee of in-house fights, visit people, make hospital visits, meet for breakfast, coffee, & lunch, be the church’s representative in the community, be pressured to participate in the local Baptist slooge, etc.All that stuff infringed on my study time AND my Harley riding. Good thing I only had one child that first year, but it was still a shock having spent the previous year reading all the John Owen I could soak up and studying some Latin.Honestly, with all the tools out there now, there’s no excuse for a pastor (even non-seminary trained) to not have at least a working knowledge of the original languages.My final thought: If I could do it over again, I think I would have focused my ThM studies on Greek NT instead of Pastoral Leadership. That’s not a rejection of my calling, but I think in the long run it would have been of greater benefit.

    Posted by GUNNY | June 22, 2008, 2:58 am
  19. >Jared,Exactly! Well put! 🙂

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 21, 2008, 8:36 pm
  20. >If Elizabethian/King James English was good enough for Jesus, it is right and meet for me and thee.

    Posted by Jared Nelson | June 21, 2008, 7:24 pm
  21. >I think if one has to drop one language for another, he should stick with Greek. It has been my experience that understanding the original language is far more important in the tightly argued NT epistolary literature than in the historical narratives, poetic writings, and prophecies of the OT. Not that understanding the Hebrew is unimportant. I am fully persuaded that in certain circumstances (i.e. giving in-depth lectures on OT books) understanding the original Hebrew adds a dimension of richness to one’s exposition.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 21, 2008, 6:43 pm
  22. >The LXX was the OT of choice outside of Pharisaic circles and it became the OT of the early church.I think this raises a very interesting issue. If a NT author was willing to quote the LXX, and through textual criticism we now understand the LXX translation wasn’t exactly in line with the original grammar and syntax, what then does this say about the importance of absolute precision in the grammar and syntax of the original language?Perhaps the redemptive themes a passage addresses, those themes that point us to the gospel of Christ, are just as available to us through translations as they are through the original language. Perhaps working through the original grammar and syntax wouldn’t add anything significant to one’s understanding in that regard.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 21, 2008, 6:38 pm
  23. >I studied both Greek and Hebrew extensively in seminary. When I entered the pastorate, I found that I did not have time to maintain both. So, I chose to drop Hebrew and just focus on Greek. Aside from Paul, I am not sure that many of the N.T. writers and early church knew Hebrew. The LXX was the OT of choice outside of Pharisaic circles and it became the OT of the early church. Understanding Hebrew does shed some light on the New Testament, but I don’t think it’s as valuable as Greek.Knowing Greek and Hebrew does more than allow you to know the precise grammar of a particular verse. It lets you into the minds of the ancient world. Their languages didn’t function like English. When you read the Bible in Hebrew or Greek, you understand it in ways that you can’t explain. It’s almost like reading a different book. Also, reading the Bible in Greek helps you trace themes in particular authors easier than you can in the English. (For example “flesh” in Paul or “remain” in John.) Finally, you can’t interact with the best scholarship without knowledge of the languages.I think pastors are also teachers. Granted, a lot of their teaching is with their lives, but a lot of it is also from the Bible. Why should we expect people to show up Sunday morning and sit through a 30–45 minute sermon if we don’t understand the Scriptures better than them?

    Posted by Matt | June 21, 2008, 3:09 pm
  24. >”Moreover, it is now viewed as something you “do” at seminary and “might not do” afterward. What you learn in seminary is just to get you started. Being familiar with Greek and Hebrew is a life-long process and the more you do it the better you get. If one is planning to drop the study of languages after seminary, I would say drop it now because it is but a waste of time if you don’t continue to use it.I often used to hear from “pastoral” students in seminary who finished their last Greek and Hebrew courses, “I’m glad I’m finished with that.” I cringe to know they view the languages in such a way and yet desire to teach God’s people.”Exactly. Drop those classes now if you’re going to drop the languages later! I view my language training as introductory steps rather than checking off a box on the list of courses to complete. Now that I’ve taken those Greek and Hebrew courses I am now ready to begin a lifetime of learning with these languages. If I was satisfied with what I’ve learned thus far I’d be in trouble because I need much more continual and consistent use in order to become adequately competent. I view these courses as preparation for what I will be doing regularly later. Enjoying the discussion!

    Posted by Jeff Wright | June 20, 2008, 10:13 pm
  25. >”Nonetheless, in general I think it is best for all pastors to have a working knowledge of the languages. Pastors need to be able to read modern translations and commentaries somewhat critically.”You make an excellent point here Jay. Pastors do need to be able to interact “critically” with commentaries and other helps primarily because many times people are too dependent on them. Every commentator has weak areas and when one is engaging these works it is best to have enough of a working knowledge to be able to detect these issues. I just tend to think people are too dependent and don’t ask enough questions because they think all the helps are spot on when many times they might not be.A “good” working knowledge is a necessity I think. But I must add, like ChiefsSuperfan, I never prepare a sermon or lesson without first digging through the passage in the original. That is step #1 for me every time. And I seldom find times when it does not add to the discussion.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 20, 2008, 8:38 pm
  26. >For various reasons this dialogue has peaked my interest. I’m on another end of the spectrum, Jay, because I would say that I rarely prepare a sermon without heavily indulging myself in the originals.That said, I like your “overlap” consideration. If the Lord were to lead me away from the pulpit and into a seminary/college setting I would not envision myself as a professor of languages but in the role of chaplain or campus pastor or prof of pastoral studies/methods. There is then a difference in “gifting” perhaps between pastors and professors. Would that be accurate to say? And, even within pastoral staffs, a senior pastor-teacher would need a different passion than the outreach or family life pastor would. Now for some more bias from me: When we searched for our Student Ministries Pastor as an elder team we realized that his central responsibility would be teaching the Word. For that reason we selected a man trained in the original languages. For us his exegetical skills were as important as his ability to relate with younsters.

    Posted by ChiefsSuperfan | June 20, 2008, 4:35 pm
  27. >This is a difficult issue. I ride the fence on it. I do think there is typically a clear difference between the scholarship of experts (i.e. seminary profs) and the scholarship of pastors. I say typically in order to allow for overlap. There is some overlap. But the vast majority of faithful pastors just aren’t gifted in a way that allows for the same kind of rigor required from profs, hence the grammars, syntaxes, exegetical commentaries, software packages, etc. All pastors should work hard to be able to engage the Bible in its original languages, and that will typically mean having the ability to use the available tools well enough (i.e. a working knowledge). But I don’t think it is an absolute necessity. Though I have a working knowledge of the original languages, I often don’t need to consult them when preparing lessons or sermons. Occasionally I will, but oftentimes I don’t. And in the cases where I don’t, although I might be mistaken, I don’t think consulting the original language would have added anything significant to the lesson/sermon.Nonetheless, in general I think it is best for all pastors to have a working knowledge of the languages. Pastors need to be able to read modern translations and commentaries somewhat critically.

    Posted by M. Jay Bennett | June 20, 2008, 3:58 pm
  28. >”Amen” to Mark’s post. I would add that somewhere down the line something has gone really, really, really wrong if in our Church culture we have created such a chasm between the academic and pastoral worlds that the two are seen as so utterly distinct.Mark’s point that one cannot separate scholarship from shepherding is well taken, and precisely on track. I must strain at Scripture to even begin to see a pastor as something other than a teacher. Elders, worthy of double honor, must be both apt to teach and laboring diligently in the study of the Word.Jacob, you obviously have experienced something in either church or seminary which is not befitting of Scripture’s “job description” of a pastor-teacher. Perhaps, we are wrangling over the meanings of “Teaching” and “Shepherding.” They are anything but mutually exclusive.

    Posted by ChiefsSuperfan | June 20, 2008, 3:31 pm
  29. >The knowledge of the original languages of Scripture are an absolute necessity for those who feel called to proclaim the Scriptures. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say every pastor should be able to fluently sight read Greek and Hebrew as well as English, the ability to engage the text by means of grammar, syntax, vocabulary and grammatical structure is vital. Jacob mentioned ‘parsing and translating’ with regard to preaching, but engaging the text goes far beyond parsing and translating. The English versions do provide a similar result. But to examine a passage carefully in the original language before preaching it, I think is essential. I have to agree with ChiefsSuperfan in that pastors should seek to achieve the same goal as professors. After all, they are dealing with God’s people directly and are responsible for teaching them. This is a huge responsibility. I would say to those who pastor or seek to pastor, what you desire is no light affair. To treat lightly the study of the languages would be the same as a surgeon knowing anatomy and physiology but never learning to use a scalpel. This is the doctor’s tool of the trade just as the original languages are the tools of the pastor’s trade. It would be irresponsible to neglect this aspect of teaching the Scriptures. “Would you rather a pastor be less fluent in the Biblical languages, or in sheperding skills?”I’m not sure one has to choose between the two. I know plenty of people who ardently study the languages and are great shepherds. In fact, I would go so far a to say knowing the languages is part of one’s shepherding skills.This was a problem in Luther’s day and is a problem in our day. The fact is, few want to put in the time and effort it takes to learn and study the Scriptures in the original languages. Moreover, it is now viewed as something you “do” at seminary and “might not do” afterward. What you learn in seminary is just to get you started. Being familiar with Greek and Hebrew is a life-long process and the more you do it the better you get. If one is planning to drop the study of languages after seminary, I would say drop it now because it is but a waste of time if you don’t continue to use it.I often used to hear from “pastoral” students in seminary who finished their last Greek and Hebrew courses, “I’m glad I’m finished with that.” I cringe to know they view the languages in such a way and yet desire to teach God’s people.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | June 20, 2008, 2:59 pm
  30. >chiefssuperfan,In an ideal world I’d agree with you. But how would you rank knowledge of Greek & Hebrew in terms of “pastoring”? We’ve made our “pastor” into “teachers”. Would you rather a pastor be less fluent in the Biblical languages, or in sheperding skills?

    Posted by Jacob | June 20, 2008, 2:16 pm
  31. >I have found study in the originals absolutely invaluable. There is no greater exhileration than to vest your mind deeply in the Greek and to find an answer you’ve wrestled for. It helps me think more Pauline or Petrine or etc. as fewer other venues of digging do.As for its value limited to merely difficult passages I would say that I have yet to find a verse whose truth does not warrant thorough, hard, laborous exegesis. Perhaps the simpler the truth is, the deeper we should mine. Just because we understand John 3:16 does not mean it does not deserve our sweat.D. A. Carson’s awesome book “Exegetical Fallacies” demonstrates that there are a number of “beliefs” that “require correction via linguistic nuances” because “the things that are plain in the english” are not always “sufficient.” It is my conviction that pastors should be just as “scholarly” as professors.

    Posted by ChiefsSuperfan | June 20, 2008, 1:55 pm
  32. >Jeff,I studied Greek while a student at Moody, and it seemed invaluable – at the time. But having done my own parsing & translation and comparing it to existing translations, I think I get sufficient (80-95%) understanding from the NASB & NIV. Few people’s beliefs require correction via linguistic nuances, the things that are plain in the english translations is sufficient.For a theologian who is confronting difficult, controversial, or obscure theological details, the languages are essential. For a pastor, I don’t think it’s critical to parse & translate everything you preach, but it’s good to have the background so you understnad the limits of “knowing greek”.

    Posted by Jacob | June 20, 2008, 11:46 am

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