Sunday, September 04, 2005

Guest Post! (On Learning the Bible's Original Languages)

The following is a guest post... actually, it was a comment made to another post I made, but I thought it was so much better than my post that I posted it here. Here are tomgee's thoughts on learning Hebrew and Greek:

"Here is Martin Luther who credits the (human) launch of the entire Reformation to knowing Greek and Hebrew:

If the languages had not made me positive as to the true meaning of the word, I might have still remained a chained monk, engaged in quietly preaching Romish errors in the obscurity of a cloister; the pope, the sophists, and their anti-Christian empire would have remained unshaken.

Or his poetic description of the "scabbard of the sword of the Spirit"?:

Do you inquire what use there is in learning the languages...? Do you say, 'We can read the Bible very well in German?'

Without languages we could not have received the Gospel. Languages are the scabbard that contains the sword of the Spirit; they are the casket which contains the priceless jewels of antique thought; they are the vessel that holds the wine; and as the gospel says, they are the baskets in which the loaves and fishes are kept to feed the multitude.

If we neglect the literature we shall eventually lose the gospel.

Personally, having just finished my first year of Greek and entering into my second year (exegesis), I enjoy the language courses immensely. It is a delight to be able to (very, very slowly) translate directly from the Greek. It isn't nearly as hard as people expect it to be, at least for the majority.

Even my children (5 and 7) have learned the Greek alphabet, several words, and a single phrase in Greek. You can do this!

(By the way, the phrase is "ego eimi hay anastasis kai hay zoe", which is "I am the resurrection and the life." And if you are studying your Greek, you'll recognize that saying "ego eimi" means that Jesus is emphatic about himself, "*I* am the resurrection and the life".)

And, to be very frank with fellow would-be pastors, if we're not willing to put forward the effort to learn the original languages, should we not question just how much we really value the Word of God? I mean, pastoring is a lot of work, preaching is a lot of work; we're going to be putting a lot of effort into our labour as a pastors. Where better to invest our effort at the beginning of our studies than in the word which feeds all of the other tasks required of a pastor?

Which book better deserves this effort? Leadership books by Hybels and Maxwell? Pastoring books by Petersen (who I enjoy) and Cymbala? Better to go to the source. Go to the Word, in the original!

Parting words from Martin Luther:

As dear as the gospel is to us all, let us contend with its language.


and John Newton:

The original Scriptures well deserve your pains, and will richly repay them.

and finally from the aforementioned Bitzer himself:

The more a theologian detaches himself from the basic Hebrew and Greek text of Holy Scripture, the more he detaches himself from the source of real theology! And real theology is the foundation of a fruitful and blessed ministry."

Thanks tomgee!