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May
14

Is Learning Greek and Hebrew Really Worth It?

First, a confession. I like languages. I always have. There’s something fun about unraveling a new language, pulling the pieces apart, learning how it works, and then trying to put it back together again. It’s like a puzzle just waiting to be solved. It’s not easy, and like most puzzles it can be pretty frustrating. But I still enjoy it.

Not everyone agrees.

For many, learning a new language is an exhausting, frustrating, and spirit-killing endeavor, one that has been scientifically proven to cause premature hair loss, marital discord, excess book throwing, and, in small rodents, cancer. So it should come as no surprise that many wonder if it’s really worth it. Should I really invest that much time and that many brain cells in learning these languages? Isn’t that why we have translations in the first place?

That’s a fair question. But it’s not a new one. People have wrestled with whether we really need to learn the languages for a very long time. So, rather than offering my own answer, let’s take a look at what Martin Luther had to say on the subject.

Martin Luther wrote a wonderful little tract titled “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.” In it he gives three reasons why we should study the languages. And stick with his argument all the way through. His first two answers might not surprise you much, but the third is where the real payoff is.

1. A Pragmatic Reason for Learning the Languages

Luther’s first reason is fairly pragmatic. There are some good translations out there that you can use to understand the Bible. And those will suffice for some purposes. But if you really want to dig in – especially if you are faced with someone you think is using the Bible badly – then you need more:

A simple preacher (it is true) has so many clear passages and texts available through translations that he can know and teach Christ, lead a holy life, and preach to others. But when it comes to interpreting Scripture, and working with it on your own, and disputing with those who cite it incorrectly, he is unequal to the task; that cannot be done without languages.

And Luther goes on to argue that we also need to study the languages if we want to preach powerfully:

Therefore, although faith and the gospel may indeed be proclaimed by simple preachers without a knowledge of languages, such preaching is flat and tame; people finally become weary and bored with it, and it falls to the ground. But where the preacher is versed in the languages, there is a freshness and vigor in his preaching, Scripture is treated in its entirety, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and illustrations.

I love his language of preaching as needing some depth behind it if it’s going to stay fresh and meaningful over time.

For Luther, then, we need to know the original languages because they add power to our messages, confidence to our ministries, depth to our arguments. And, those are no small matters. We should be able to handle the Word with confidence and proclaim with power. The time we have spent on the languages is a gift to our ministries and students.

But it seems like we need something more. If understanding the languages is a purely pragmatic issue, then my best bet would be to find Greek and Hebrew scholars that I really trust and simply rely on their conclusions. It’s unlikely that I will ever spend more time on Greek and Hebrew than Bill Mounce or Miles van Pelt (since they actually wrote books on learning Greek and Hebrew). And, if I can’t really do better than they can, wouldn’t it be more efficient to use my time doing something else? Why not trust a good commentary and spend my time working on powerful illustrations and applications? This is precisely what a pragmatic approach to the languages would suggest.

2. A Gospel-Centered Reason for Learning the Languages

So, I find it interesting that Luther’s main argument is not a pragmatic one. His starting point is the Gospel.

We will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments.

Luther’s fundamental concern is that if we do not pay particular and close attention to the text, we will lose the Gospel itself. Left to ourselves, we will inevitably fashion the Gospel in our own image, after our own preferences, according to our own desires. Although Luther regularly ascribes value to studying translations of the Bible, he argues that this is not ultimately sufficient. Unless we dig deeply into the text, we will eventually lose our moorings and drift into the stream of contemporary (ir)relevance.

Hence, it is inevitable that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.

3. A Formational Reason for Learning the Languages

So, we have now two reasons for studying the original languages: effective ministry and protection of the Gospel. To these, I think we must add a third: spiritual formation. We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not studying the original languages; we are studying the Word of God. The languages are simply a means to that end. As Luther said, they are the “sheath.”

So I think we would do better to think of learning the languages as a spiritual discipline. It is an intentional practice designed to draw one toward a more intimate knowledge of God so that we can be continually re-shaped in his image. Only by constantly reminding ourselves that this is what we are doing, can we resist the alluring pull of pragmatism and the inevitable conclusion that we should just let someone else do it for us.

Comments

  1. I can see there is great value in learning the languages but would you say it is essential? Several of the apostles were ‘unschooled men’ – would these same men be allowed to lead our churches today if learning the languages was a requirement?

    I can see the real danger in the church losing the ability to read & interpret the scriptures in their original language but is there not also a danger in setting the bar for our leaders in academic terms rather than godly character?

    What would you say is the place for those who love Jesus and are walking godly, Spirit filled lives but who do not have the academic capacity for learning Greek & Hebrew?

    I’m thinking a lot through these issues at the moment so would really value any insight and comments you may have… :)

    • Danny, thanks for the comment. I think the first thing I would say is that just because I think learning the languages is important, that doesn’t mean I don’t think other things are important as well. We definitely don’t want pastors who are spiritually immature but really good at the languages!

      I also wouldn’t say that knowing the languages is “essential,” if by that you mean that God can’t use you as a pastor if you don’t know them. God is amazing and the fact that he uses any of us in his ministry is a gift of his grace. But, when we can, I think that we must do our best to equip ourselves for such a big responsibility. So I’d say it’s “essential” in this latter sense – i.e. it brings so much value to ministry that those who can do it should do it.

      Although I don’t have as much experience teaching Greek/Hebrew as many, I think I’d challenge the assumption that some just aren’t able to learn the languages. Certainly some people have a far greater aptitude for it than others, but I don’t think I’ve run into anyone who can’t do it at any level.

    • Danny,

      While it’s true the apostles were unschooled men, they also knew the original languages. That being said, you don’t have to know the original languages, you just need the Bible in your language! Remember, it was Tyndale who said in response to a learned Catholic doctor, “I defy the pope and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than you do.” Your or my spirituality is not determined by how many languages I know, biblical or otherwise. In fact, the character transformation of the apostles was due to the fact that these men had been with Jesus, Acts 4:13. Yes, God can bless us even in our ignorance (my own life testifies of that fact). However, look at what God was able to do with the apostle Paul.

      In my seminary experience I was required to learn Greek and Hebrew, and while there were times I spent many a evening on my knees seeking God’s grace to understand the language, I’m forever grateful I was required.

      Allow me to share my testimony. My first summer in seminary I was required to take some introductory classes because I had no theological background. I was a fairly new Christian (only 4 years) so I was very impressionable on a lot of matters. My first class was Survey of the Old Testament, the professor was Johannes Erbes, a language scholar. One of his sayings was, “Learn the languages, because then no one will be able to tell you what the text means.” That idea stuck with me all throughout seminary and even till now. The challenge with learning the biblical languages in seminary was that you had to learn them and move on to the next thing. I graduated and entered my first pastorate and now it’s 17 years later, praise God! But a few years back I was visiting another seminary in my area and I was walking down the halls where the offices were for the instructors and I came across an article posted on a bulletin board outside the Hebrew professors office. The title of the article: “Brothers, Bitzer was a Banker!” ***To all within reading distance, please read that article.*** The teacher noticed me outside her door and made a copy of the article for me. I read it and later went to the campus chapel to pray. My prayer went something like this: “Lord, several years ago, professor Erbes urged us to learn the languages. I was required to do so and I always wanted to master them once I had the time after I graduated. Well Lord, I’ve graduated and it’s now X number of years. I want to learn them because I think it’s important. And if you want me to learn them please help me because I’m going to need it.

      That was October of 2010. Interestingly, that July I had just moved to a new church district and in January the pastor’s had our annual pastoral evaluations with our conference administration. We were to review our professional and personal goals for 2011. One of my goals was to re-learn my Greek. Just before I was to meet with my administrator, one of my colleagues, several years my senior, asked me what some of my goals were. I mentioned one of them was to re-learn my Greek. Immediately he responded let’s get together once a week to study. As it turns out, unbeknownst to me my colleague was a Greek scholar and he was in the church district right next to mine. So for the next 6 months we got together once a week to read through book of the NT until he retired and moved out of state. His encouragement was invaluable in helping me to reach my goal for that year. Have I mastered the Greek? Absolutely not! But my prayer was answered in that I had a mentor who was able to point me in a direction and help me on my journey.

      But that’s not the end of the story. You see, there are two primary biblical languages, Greek and Hebrew. My goal was to learn the Hebrew as well as the Greek. So, after I had spent 2011 focusing on the Greek, I set a goal to emphasize Hebrew in 2012.

      The challenge I was faced with was I could re-learn the Hebrew on my own, but I knew I could accelerate the process if I only had a mentor like I did with the Greek. So, again I prayed. And listen to what happened next. At our annual pastor’s retreat in August of 2012 I was in the lunch line. A few people ahead of me was the new pastor who took the place of the other pastor who was the Greek scholar, so again his district was next to mine. And I couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing. He was a Hebrew scholar. So after getting out of the lunch line I asked him if we could get together to which he said, “Yes, of course!” Although we haven’t been able to do so yet, due to obligations within our church districts, he has three churches; and I have two. Nonetheless, the die has been cast.!

      Danny, I believe God can use anyone…even a donkey *Numbers 22:28; but remember, our first work is that of self-improvement, so we can be everything we can for a holy God.

      Let me close with this brief testimony by Edward Taylor, apparently it’s from his journal/diary. It’s dated August 29, [1653] and it’s written in old English, but you’ll get the idea: My pupils all came to me yesterday to desire they might cease learning Hebrew: I with withstood it with my reason I could, yet all will not satisfy them. Thus am I requited for my love; & thus little fruit of all my prayers & tears for your good.
      August 30: God appeared somehow in inclining the spirit of my pupils to the study of Hebrew as I prayed that God would do.

      Blessings,
      Tom

  2. When Luther wrote “such preaching is flat and tame; people finally become weary and bored with it, and it falls to the ground,” he could have been describing a multitude of preachers who are educated in the original languages whose preaching does exactly what he described–and let’s admit, we have all heard them teach!

    To those endowed by God with a calling, passion, and skills, their preaching will be powerful and the Scriptures will sing, regardless of their knowledge of original languages.

    And when he speaks of the central importance of language capacity, he is speaking collectively. We, as the church will always need teachers who have real expertise in order to keep the church on track. But one’s ability in this area or inability, of course, does not threaten us to “lose the gospel.”

    Again, as we know, many high-level, linguistically sophisticated professors of Biblical literature have gone awry precisely in this direction.

    If given a choice between being a good teacher who has the language capacity and one who does not, I believe we would all chose the later, of course, because his fidelity will be enhanced. But I just don’t see the 1 to 1 correlation that is implied here.

    I think the third reason is excellent–it is the Word of God. It is worth knowing at that original level. And it can do something profound in the student who meditates and knows it in its original.

    And for anyone who is fluent in a second language of any kind, you know how often phrases or idioms lose a lot once they go through the translation process. The original intent, power, irony, humor, or tone just does not come through the same in the second language.

    • You’re absolutely right that God does use people regardless of their knowledge of the languages. I’ve listened to several excellent sermons from pastors who never touch the original languages in their sermon prep. But I wonder why we would use that as a reason not to encourage people to learn them. If the languages are valuable and contribute to deeper and more reliable teaching, why not emphasize their value even for those God is already using. I think God has gifted me to teach, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do everything I can to get better at it.

      And I definitely agree that this is a corporate task. The goal isn’t for all pastors to become academics so they can write commentaries. And Luther was primarily concerned about the corporate dynamic. His concern was about lack of teaching the languages in schools and the concern that this would eventually undermine the gospel. And I think this is similar to contemporary discussions about whether we really need to require the languages in seminary. What impact will it have on the church in 50 years if we stop requiring pastors to learn the languages today. Granted, we’ll still have the academics, but I don’t think that’s adequate.

      I’d also say that the issue isn’t so much about the gospel being lost by the church as a whole (as though we could “lose” God’s gospel like that!). But I do think we can rightly be concerned about an individual pastor/congregation losing touch with the gospel if they’re not digging deeply into the texts on a regular basis.

      • Fun discussion.

        You commented, “But I wonder why we would use that as a reason not to encourage people to learn them.”

        I already wrote, “If given a choice between being a good teacher who has the language capacity and one who does not, I believe we would all chose the later, of course, because his fidelity will be enhanced. But I just don’t see the 1 to 1 correlation that is implied here.”

        But my contention was rather with Luther’s comment about those who do not have the language background…he wrote:

        “…although faith and the gospel may indeed be proclaimed by simple preachers without a knowledge of languages, such preaching is flat and tame; people finally become weary and bored with it, and it falls to the ground.”

        Do you believe that? I do not. That is not a language issue.

        The original question is “Is learning Greek and Hebrew really worth it?” And the answer of course is, “It depends.”

        If you really learn it, get it down, and are able to use it, then “Yes.”

        But the reality is that after seminary most, and it is a large “most,” can use the tools some and enhance their teaching a bit. Most never get to the level of true fluency of use.

        So, I am not a proponent of 24 required seminary units of languages.

        I propose 8 units max of Greek and/or Hebrew language overview and tools where students actually are taught how to use the tools to enhance their teaching through repeated practice.

        Then in each Bible/theology/preaching class taught in subsequent semesters students be required to show competency in using the tools.

        Then offer 16-30 additional advanced language courses for those going on or who have a passion for it.

        • That’s a fair point. I wouldn’t say that preaching without the languages is necessarily “flat and tame” since there are many other factors that go into preaching than one’s background in the languages. And several of those factors (esp the Spirit and the audience) are entirely beyond the preacher’s control. So it would be more precise to say that I think the languages are a significant factor, and that I think someone’s preaching is more likely to be flat and tame (esp over time) without them. (Just as I would say that someone’s preaching is more likely to be flat and tame without prayer, good communication skills, a knowledge of one’s audience, etc.).

        • I was going to post a separate comment thread, but I think you stated my thoughts here Brent.

          Original language study, to me is something that could be beneficial, but only if it is properly used. I have found that in my pastoral experience and preparing sermons, I do not use original languages as often as I did while engaging in exegetical work in seminary. With that said, I do enjoy working with original languages when time permits. Do I find my sermons enhanced by spending more time in the languages? Depends, just as you state. Sometimes I find myself becoming frustrated that there are no “zinger” discoveries after spending time in what I thought was an important exegetical trail. Other times, I am greatly blessed and amazed at what I find.

          I also think there is a danger, even in studying the original languages, to engage in eisegesis or reading our story into the text instead of allowing the text to engage us. Another danger I have been convicted of personally is a sense of pride that comes from the efforts of language study. I have found myself, at times, patting myself on the back rather than allowing the Word to change my heart. It becomes more academic than pastoral (again, not necessarily bad, but you can see where this can become troublesome). Not sure if this fits in with your thread here, but thought I would share a few thoughts.

          Peace!

  3. Ken Garrett says:

    Thanks, Mark!

  4. First of all I will admit that I do not have the same love for languages that Mark seems to have. I am much closer to the second paragraph of this post. I failed time and time again in my comprehension of the original languages. I even sought to graduate with my M-Div without completing them which thank God I was not allowed to do. Though I have not come to a mastery of these languages I can clearly see the need for their study, especially by those God has called teach and to lead. It is in my struggle with these that I have learned perseverance. It is also in studying the text in the original languages that I have learned much about what it says. For me it causes me to slow down and completely pour myself into the text and its meaning, not just its translation. I am thankful for every professor who did not just let me go through when I did not have the comprehension of the language and I am thankful for a school that required me to learn them. For those who do not see its need I would recommend Using New Testament Greek in Ministry by David Alan Black and Greek For The Rest of Us by Dr. Mounce.

    • I think the fact that working in the original languages makes us slow down and really pay attention to the text is one of the greatest benefits. I know you can do this in English (or whatever your primary language is). But for some reason it’s much harder. When I’m reading in Greek/Hebrew, I constantly see things in the text that I never noticed before, even though I could have seen many of the same things in an English translation!

  5. Thomas Goodnow says:

    Excellent post, though I admit as a language nerd I am predisposed to like the overall drift. One other issue, hinted at in Luther’s second point and perhaps implicit in the third is that studying God’s word in a foreign language reminds us a little of what we are studying. What I mean is, to borrow what I think is a Lutheran concept, that the Gospel is God’s “strange work”, and is unlike what we see of God’s revelation through nature or in human reason or personality. You cannot study Greek or Hebrew without a persistent sense that these languages represent a world that is truly foreign, not merely in grammar and vocabulary, but in worldview and perspective. The Gospel is foreign to who I am in myself, and to study it in Greek is a constant reminder that just as Greek requires a different way of thinking, so the Gospel requires a different way of thinking, about who God is, who I am, and who the people were to whom He first spoke. Of course, the Gospel was strange to those who spoke Koine or Hebrew as well, but they had perhaps some compensation in the simple nearness of that strangeness (burning bushes and sundered seas and multiplying loaves etc.).
    To put it negatively, one of the great disadvantages of some modern preaching, which emphasizes making the Gospel immanent and accessible, is that it tends to imply that God, too, is immanent and accessible, not in a theological sense, but in an Oprah-esque, “God is my home-boy” kind of way. The Message is a nice paraphrase, but it raises red flags when someone starts preaching out of it. Yes, God meets us where we’re at, but only with the intent of bringing us aliens and strangers into His kingdom and into conformity with the image of His Son. Studying the Bible in the original languages removes much of this temptation to jump straight from modern translation to hip-and-relevant application, leaving the strange work of God behind.

    • That’s a great point, and one I could easily add to the list. We all need constant reminders that we have to hear the gospel from its perspective rather than forcing it into our own. I don’t have a problem with helping people understand that message, but you’re right that we need to be careful about reshaping the message around our modern assumptions.

  6. I believe it is essential to have the study of Greek & Hebrew under your belt if you are teaching people through the Gospel. However, that does not mean one is not called or is not passionate enough to spread the Word of God. Learning the languages is more about seeking wisdom, and about the interpretation of and searching of the scriptures. There is a depth and richness that comes through looking at the Word in the original text – puts all things into context within the Bible.

  7. If you want to listen to something beautiful in Greek, listen here. John 1

    http://www.helding.net/greeklatinaudio/greek/john/joh01g.mp3

  8. pat in texas says:

    I read a blog from the former Pastor of my church. He was telling about how he and a member of his new church read from the original Greek and Hebrew, and how they were moved to tears from the beauty of the languages. The member of the church, apparently with my former Pastor’s approval, has written a book claiming that the original language does not say there is an eternal hell, but rather that each person will be punished and then allowed into Heaven. So, if the original languages are so essential, why do some people read them incorrectly?

    • Learning the original languages is definitely not a magic pill that will remove all disagreement. People are still people, and we’ll always see things in different ways. Sometimes that will be because we’ve made the text serve our own interests (I think that’s what universalists tend to do). Other times it’s because there are legitimately different ways of understanding the same text. So the languages will deepen our understanding, but short of heaven, our understanding will never be perfect.

  9. Patrick says:

    If exegesis includes a demonstrable attempt to understand the words/meaning in their ancient near eastern context as well as the context of the epistle itself , then I feel it is a must for any pastor.

    If it is simply learning Hebrew and Greek, at this point if I were a pastor, I’d major on the isagogics more than languages.

  10. I been blessed to have a real good grasped on the original languages. I have a M.A. in Biblical Exegesis. But, the biggest detriment to biblical preaching/ teaching that I have seen, ironically is not those who are deficient in the original languages, but those who may have an intermediate working knowledge of the languages, yet without any concept of hermeneutics. Thus, because they lack the proper knowledge for constructing the proper interpretitve framework, they know enough of the language to de dangerous. And unfortunately, their assesments of the text are eisegetical, and in my opinion it is eisegesis at its worst, because the laity, to which they preach often times have no knowledge of the languages, and are forced to think that whatever is said must be correct, because my pastor told me that his assessment is confirmed by the Greek and Hebrew…

    • Tyran, i’m completely in agreement with you here! I’ve heard it said there’s nothing more dangerous to exegesis than one year of language study… The further I’ve tried to study Greek and Hebrew, the more I see the need for sensitivity and nuancing in our teaching/preaching. Too often arguments I’ve seen “from the original Greek/Hebrew” don’t hold water when you really dig into what the text is saying.

      btw, did you get your M.A. from Wheaton? I finished there in 2010 with the same M.A…

  11. I DO think that Greek and Hebrew MUST be contained in the MDiv process on a 20+ unit keel. While I read this posting and was deeply challenged by it, I recognize one important aspect that was omitted: learning Greek and Hebrew also gives great insight into the culture of those original writers and audiences. Certainly a knowledge of the languages helps with an understanding of the various texts BUT it also helps with a fresh insight into the culture into/from which it was written.
    Too, it is possible to be a great preacher without such knowledge BUT the insight and understanding are well worth the efforts put forth in the learning process … And by the way, I appreciated your comments regarding spiritual formation: right on target.

  12. Mike Rogers says:

    I’m wondering how many translations Luther had available. Didn’t he translate into German? What others would he have been refering to the preachers could understand?

  13. as a Greek, who has a pretty good knowledge of Koine Greek, the advantage of being able to read and get a feel for the Greek as it was written and see the correlation to Modern Greek and the changes that have occurred in the language gives an invaluable perspective that a non-Greek scholar can never ever appreciate. Its fascinating how worlds used in the Bible have changed meaning in the Modern Greek but one can ‘feel’ the trend that led to it. Of course, Koine Greek is quite different than the Modern, but having had the dubious pleasure of taking a few years of Classical greek at school, I now can reap the benefits…at small groups/Bible Study, its interesting how often I can give input enhancing what the one or other commenatator might have drawn out of the original. I speak six languages by the way, and I wish i could speak more…

  14. Ron Swaren says:

    If political leaders accomplish divine purposes, how do they do it without a knowledge of the ancient languages?

  15. Ron Swaren says:

    Ahhh, just check your smartphone for an app! That’s what other people do. Seriously.

  16. John R. Lawless says:

    First let me state, I love languages. On Monday I study Hebrew, on Tuesday I study Greek, on Wednesday I study Theological German, on Thursday I study French, and on Friday I study Latin. Mind you not all day long, but I try to get some vocab work in every day.

    Second, I am a late in life student. Started my Bachelors at 50 and graduated from Seminary with my MDIV at 58. I found that many of my classes there were men and women younger than my children. I heard a lot of complaining about how they did not see a reason to learn Hebrew and Greek since we have experienced scholars that have already translated the Bible.

    If I was to put my eggs in one basket, it would be depth and history. Oh sorry that is two isn’t it? First the idea that I was reading the exact writings (for the most part) that Paul and John among others wrote just gets me jazzed. The idea that I could imagine Paul sitting in a dirty stinky dirt floor jail cell writing to the Philippians about how great God is amazing. We 21st Century Christians complain because the carpet in the church isn’t the color we want it to be. If we had a better understanding of the history of our Bible maybe we would be more interested in knowing and reading the original languages.

    Depth, what can we say? I think back to a class I was taking in first year Greek (FOG). We were translating 1 Thessalonians. There in the First Chapter Paul talks about how they mention them in their prayers unceasingly. That seemed like a great comment but the Greek berings out so much more. The word used is adialeiptos. It literally means, without any thought for our gain we mention you unceasingly in our prayers. WOW! Such depth, such passion, such meaning. You never would have discovered that just by reading the ENglish.

    So my reason for languages is history and depth. All you young seminarians, stop the complaining and as the Cable Guy states, Get ur Done!

  17. Marc,

    Thank you for sharing this. Even for those who agree with Luther the challenge is to find the time to cultivate knowledge and use of the biblical languages. I am part of a mere group of three called “Virtual Biblical Greek” that meets online from 8:00 pm to 8:45 pm Monday evenings CST to work through Greek passages together. Anyone interested in joining us could email me for more information. By committing 10 min. a day just to play around in the languages along with this group as mutual encouragement each of us are making progress both in learning the languages and using them effectively in our respective ministries.

  18. As online translators become more and more accurate, I think the need to learn the languages diminishes. The languages remain very important, as Luther points out. However, because of better and better technology, the importance of actually learning the languages diminishes. Why spend several semesters mastering a dead language when you could use the gifts of technology that God has given us to translate the texts. Additionally, you may see more young men chose to enter a pastoral vocation if the languages were no longer required.

    • I’m going to disagree somewhat. We actually have a class at Western that uses software extensively to aid in learning and engaging the languages. It doesn’t change the need to learn the language, but it does minimize how much memorization is required. That makes the languages more accessible than a traditional approach (though it does have its weaknesses), while still helping the student engage language studies. So I’d be much more inclined to say that new technologies should change how we teach the languages, not whether we do so.

    • Just to be clear, I should also say that I don’t think every pastoral vocation requires one to learn the languages. But I do think it would be wise for anyone who has preaching/teaching as a primary function of their ministry.

  19. Marc, I enjoyed this article when it first appeared and caught it again with the 2012 wrap-up post.

    I must say, though, I have my doubts as to whether most seminaries are providing the kind of education in original languages that is actually useful. I doubt that most people graduate from an M. Div. with anything like proficiency in the languages.

    I have written a short essay on what I think ought to be The Role of Greek in Theological Education and some of the ways that standard curricula fall short or even impede progress: http://sacredpage.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/the-role-of-greek-in-theological-education/

  20. Adam Esterle says:

    I am really interested in learning Koine Greek. I have a great chance to learn “Standard Athenian Greek” (I guess my first question is: is that modern greek?). My next question is, would learning this kind of greek help me understand the biblical koine greek? A lot? little? Or would it just be a waste of time?

    Any help is appreciated!

  21. So can anyone recommend a good online source for studying greek and hebrew for the gospel sake?

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  1. [...] them. Here’s the beginning of the post. You’ll have to head over to Transformed to read the rest. First, a confession. I like languages. I always have. There’s something fun about unraveling a [...]

  2. [...] a blog post over at Transformed, Marc Cortez [1] asks, “Is learning Greek and Hebrew really worth it?” In response to [...]

  3. [...] a blog post over at Transformed , Marc Cortez [1] asks, “Is learning Greek and Hebrew really worth it?” In response to that [...]

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