I’ve been asked this question numerous times (by some family, friends and my church), “Why would you want to learn Hebrew/Greek?” There have of course been times I’ve wondered the very same thing. It’s hard work that requires tremendous amounts of time, energy, focus and just plain type A personality giftings (or would it be better to say a little OCD doesn’t hurt :-)). I’ve taken a couple of years of Greek and Hebrew now at both the undergrad and now the Grad level and while I’ve learned alot, it seems the more I learn the more I realize that I don’t know. The complexities of not only learning a language, but of learning a dead language that you are incapable of chatting with anyone in, that there is no new literature being written in, etc.
But them I’m reminded of why I do this when I begin to study the Scriptures in the original languages and soon realize all the things that are missing by only reading a translation. Not to mention it aids in memorizing the Scriptures in English and understanding the translations you read that much more clearly. I find that when I’m able to read something in the original language suddenly I feel that I can hear the voice of the Lord a little clearer and as if the words come to life.
Over the last few years I have grown to love learning languages more and more (while still struggling day in and day out) and to realize that to know Christ is not always an easy matter. Discipleship requires discipline and there is no easy path for following Him. The shortcuts to discipleship tend to water down the disciple.
While I don’t think its necessary to learn Greek and Hebrew in order to follow Christ, yet there is inestimable advantage in reading what was originally written and thereby drawing closer to Christ and walking in faithfulness with His Spirit. The admonition of Paul to Timothy to “study to show yourself approved to God” is not the call to a casual study of Scripture and the following of the Lord, but a call to work hard at knowing the revelation of God and to walk in faith-filled obedience to it. I pray the Lord help us as His body (and myself as a servant to His glorious Church) to offer ourselves in obedience, to work as to Him and to bring Him greater glory through the process.
“I now studied much, about 12 hours a day, chiefly Hebrew . . . [and] committed portions of the Hebrew Old Testament to memory; and this I did with prayer, often falling on my knees . . . I looked up to the Lord even whilst turning over the leaves of my Hebrew dictionary.” – George Mueller, 1829
“For the devil smelled a rat, and perceived that if the [biblical] languages were revived a hole would be knocked in his kingdom which he could not easily stop up again. Since he found he could not prevent their revival, he now aims to keep them on such slender rations that they will of themselves decline and pass away. They are not a welcome guest in his house, so he plans to offer them such meager entertainment that they will not prolong their stay. Very few of us, my dear sirs see through this evil design of the devil.” —Martin Luther, 1524
Oh, for more George Muellers and Martin Luthers! Lord, help me in my weakness to study faithfully that I may be approved in the Last Day as a worthy Son and Disciple!
Great words- I wish I could learn what Mueller learned without having to spend 12 hours a day studying- I guess there is no way around the hard work.
I was very encouraged this week to discuss Hebrew learning with my Thesis advisor (Gus Konkel — who has written numerous commentaries and is one of the translators of the NLT) and here his advice on learning Hebrew using a daily reading regimen and weekly analysis (besides looking things up in different grammars — beginner, intermediate, and advanced to just continue to learn):"I would not spend time on rote vocabulary. Once you have 200 to 300 words, you need to read in two ways: read along in familiar passages without spending time on all the details you do not understand (stick to narrative though, like Deuteronomy); set aside a block of time where you translate every last detail about once a week if you can."
Hello Rick! What a wonderful thing to do. Learning bits of Biblical languages was one of my favorite parts of my studies at TBC. I completely agree with you that it opens up a whole new meaning to scripture. How I long to just simply read the Bible in it's original form. You remind me that even if I do not have the time or patience to learn Greek and Hebrew that I should study deeper than the English words printed before me. I used to do hard core studies when I was still a minister – somehow that practice has fallen by the wayside now that I am a mommy 🙂 I enjoy reading your blog!Heather K.
I actually just watched a great interview with Van Pelt (co-author with Pratico on The Basics of Biblical Hebrew published by Zondervan) and he equated reading/studying in the English to being like dating — you have a relationship and you are really getting to know each other, etc.; but then he equated studying/reading in the original languages like marriage: lots more work and commitment to maintain, but the pay-off is far greater and the intimacy levels are far greater.