Jump to content


Photo

Is learning Biblical languages worth it?


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 Chuck Schneider

Chuck Schneider

    Gold

  • Active Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 489 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Vienna, Austria
  • Accordance Version:10.x

Posted 20 August 2014 - 03:20 PM

Just happened to see this one today as well. :)

 

http://michaeljkruge...it-think-again/



#2 Pchris

Pchris

    Member

  • Active Members
  • Pip
  • 40 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Denmark
  • Interests:Old Testament Exegesis, The Ancient Near East, the Hamito-Semitic languages, Ancient Greek, Mythology
  • Accordance Version:10.x

Posted 20 August 2014 - 05:11 PM

Is learning Biblical languages worth it?

 

In short: Definitely! Absolutely!

But I guess it really depends on what and how much you want to achieve with them. If you're studying theology, then you have to go through with them in order to become a pastor - at least where I come from. Even if you're not forced to, the article you linked to sums up nicely why any would-be pastor should still bother with the Biblical languages: It simply will make him/her better at understanding the inner workings of the Bible. As with any given text, something is always lost when it is translated, so you can only appreciate the text completely if you're familiar with the original language.

The reason I chose to spend 6+ years learning the Biblical and other dead semitic languages was to get into the world of the Bible (specifically the Old Testament) and beyond for an even "bigger picture", if you will. The logic mentioned above also applies here - The difference is that I wish to go further than the Bible merely as an isolated phenomenon, so that means I have to learn more languages in order to do so. That will, in turn, also strengthen one's knowledge of the Bible significantly, seeing that it has many parallels with both Ancient Near Eastern and Ancient Greek literature and so on.

To sum up: If you wish to become a pastor (or just want to understand the Bible on its own a lot better), then Koine Greek and Biblical Hebrew will serve as sufficient tools. And perhaps Latin if you're into Biblica Sacra Vulgata and/or Church dogmatics. But if you want to dig as deep as possible, then it's another story. I haven't regretted it for a second, though - it is exceptionally rewarding and a whole lot of fun albeit time consuming.


Edited by Pchris, 20 August 2014 - 05:13 PM.

  • Timothy Jenney likes this

#3 Alistair

Alistair

    Gold

  • Active Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 494 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Accordance Version:10.x

Posted 04 September 2014 - 09:38 AM

No, it isn't.

 

Not unless you have great teacher or tutor who will stick with you until you reach a high level of competence, and then you have time and energy to keep it up for the rest of your life.

 

But half-hearted or overly-ambitious or sadly-deluded attempts to learn without the right resources and people in place to will probably lead to frustration, failure, and disappointment. 

 

These languages need to be learned well—to a high level of competence—before they can become more useful than dangerous, and that requires a huge investment of time and energy. Using just a little Greek or Hebrew can do more harm than good.

 

Sometimes it's just better to invest in great commentaries, and leave the original languages to those who write the commentaries.


  • Pchris likes this

#4 Pchris

Pchris

    Member

  • Active Members
  • Pip
  • 40 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Denmark
  • Interests:Old Testament Exegesis, The Ancient Near East, the Hamito-Semitic languages, Ancient Greek, Mythology
  • Accordance Version:10.x

Posted 04 September 2014 - 11:12 AM

No, it isn't.

 

Not unless you have great teacher or tutor who will stick with you until you reach a high level of competence, and then you have time and energy to keep it up for the rest of your life.

 

But half-hearted or overly-ambitious or sadly-deluded attempts to learn without the right resources and people in place to will probably lead to frustration, failure, and disappointment. 

 

These languages need to be learned well—to a high level of competence—before they can become more useful than dangerous, and that requires a huge investment of time and energy. Using just a little Greek or Hebrew can do more harm than good.

 

Sometimes it's just better to invest in great commentaries, and leave the original languages to those who write the commentaries.

 

I both agree and disagree with you, Alistair - Without the proper help in the beginning, you'll quickly find yourself in a lot of trouble and it will make some people give up. Dropout percentage at my faculty for new students is somewhat high. It isn't the philosophy, nor the Biblical courses that make them run for the hills; it's the Latin. Even in spite of having very competent staff it is the sole reason why many new students give up on theology here.

 

The staff had a discussion about it about a year ago, seeing that the dropout could be a lot lower, and I recall one of the professors who, after growing impatient of the various suggestions for making the course curricula more approachable, said (perhaps somewhat harshly) that "we're better off without them. And they're better off too. If they harbor notions of quitting, then they simply don't belong here. They don't have what it takes, and they waste everybody's time, especially their own, by staying longer than really they want to."

 

And I agreed and disagreed with him as well - we all need help in the beginning, some more than others, but there are also lost causes that won't be able do go through with it no matter how much help they get. I guess it was mostly them he was referring to, now that I think about it.

 

In my case, I needed help in the beginning when I had to learn Latin, Greek and Hebrew, but it didn't take long before I was completely fine on my own. And when I learned Akkadian, Ugaritic, Syriac, Aramaic, and Coptic, I took care of it mostly by myself. Sure, I attended classes for these languages, but our professor wasn't holding our hands - We would study the grammar at home and prepare translations of various texts and then subsequently discuss them in class, while the professor would make sure we weren't going completely off the rails. That never happened, thankfully. Sumerian was an exception to the pattern mentioned above, but that was because I had never read cuneiform before, so I needed some help again. But now that I know about it, this new Amarna Letter course I'm taking is posing me no trouble when it comes to handling cuneiform.

 

In other words, we all need help at first, but once you get started, you should be fine on your own. You can figure out a lot yourself. If not, then you're probably not supposed to be doing this. Your teacher doesn't need to "stick with you" per se, but they do need to give you a little push. And some need a stronger push.

 

However, I do agree with you completely regarding the absurd amounts of time you need to invest - if you're not prepared to do so, then you will fail without a doubt. Languages are indeed very "high maintenance", so you get rusty very easily, too. Even so, having read Greek or Hebrew at one point in your life, no matter how long ago, will inevitably rub off on you in your work e.g. as a minister. And for the better, I might add.


Edited by Pchris, 04 September 2014 - 11:19 AM.

  • Alistair, Julie Falling, ukfraser and 1 other like this

#5 Alistair

Alistair

    Gold

  • Active Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 494 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Accordance Version:10.x

Posted 04 September 2014 - 03:37 PM

Great response, Pchris :)



#6 Pchris

Pchris

    Member

  • Active Members
  • Pip
  • 40 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Denmark
  • Interests:Old Testament Exegesis, The Ancient Near East, the Hamito-Semitic languages, Ancient Greek, Mythology
  • Accordance Version:10.x

Posted 04 September 2014 - 03:58 PM

Great response, Pchris :)

 

Ah, thank you! 

 

Still, you made some very important points as well that need to be stressed - especially the fact that without the proper support from teachers, you're pretty much doomed. Even though I did fine by myself after being helped in the beginning, I could not have done it without these particular professors who chose to invest their time in me. Without their "push", I never would've have gotten anywhere. I owe them everything, really.


Edited by Pchris, 04 September 2014 - 04:02 PM.


#7 davidmedina

davidmedina

    Gold

  • Active Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 492 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Interests:God, my family, the Bible, photography and film.
  • Accordance Version:10.x

Posted 04 September 2014 - 05:43 PM

I am no language expert. I am just learning. William Mounce discussed the benefits and dangers of learning a little greek in his course. He believe the benefits outweigh the dangers if we understand why we are doing it. For example, I am learning Greek so I can better handle the tools I have to study the Bible. Because I am learning from him, I know my limitations. 


  • Pchris likes this
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Rom. 12:2
 
Blog: The Renewed Mind.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users