Mar 25, 2013 Darin Allen

Learning vs Staying in the Original Languages

I remember diligently studying Greek paradigms one day in seminary when I asked my professor, “Is this how we’re going to be studying Greek after we graduate?” He just laughed and said, “Nah, you’ll be using Bible software.”

How true.

In reflecting on his words, I’ve also noticed an interesting trend now that I’ve been out of seminary for a few years. Many of my friends and colleagues who bought Bible software in seminary are still using it to access the original languages today as pastors and ministry leaders. Granted, they may not be masterful scholars, but they are engaging the original languages on some level. In contrast, most of my friends who forwent Bible software in seminary haven’t touched their hardbound Nestle-Aland 27 or BHS since graduating. I’m not saying this is a hard and fast rule, but I’ve noticed the trend among my own peers.

This begs the question...why do the Greek and Hebrew retention rates seem to be higher among those who use Bible software? There may be several factors, but I have a strong suspicion that most of it boils down to convenience. There is a direct correlation between motivation and convenience, so while highly motivated individuals will tolerate inconvenience, less motivated individuals will require greater convenience to accomplish the same task. This brings us to the crux of the problem: while it’s not something we want to admit to our Greek professors, most of us experience a decline in motivation to study the original languages once we graduate. That’s not to say we have zero motivation, but it does mean that most of us need something more convenient than reviewing paradigm charts, otherwise we won’t bother.

I suspect this is why my friends who use Bible software continue to stay in the original languages. Programs like Accordance make studying the original languages convenient, and sometimes all but automatic. For example, it only takes a few seconds to add a parallel Greek or Hebrew text to any Accordance workspace. Even if you ignore the Greek and Hebrew panes 99% of the time, you can always leave them up, just in case. When the scholarly urge does strike, you can get a definition, parsing information, and cross-highlighting just by hovering over a Greek or Hebrew word.

Convenient Workspace

Of course, there are plenty of advanced features in Accordance that take more time to learn and master, but if your primary goal is to stay connected to the original languages, it really doesn’t take much. It’s actually kind of ridiculous how convenient this all is when you consider what similar endeavors required just a few decades ago.

I’m curious to know what you think. Have you noticed the same trend among your friends and colleagues who did/didn’t invest in Bible software? Has Accordance helped you stay connected to Greek and Hebrew after graduating seminary or Bible college? Post your thoughts in the comments.

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Archived Comments

Drew Brown

March 25, 2013 2:28 PM

100% agreed - I had a concentration in Biblical Languages in seminary, and even I find Bible software more conducive to keeping the Greek and Hebrew fresh.

I've even found a shortcut to turn Accordance into a "readers" Bible for Hebrew or Greek students.  This is especially helpful for Hebrew studies, as the vocabulary is astronomically high compared to the GNT.  Here it goes:

Say you only know the Hebrew words that occur more than 100x.  You want to stay in the Hebrew text and read it, but are discouraged by the sheer number of words you don't know.  Enter this formula into the search bar: [COUNT 1-100] <AND> [RANGE ____]. Enter in any OT book after RANGE.  

Accordance will now hit all of the Hebrew words that you shouldn't know.  What's helpful about this is that it won't show you what the words mean, so you can still sight read and learn new vocabulary without feeling like you're cheating yourself.

In this way, the value of Accordance is amplified [Pun intended!]. No need to buy a Reader's Greek or Hebrew Bible, and it's fully customizable to your own vocabulary needs.

One other thing - textual criticism is also easier with Accordance.  Although you still need to be aware of textual critcism principles [as you still need to know grammar with the languages to prevent fallacious reasoning], because you can hover over the MSS and instantly know what abbreviations are, you're that much more encouraged to use it.

Drew Brown

March 25, 2013 2:52 PM

One more thing...

Follow the steps described above, and if you want the results to be permanent, create a new user highlight style for Greek and Hebrew.  Then, run your search, open the highlights window, and hold shift while you click your highlight style. Bingo - all of the unfamiliar vocab is automatically highlighted each time you open your text.

Bryan Catherman

March 25, 2013 3:38 PM

I couldn't agree more. My Hebrew prof was always saying "Time is everything," encouraging those of us headed into the pastorate to find good habits that would still allows us the time to do the work demanded by our calling.  I took the tools path after learning that many pastors hardly end up using the hours and hours of language class shortly after finishing seminary.  It's tough to find time to keep sharp with the languages but Accordance allows me to say in it through practical application and ease of use.  And surprisingly, by having the basic tools and Accordance, I've been able to stay in the languages more and have found a growing motivation to dig in deeper on my own.  There's very little chance that would have happened without Bible software (because the Greek and Hebrew Bibles would have never left the shelf).   

Josh Ketchum

March 26, 2013 1:02 PM

I completely agree too and know it is true with myself.  I think the future should involve two tracts for students. One with the traditional method of language learning used for those who wish to go to PH.D work and need to know the languages well. A second for those who need to use it in preaching and teaching.  This second tract should teach the languages with Bible software, so that students learn how to use the languages and don't just have to spend all the time memorizing it.  Then it will actually be used instead of forgotten when graduating.   

I think schools should move in this direction.  

Josh Ketchum