Biblical Languages, Much Formal Training, and Such

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Rhetorician, Apr 29, 2007.

  1. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician
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  2. Charles Meadows

    Charles Meadows
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    I think it depends a great deal on the individual.

    Languages are a bit of a double edged sword.

    I admittedly have no formal training in theology. But years of study have made me a good amateur when it comes to Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. I have also endeavored to familiarize myself with the works of Chomsky, Halliday, Pike, Dik, Vendler and some others - all very humbling indeed.

    The more I study language the less "competent" I feel with it!!

    Given the complexity and the colloquial nature of language use I fear that overmephasizing the importance of language study will lead to those with insufficient understanding making definitive statements about how the "original Greek" yields insight not available to those who read in only English. Did God not give us a sufficient Bible?

    I do not decry study of languages - but I urge caution in overzealous application. A man with an MDiv and 4 semesters of Greek who speaks about the "punctiliar nature" of the aorist tense or its implications regarding "once and for all actions" can unwittingly do violence to the text. Better in this case for him to have stuck with the English that to wrongly interpret the Greek.

    Some suggestions:

    1. Teach languages in a way that incorporates the insights of modern linguistics. Unfortunately most biblical greek textbooks are very behind the times here.

    2. Teach languages as real languages that were spoken conversationally by real people. This is also neglected.

    I think all students should have some familiarity with the original languages. But the needs will be different. Those going into pastoral ministry need only a familiarity. Those going into academic study will need much much more.

    Just my biased $0.02.
     
  3. greek geek

    greek geek
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    I agree with Piper.

    Yes, God can and does use pastors who have no knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. But when are we going to stop using that as a cop-out? God used a donkey to speak but we don't put them behind the pulpit. We should all strive to be the best - not just in how we pastor - but in how we handle the truth - and that means Greek and Hebrew.

    Piper hit it right on.
     
  4. TCGreek

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    I read that piece sometime back in his book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, and I thought he was right on then, and I still think so.

    God can use whomever He chooses because He is sovereign over all (Ps 103:19); Our God can use the bank Blitzer for His purpose. At any rate, He also wants us to cut it straight in the handling of Scripture (2 Tim 2:15). And for those of us who have engaged in proper exegesis know that biblical languages are in order.

    Paul says to Timothy, "Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this" (2 Tim 2:7). To truly "reflect" on what Paul and others have written, the student of Scripture needs to be adequately equipped. But this is just a perspective on biblical languages. Of course we must also venture into theology.

    I have a series of lectures by DA Carson on Expository Preaching, and he just blows my mind with his profound scholarship. I mean he knows Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and German. The brother has the whole package. But not everyone will be a DA Carson, but everyone can be whomever God gifted him to be.
     
    #4 TCGreek, Apr 30, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2007
  5. preachinjesus

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    Piper is right on here.

    Greek and Hebrew are necessary tools on a pastor's belt. Now God can, and does, use men of God who aren't trained in the languages but their path is harder (imho) because they can't easily access the heart of the text.

    I believe pastors (what I prefer to call pastor-theologians...because that is what we are) are called to a place of excellence in our work. We are called to be the best at knowing our chief Book as best we can. English translations are fine (my studies in the languages have certainly shown me this) but the reality of the situation is we can never mine the depths of the text solely through English and non-technical commentaries.

    There is a treasure trove of insights available below the text in the original languages. Any pastor-theologian who is able to access this has. literally, fifty years worth of messages and teaching materials and an inexhaustible line of encourage and principles to impart to our respective flocks.

    We all often look at the church and criticize many for the lack of depth and rigor in our messages. A major part of this lacking comes from pastors who refuse to get engaged with the languages. Knowing the languages honors God and helps connect with our people in an amazing way.
     
  6. TomVols

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    Piper is right, although a bit overboard in his protestation regarding Rom. 6:22 and the translation of karpon as "benefit" rather than "fruit" ("benefit" makes sense to me).

    I digress....I wish I had taken more languages in my preparation. I recommend that any prospective pastor take at least 2 semesters of each language. A good working knowledge of the language and knowing how to use the proper tools is invaluable and essential to the exegete.

    There was once a time when a man couldn't be ordained without knowing the languages. Maybe that time should come back.

    I just have one question in rereading this that I had when I first read this: What's wrong with bankers? :laugh: (Disclaimer: I have a banking background)
     
  7. John of Japan

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    I agree to an extent with Piper here. However, he fails completely in one area, and that is the area of foreign missions. He failed to carry his missiology (as witnessed in his book on the subject) over into his plea for original language study. He is looking at the matter strictly from his Western culture.

    Consider: A missionary, good in the original languages, goes to reach an unreached tribe. The tribe has no Bible, no believers and no Bible school. After ten years of labor the missionary has seen God bless his work so that there is a NT in the language, a church and a national pastor. At this point the national pastor has no ability whatsoever in the original languages. He has barely learned to read his own language, and is learning for the first time (he was only saved a few years ago) the treasures of the basic doctrines of the Word of God. How can we then expect him to learn the original languages?

    Here in Japan, a much more sophisticated people but very resistant to the Gospel, only .5% of the population are evangelical Christians. This means there is a very small group of men scholarly in the original languages, and a very select few pastors who are even competent in Greek or Hebrew. Would you say these men are thus poorly prepared to be pastors? I would not. Many are wonderful pastors with a real heart for the Lord and their people. They sacrifice far more to be pastors than almost any pastor on the BB: only 5% of the churches pay their pastors full time, since churches are so small.

    I have the privilege right now of tutoring a Japanese pastor in Greek using Machen. (He never got to go to Bible school, but was trained by his pastor.) "Oh, primitive! Machen is so out of date," some would say. But hey, that is all there is! And my pastor friend is so eager to learn and works so hard at his Greek. He will probably never be that competent, seeing how he struggles in some areas. Is he less of a pastor for it? Never!

    God bless.

    John
     
  8. StefanM

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    Well said, John of Japan.

    I thought something similar but in a different time/context.

    What of the early church pastors? I highly doubt that the former Greek pagans knew anything of Hebrew. Sure, they did know Greek, but I'd wager that they used the LXX instead of the Hebrew OT.

    The Jewish Christians might have known Hebrew, so places around Jerusalem and other cities of heavily Jewish concentration might have had pastors with knowledge of Hebrew. Other places, though, likely would not have that luxury.

    What happened, for example, when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome?

    I have nothing against the study of languages, and I think pastors should generally take the opportunity to study them. I know that my studies in Greek and Hebrew have helped my understanding of the Bible, but I also recognize that some people just don't have the same opportunities.
     
  9. John of Japan

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    Good post, Stephan. I hadn't thought of the first century connection.

    That drove me to think once again of the pastoral qualifications in 1 Tim. The only one that might fit what Piper is saying is "apt to teach" (1 out of 16). All of the others are spiritual or character qualifications. I just re-read the Piper article and he mentions nothing about this--a huge error, IMO. Hopefully he does talk about this in the book from which the chapter is taken.
     
  10. preachinjesus

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    while I certainly acknowledge that not everyone has the same level of access to formal training, I would mention that in the explosive growth of the internet and e-technologies there are modules available to learn through the internet...and usually pretty low to no cost.

    I say that because I've heard the "I just can't go to seminary and learn" argument too often. Even when I've countered it with, "I'll teach you" I get pushback. Languages are a discipline, and discipline requires sacrifice of something in our lives if they are worth it.
     
  11. John of Japan

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    I agree that languages are a discipline. However, they are even more a gift of God, the gift of glossai. One who has the gift of languages has an easier time of learning them (though he must study much), and is more likely to get things right when he speaks and translates.

    One who is not gifted may have to work a lot harder, like the missionary I know who took three years of Japanese language school instead of the standard two. He is very fluent and has a wonderful vocabulary, but occasionally butchers the Emperor's grammar. In America the equivalent is the famous Granville-Sharp blunder by John MacArthur in Eph. 4:11. One who is not naturally gifted by the Lord can learn the Biblical languages, but should be careful not to set himself up as an expert. He should exegete very, very carefully and humbly. :type:
     
  12. Rhetorician

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    An Added Point to Ponder!

    Gentlemen,

    If John Piper has missed the "missionary imperative," and I may grant that for our discussion here. Then it seems to me that all of us; IFBers, SBCers, Northern Baptists, BMAs, Evangelicals, even Landmarker's all need one another much more than any of us individually knows.

    The Body of Christ is much more rich and diverse than probably we understand it to be. We NEED EACH OTHER do we not?

    As one looks back over church history much sin and many false motives can be detected. But out of the ashes of sin and destruction the Phoenix of the Gospel has risen and spread throughout the entire globe.

    I once had to give a doctoral seminar lecture on John Bunyan while I was at the liberal Episcopal (say Sewanee, The University of the South) seminary. I told the prof that I felt somewhat like "a cat at a rat show" having to talk of Bunyan's persecution to a bunch from the Church of England. These were those who were the very ones that had persecuted him. (This was a good fun class with a great deal of understanding and inter-denominational fellowship).

    The prof remarked in reply: "Just a minute Rev. Duke! When it comes to persecution, we (the Anglicans) were persecuted too. There was enough persecution to go around for us all."

    I tell the story to say that there is room for all tints and hues of Baptists, and pastors both learned and unlearned, scholar and neophyte, and yes; even other denominations. There are many out there who love our Lord Christ and are making His Kingdom known (even if their iteration of the Kingdom is something different than I think it to be!?).

    I have come to believe that the principle of mutual submission; up to, but not to exceed my own personal convictions is one of the great gifts that God has given to the "church-at-large." (Please no rebuttals from my Landmark friends here!)!

    My larger point is this: We need each other!!! We need to keep a "check and balance" on each other for orthodoxy's sake. We need "to go out into the highways and hedges and bring them in so that His house might be full!" We need to win the lost. We need to send out missionaries. We need to exegete! We need to preach clearly and with authority. We need to do scholarly work. We need to write. We need to research. We need to, etc. et al; need I go on!!!???

    Where I am enlightened someone else can help me along the way and hopefully vice versa; to the glory of Christ and His Kingdom.

    Think about it!:thumbs:

    Amen!:praying:

    sdg!

    rd
     

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