Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greek is Only for Scholars

"Greek is only for scholars, and university folks. I'm a busy pastor!"

If you feel this way, you're not alone. Judging by the degree requirements of most modern seminaries, there is a wholesale abandonment of the original languages. It seems many schools don't see such study as necessary or as relevant as, say, additional courses in business management and team vision building.

But if indeed all Scripture is breathed out by God, and sufficient to make us competent, equipped for every good work, then our ability to understand Scripture is the most necessary and relevant training we can have!

John Newton, who entered into his ministry after being an illiterate slave trader, promises:

The original Scriptures well deserve your pains, and will richly repay them.

And George Mueller, who cared for over 100,000 orphans over his lifetime (can any of us claim to be busier than he?), and who was not primarily a pastor but an evangelist and organizer, talked about the importance of the original languages to his own life:

I studied much, about 12 hours a day, chiefly Hebrew ... [and] committed portions of the Hebrew Old Testament to memory; and this I did in prayer, often falling on my knees. ... I looked up to the Lord even whilst turning over the leaves of my Hebrew dictionary.

Not convinced yet? How about the testimony of George Whitfield? He made 7 trips between the US and Europe (by ship, not plane!), preached over 16,000 sermons over his lifetime, speaking to up to 30,000 people at a time, with neither microphone nor PowerPoint. In his last days, he was quite ill, and would eventually die from overwork and asthma. But in his final years, what was one of his great comforts? You guessed it: Greek!

Though weak, I often spent two hours in my evening retirements and prayed over my Greek Testament, and Bishop Hall's most excellent Contemplations, every hour that my health would permit.

Dear reader, listen to the urging of John Newton, George Mueller and George Whitefield. And as a final word of encouragement, Martin Luther challenges us:

As dear as the gospel is to us all, let us contend with its language.

(All quotations are taken from John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.)


den said...

Greek & Hebrew lead to a deeper wonder of God Himself. Translations must ALL hide meaning of words, phrases, and figures of speech.

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