Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Should Pastors Know Biblical Languages?

A bit of debate on this subject has been caused by John Byron posing the question.  He is answered in the strong affirmative by both Jim and Scott.  Although Jim goes a bit overboard, and seems to think that everyone is capable of the sort of output he is (they're not, Jim is, in this sense at least, exceptional) he does have a point that most pastors are not as overworked as they claim to be, it is more a case of what things they give priority to in their time, if they don't see the ponit of biblical languages then they won't make time for them. 

Scott makes an even more valid point, that pastors with no language training often then try and use what little Greek or Hebrew knowledge they have to add a little magic authority to their sermons.  At this stage they are playing with smoke and mirrors, relying on the ignorance of their congregation to get away with what a first year language student could spot a mile off as dishonest and incompetent. 

I don't think we can expect every pastor to be proficient in biblical languages, I do think if everyone did at least an introductory course in Greek and in Hebrew they would at least be aware of how little they do know and of how different and alien the biblical languages are.  If you have never tried to translate something yourself, you will struggle to comprehend the complexity of the translation process in producing English translations and you will not handle them accordingly.  It is a crying shame that more and more seminaries do not have compulsory language courses, the church will rue this trend in decades to come.

To make a positive reccomendation, I wonder if there is a growing need for some sort of provision for pastors to either start or continue their language study as professional development?  We send pastors away to do leadership and counseling courses, why not biblical exegesis and language courses? 


  1. Jonathon,

    Thanks.I am amazed at the response this has caused. Tomorrow I am going to ask pastors why they don't use the languages. I think calling the "lazy" as Jim does is a bit over the top.