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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mind and Heart

Some of us have been talking about how best to learn the biblical languages. John has posted recounting his own experience in languages study and I began to talk about it with Iyov in the comments. There are also some very thougthful comments on this post from Missiongirl, Jeremy Pierce and Danny Zacharias.

John started Greek and Hebrew at 15, Iyov, hmm, I don't know. I think Hebrew must be his first language. No?

I learned French from the age of about 10, and started Latin, Greek and German when I was 14 and continued Greek through 3 years of university. I was incredibly fortunate to go to a high school where Latin and Greek were taught. There were only two of us studying Greek, eventually only myself, at 8:00 a.m 3 days a week. Looking back I can hardly believe the dedication of the teacher and what she gave me. I studied Hebrew at university for one year only, at age 19 - it was intensive and just enough for me to follow along and understand what others are saying about it.

My own children went to a French immersion school and one loved it and the other - let's just say - didn't. The one who loved it has moved to France full time where he immediately started learning Russian. Go figure. I dunno but he really loves languages. Okay, that is my disclosure.

On the topic of learning biblical languages, Iyov writes,
    Christian seminaries would be better placed if they put substantial language ability in at least one classical language as a prerequisite.
John writes,
    I noticed last year, among my eighth grade confirmation class, a number of boys and girls with excellent grades in school who really caught on to the subject matter of confirmation class. Furthermore, they seem to have some spiritual gifts that might make them suitable to be pastors someday. As a graduation present upon confirmation, I offered to teach them Hebrew. A number of them have shown great interest. Through a UW-Madison extension program, they will earn college credit for it. Not bad for first year high school students. It looks like I will have a sizeable class.
I am really torn because I agree with the commenters who say that a pastor has to be qualified in so many other things that it is hard to attain this kind of commitment to languages.

However, here is what I said last year on the subject. We are now in a generation with no education in classical languages for the first time in about 500 years. I think it is a crisis. I can't explain it any other way.

So, there must be some way to create a larger group of young people educated in biblical languages and, while open to a diverse leadership with diverse skills, keep standards high. If the greatest risk is anti-intellectualism then that is what we should be fighting. This does not change my respect for those who are gifted in other areas.

I want the best of both worlds, I guess.


At Fri Jul 13, 12:57:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, to me it is simply unrealistic to expect every pastor to have high level knowledge of Greek and Hebrew as well as all the other things he or she needs for the job. It might be more realistic if she or he didn't have to do all the other things which Danny listed in his comment, if these could be shared out among many leaders and congregation members. Even so, I think a more realistic model is that which John finds in the Catholic church: "The goal seems to be to have top flight biblical scholars in every diocese, though not in every parish."

At Fri Jul 13, 04:43:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

The goal seems to be to have top flight biblical scholars in every diocese, though not in every parish

Good thought. I missed that. But so many churches have a more congregational model and are not connected at a diocesan level.

At Fri Jul 13, 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Iyov said...

Why is it unreasonable for every pastor to have a high level knowledge of Greek? I've argued that almost every Rabbi has a good knowledge of Hebrew, and they have no fewer pastoral duties.

As far as my language learning is concerned, I said nothing until I was six, when one evening I spoke my first words: "Great Caesar's ghost! By streuth, the soup is tepid! This bodes ill."

My family was amazed, since they had assumed I was mute. They asked: "Why didn't you say anything before?"

I responded: "Previously, everything has been acceptable."

At Fri Jul 13, 07:57:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Well, I shall just transfer my comments on your blog Iyov over here to make this a coherent conversation. Definitely my class with Waltke would have been much more interesting if we had all been sitting there with the Hebrew scriptures in front of us. With one year of university Hebrew I could easily have followed his use of Hebrew lexical items in a Hebrew text.

I wrote,

It was disturbing to say the least to realize that in Waltke's lectures most students simply can't follow the Hebrew which I feel he uses fairly sparingly. What is he to do when students put up their hand to ask "what is that word" when he refers to Hebrew. He even writes the Hebrew words in English letters as a compromise but then the students simply think that those must be English words poorly printed. He is in a double bind.

I have to say that I saw in practice how frustrating it was, because he certainly does not like a literal translation. He prefers constantly the translation of one Hebrew word by many English ones, ie torah - law, instruction, teaching etc. But he wanted the class to recognize and interact with the Hebrew word of origin.

That reminds me that this is why Dr. Packer gave up using the NIV, because the students couldn't follow properly - hence the ESV.


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