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12 Quick Reasons Why Christian Leaders Should Learn Biblical Languages

Biblical language learningIf you consider yourself a leader in the church, whether pastor or lay leader, you should seriously consider taking the plunge to learn biblical languages. It is easier than you think, and more rewarding than you can imagine. Here are 12 quick reasons why you should:

  1. Learning Biblical Languages will increase your understanding of Scripture. This should be a given… the question is will they improve your understanding enough to justify the labor of learning them? Yes… Good Lord, have mercy, YES!!!
  2. Learning biblical languages will allow you to see the real Bible. All doctrines of Scripture are applied to the original manuscripts. The closer we get to those, therefore, the closer we get to the biblical texts as they came off the “pen” of the inspirited authors.
  3. Learning biblical languages will give you a baptism in what you didn’t know you didn’t know. Henny Youngman once wisely said, “A self-taught man usually has a poor teacher and a worse student.” Languages will introduce you to a host of possibilities and to vital questions you never thought to ask. Hebrew and Greek don’t just represent different words, they represent different worlds.
  4. Learning biblical languages will improve your ability to use commentaries. Even if you don’t become a language scholar, a basic introduction to biblical languages will expose you to the controversies, and the technical talk involved in those controversies, that are being hashed over in good commentaries. With even a basic knowledge of biblical languages you will be better equipped to evaluate the worth of some arguments over others.
  5. Learning biblical languages will empower you to do your own word studiesproperly. Words are the core of a language; they work together in complex patterns of syntax and semantics to express highly complex ideas. You will gain access to the best tools in the trade for defining and sensing word meaning in context. You will learn to avoid the landmines waiting for the uninitiated.
  6. Learning biblical languages will make you a more astute reader of English Bibles. I didn’t really learn English grammar until I started studying Greek and Hebrew. Prior to that, my reading had been largely intuitive. While learning Greek and Hebrew, my ability to observe the English text, to interrogate it, and to see paths for deeper investigation in it improved radically. Indeed, many of my language students have remarked that, while they learned a lot about Greek and Hebrew in my classes, they learned even more about English.
  7. Learning biblical languages will allow you to discern the best English translation for your passage. I always recommend to my English bound students that they read their Bibles in many translations, insisting that the conflicts between them will tip them off to subtle interpretation issues in the text. Only those who know the original languages will be able to make solid judgments between them however.
  8. Learning biblical languages will prevent you from being led astray by English possibilities. Language has a living quality that suggests much more than it says. English readers are trapped inside the entire symbol system (semiotic) of the English world and all its suggestiveness rather than the world of the author and its suggestiveness.
  9. Learning biblical languages will allow you to make better connections between the New Testament and the Old Testament. It is hard to discern all the nuances of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament when English becomes a veil between them—not just the locations of quotes and allusions, but also the forms of them. Hebrew translated in English vs. Hebrew translated into Greek translated into English makes quite a difference.
  10. Learning biblical languages will give you access to text criticism. There are many manuscripts upon which English translations are potentially constructed. While Biblical manuscripts are amazingly well preserved, there are still changes that make their way into the text; scholars can track them. Without at least a rudimentary knowledge of biblical languages, you are a stranger to the entire discussion and unqualified to offer an opinion or to evaluate the opinions of others.
  11. Learning biblical languages will allow you to read the poetry in biblical poetry. What makes a poem a poem is not its information content, but, rather, its art, the subtle plays of sound and rhythm and meaning. Analyzing a poem as a poem is more than a little tentative in English… the poetry is in the Hebrew. Throughout the Bible, you will find unmentioned alliteration, acrostics, puns, onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance, spoonerism, homonym, homophone, acronym, etc.
  12. Learning biblical languages will allow you to observe literary relationships properly. Literary relationship are the kinds of connections between people, places, time, things, events and ideas that a writer makes in order to preach complex messages. A good portion of these are built out of specific words and phrases and grammatical constructions. The more subtle connections are often lost in translation.

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