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3 Reasons Every Christian Leader Should Learn Biblical Languages

I realize that the second someone makes a statement like, “Every Christian leader should learn biblical languages,” feelings of condemnation erupt. “So, everything I’ve done for X  years was a misguided waste?” “So, I’m not good enough?” “So, I can’t properly interpret the Scriptures in English?”

If I give the answers, “No.” “Kind of.” “Yes, on some level,” I’ll only make matters worse for myself, so I won’t.

Instead, I’ll list 3 ways that learning biblical languages can enhance your ministry. (I’ll have 12 when I’ve finished my list, but 3 will do for today.)

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!!! I should have labeled this “Learning biblical languages will RADICALLY increase your understanding of Scripture.” If you study hard that is.

Traditional Evangelical doctrine declares, let me quote A. A. Hodge here, “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, Having Been Given By Inspiration of God, Are the All-Sufficient and Only Rule of Faith and Practice, and Judge of Controversies.”

It behooves us then as leaders in the Christian Church to know the Scriptures as well as we can, for from this, and not merely from our own worldly instincts, flows our sense of faith and Christian living. It is our duty to dedicate ourselves to the best study of the Bible that we can.

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 inspired authors. Translation is a veil over the text, making us utterly dependent on those who actually learned biblical languages. God inspired the Scriptures in certain tongues, and the complexity of translation is well beyond a simple word for word exchange. Translation is a low level commentary in which someone else makes choices about how to represent what is actually written.

The opening line of Genesis is not, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” it is בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ or, more properly,בראשׁית ברא אלהים את השׁמים ואת הארץ      Now, whether the former is a proper representation of the latter two is a matter of debate.

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. It will pull you out of your culture and thrust you into the cultures of the text. When looking at Greek and Hebrew, you are not merely looking at different WORDS, you are looking into different WORLDS. The veil of translation conceals far more than you ever imagined.

You can learn both Greek and Hebrew. It is easier than you imagine, and it is worth every hour dedicated to them.

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