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Yet 3 More Reasons Every Christian Leader Should Learn Biblical Languages

I don’t know about you, but I am constantly bombarded by “helpful” suggestions about all the things I ought to be doing about my health, my work, my family, my finances, all those books I’ve just GOT to read.  Frankly, it’s exhausting just hearing about it all.

So I know how many of you feel when I say, “Every Christian leader should learn biblical languages.”  So rather than exhausting you with a load of “you gottas” let me try to empower you with yet another 3 ways that learning biblical languages can enhance your ministry.

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.

Bathsheba’s bath is alternately connected in different translations to:

(1) a post-coital cleansing (NASB, MKJV)

(2) some logically undetermined cleansing using “FOR she was cleansing herself…” (ASV, BBE, JPS, KJV, YLT, WEB, AB), or

(3) her roof top bath—a menstrual cleansing rite (ESV, NIV, ISV, NET, NLT, NRSV, NCV, The Message).

The difference is significant, and you can’t just take the one you like best, or count out a majority reading as if translation is a democracy. The choice is obvious, if you have a good sense of Hebrew grammar, however. Hint: # 3.

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.

My entire doctoral dissertation was born over a confusion as to the exact meaning of subside and assuage in Genesis 8:1 as translations for shakak in Hebrew. While they have the potentiality of meaning calm, the true meaning of shakak, no English commentator takes them that way. The English sense of things draws the reader away from that angle. Calm is such a radical reading that it almost defies the imagination… unless you are an ancient Hebrew… then it makes perfect sense.

Almost all English readers are drawn into the notion of unforgiveness in Hebrews 12:14 when they see the phrase root of bitterness. Too bad “bitterness” in the ancient world is not about resentment and unforgiveness, but, rather, harsh brokenness and/or mean spirited irritability.

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.

That root of bitterness in Hebrews 12:14 is actually a quote from Deuteronomy 29:18. The bitter root is not an IT… but, rather, a HE, a SHE, a THEM. Anyone who throws off faith, abandoning the covenant of God in their hearts, often seeking with a vengeance to destroy the faith of others as well—apostates!

Biblical languages have been an unceasing source of joy, inspiration, and challenge to me since first I learned that glorious Mem—מ .מ says mmmmmm

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