Home > Academics, Scripture > Biblical Languages for Pastors

Biblical Languages for Pastors

A few months ago a friend copied a section from the new Zondervan Hebrew book.  Gary Pratico has someone write a little “practical application” bit at the end of each chapter.  I have an older edition and a few of these little bits have changed.  The section he copied for me was about five pages defending why every pastor ought to know Hebrew and Greek.    Now I’m going to a school where I am required to develop a fairly high level of competence with each language, so I have no qualms about personally learning the languages.

But as I started thinking about it, the main problem I have with it is that it’s just not biblical.  No where in the Bible is there a requirement for elders (which at this period seems to be synonymous with the position we call ‘the pastor’) to learn Hebrew or Aramaic.  (The were all speaking Greek so that wasn’t an issue.)  The Western church seemed to mostly blow off Greek after a couple hundred years, and it seems that practically no one outside of Jerome learned Hebrew.

Theologically I have a problem with it too.  On the day of pentecost the gospel message went forth in everyone’s native tongue — not in Aramaic/Hebrew, which presumably many or most of the pilgrims had at least some knowledge of.  It seems that the Christian message is meant to be translated.  And in complete contrast to Islam, the Christian message is still complete when it is translated into various languages.  So while I (of course) think there is value in learning the languages, I think it is arrogant and snobbish to insist that a pastor must know one or both.  Who are we to place limits that God has not placed?

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Categories: Academics, Scripture
  1. February 6, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I had some similar thoughts a while back.

  2. February 7, 2008 at 10:28 am

    i think you’re right when you say “must know.” i would be uncomfortable trying to tell someone they can’t do something if they don’t do it exactly my way. but i also think it’s important to affirm that if someone has the time and the resources, it’s probably a better idea to learn the languages than not. even a good translation is always at least a step away from the actual text.

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