Why study Hebrew? (John Piper)
This is a question of great importance. Your motivation for studying Hebrew will fuel the passion under the effort required to master this biblical language. John Piper pleads with us that we regard the study of biblical languages as a privilege and realize the perils of neglecting them. This is something you need to consider.
In 1982, Baker Book House reissued a 1969 Hebrew and Greek daily scripture reading book called Light on the Path. The readings were short and vocabulary help accompanied the Hebrew verses. The goal of the publisher, who died in 1980, was to help pastors maintain and improve their proficiency in interpreting the Bible from the original languages.
His name was Heinrich Bitzer. He was a banker.
A banker! Brothers, are we to be exhorted by the sheep about our responsibility as shepherds? Apparently yes, since we certainly don't urge or encourage each other to rely on Greek and Hebrew. Most seminaries, evangelical as well as liberal, have communicated, through the emphasis in their curriculum, that learning Greek and Hebrew is of any value to only a few individuals and that 'they remain optional for pastoral ministry.
I owe a debt to Heinrich Bitzer, and I would like to discharge it by urging all of us to consider his thesis: "The more a theologian detaches himself from the basic Hebrew and Greek texts of the Holy Scriptures, the more he becomes detach from the source of true theology! And true theology is the foundation for a productive and blessed ministry. ”
What happens to a denomination when a useful knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is not cherished and encouraged for pastoral ministry? I don't mean just offered and admired. I mean darling, encouraged and wanted.
Many things happen when the original languages are abandoned by pastors. First, the ability of pastors to determine the precise meaning of Bible texts diminishes, and the ability to preach with power goes with the ability to interpret rigorously. It's difficult to preach week after week covering all of God's revelation with depth and power if you are crippled with uncertainty as you venture beyond the basic generalities of the gospel ...
Secondly, because of the uncertainty, because one has to depend on translations that differ (which always involves a good deal of interpretation), one will tend to discourage a careful analysis of the text in the preparation of sermons. . Because, as soon as you begin to pay attention to crucial details like tenses, conjunctions, and vocabulary repetitions, you realize that the translations are too varied to provide a solid basis for such an analysis. For example, most modern English translations RSV, NIV, NASB, NLT do not allow the exhibitor to see that "is fruitful" from Romans 6:22 relates to "portions of the fruit" five verses later in Romans 7.4. They all translate Romans 6:22 without the word fruit (N.B .: in the English versions).
So the preacher is often content with the central element or general flavor of the text, and its exposition lacks the precision and clarity that would stimulate his congregation with the Word of God. Boring generalities are a curse in many chairs.
Exposure in preaching, therefore, falls into disuse and disadvantage. I say against it because we tend to protect ourselves from difficult tasks by minimizing or ignoring their importance.So, what we find in groups where Greek and Hebrew are neither cherished, nor pursued, nor encouraged is that the exhibition - which devotes a good part of the sermon to explaining the meaning of the text - does not is not much appreciated by preachers nor taught in seminars
Sometimes we see contempt for original languages when people denounce their study as being a purely academic study, when it is far from being the case. More often one simply sees an affable neglect and emphasis on sermon characteristics like order, diction, illustrations, and relevance, which eliminates the need for careful display of the text.
Another result of pastors not studying the Bible in Greek and Hebrew is that they themselves, and their churches after them, tend to become Christians who rely on secondary literature. instead of primary literature (the Bible directly). The harder it is for us to know the original meaning of the Bible, the more we will turn to secondary literature. First, it's easier to read. It also gives us a superficial impression that we are “holding on” on these things. Finally, it provides us with ideas and opinions that we cannot discover on our own in the original.
We need to regain our vision of the role of pastor - which includes first of all the passion and the ability to understand the original revelation of God. We must pray for the day when pastors can come to conferences and seminars with their Greek Testaments without being greeted with derogatory remarks - the day when the esteem of the Word of God and its careful display will be so great among pastors, whom those who do not have this skill will humbly bless and encourage those who have it, and who will encourage young men to go and get what they never had. Oh! What a day it will be when prayer and grammar meet to produce a powerful spiritual conflagration!
Brethren, maybe this vision can grow with your help. It is never too late to learn languages. There are men who started after retirement! It is not a question of time, but of values. John Newton, the author of "Amazing Grace" and former long-haul captain, was a pastor of pastors with an engaging, tender love for people who, despite a very busy schedule, felt it was important to study languages. He once advised a young minister, "The original scriptures are well worth your efforts, and you will be richly rewarded." Speaking of the early years of studying languages, he says:
You must not think that I have achieved, or even aimed for, extreme skill in any of these: ... in Hebrew, I can read historical books and Psalms with acceptable ease ; but, in the prophetic books and the difficult parts, I am often obliged to have recourse to lexicons, etc. However, I do know enough to be able, with the help I have at my disposal, to judge for myself the meaning of all the passages I have the opportunity to consult. ” < / p>
Continuing education is encouraged everywhere. Let us pay attention to the words of Martin Luther: “As dear as the gospel is to all of us, let us fight zealously using its original language. Bitzer did. And Bitzer was a banker!