Why Should Seminarians Study Hebrew And Greek?

Recently, after 6 long years of wrestling with God and humble (a.k.a "uncomfortable") self-reflection, I finally made the decision to enroll in a year-long, non-credited "Greek New Testament" course as the first step toward one day applying for admission into Seminary, God willing.

I only bring this up because it has caused many of my family members and friends to ask me why any prospective Pastor would have (or want) to study both the Hebrew and Greek languages ("Why does it matter these days?" they'd ask).

I thought the answer to that common question would make for a good post here today as well as something I could return to again and again for encouragement and reassurance.

Of course, Hebrew is the language that the Lord decided to use to reveal the Old Testament to us. Greek is the language that He decided to use to reveal the New Testament to us.


"Ok, but why not just study Latin or the English translations then if you're going to study the Bible at all?" 
-- I was asked this by a dear family member just a few weeks ago


It's a legitimate question, isn't it?

Why do Seminaries require their students (those who they are preparing to be God's servants in Word and Sacrament ministry) to study and learn ancient languages like Hebrew and Greek, especially in this post-modern day-and-age?

Thankfully, I found quite a few helpful and distinctly Lutheran resources at just the right time to help provide answers to those all-too-common questions for us today.


 
"The Importance of the Biblical Languages" by Martin Luther 
Do Hebrew and Greek Really Matter? 
Our Language Is A Confession 
God's Word Is Clear 
Understanding The Passive Voice Of The New Testament 
Why Greek Matters -- How Understanding Greek Influences Our Interpretation of the Bible


Again, those are some excellent commentaries I found that beautifully explain why such an endeavor is so important particularly in the early formation of those who are preparing to enter the Office of the Holy Ministry (but even for laymen alike who have the desire to pursue such an endeavor).

Besides, as Martin Luther himself once stated...


"In proportion then as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone -- the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his word, then we too ought to honor them above all others."


Let's not lose sight of the fact that a respect for a study of these Biblical languages will ultimately lead to greater reverence for the Word of God in general (at least, it should result in that).

In my humble opinion, a greater reverence for God's Word should also lead to more reverence for His doctrines as well.


"Whoever holds his doctrine, faith, and confession to be true, correct, and certain, CANNOT stand in the same pew with others, who hold to false doctrine or have a strong liking for it, NOR can he continue to speak kindly to the devil and his minion. 
A teacher who claims to be a true teacher, but who keeps silent when confronted with error, is WORSE than an open and declared fanatic. By his hypocrisy he does MORE harm than a heretic and is not to be trusted. He is a wolf and fox, a hireling and belly server, and is liable to despise and give up doctrine, Word, faith, sacrament, churches, and schools. 
Either he is secretly in league with the enemies, or he is a doubter, or an opportunist -- one who first sees how the wind blows and how things may turn out, whether Christ or devil will carry the victory. Or he is absolutely uncertain himself, not worthy to be called a student, much less a teacher. He wants to make no one angry, nor in any way offend the devil and the world, and he will not let Christ speak His Word." 
-- Martin Luther / Der Lutheraner (the mid-1800's version of what is now called The Reporter)


Why should Seminarians study Hebrew and Greek?

Well, why wouldn't a Seminarian want to study and understand the very same languages that the Lord deemed best to use to reveal Himself to humanity?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I would have to agree with the good Dr. Luther when he wrote that "in proportion then as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages" because "we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages" since "languages are absolutely and altogether necessary in the Christian church."  




NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because I now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse footnotes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained under-shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!


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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with...Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all mature spiritually (myself included) then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!