The Case for Learning Biblical Languages

A section of the Aleppo Codex, a medieval manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.

Do you know Biblical Greek or Hebrew? Have you ever considered learning them? Jason DeRouchie has posted a very thorough essay at the Gospel Coalition making the case for learning the Biblical langauges.

DeRouchie’s post seems aimed primarily at people in ministerial roles in the church, but his points are applicable to any Christian. He acknowledges that it’s certainly not necessary for Christians to learn the Biblical languages, and that knowing Greek and Hebrew doesn’t magically make you better at reading the Bible or being a Christian. But he makes the case that there is much to be gained from a knowledge of ancient Greek and Hebrew. Here are the four points of his argument:

  1. Using the biblical languages exalts Jesus by affirming God’s wisdom in giving us his Word in a book (God’s Word as foundation).
  2. Using the biblical languages gives us greater certainty that we have grasped the meaning of God’s Book (studying God’s Word).
  3. Using the biblical languages can assist in developing Christian maturity that validates our witness in the world (practicing God’s Word).
  4. Using the biblical languages enables a fresh and bold expression and defense of the truth in preaching and teaching (teaching God’s Word).

These points are derived from the example of the Old Testament scribe Ezra:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. — Ezra 7:10 (ESV)

(Read the full post.)

This is a topic close to my heart, and I’m glad to see the value of studying Biblical languages laid out so thoughtfully. Studying Greek and Hebrew is an important part of much seminary and ministerial training for obvious and good reasons. But I’ve always wondered why the church as a body doesn’t do more to encourage “average churchgoers” to dip their toes into the Biblical languages. Yes, Greek and Hebrew are difficult to master, and learning new languages isn’t for everybody—but even a general familiarity with the languages is tremendously rewarding for Bible readers. I studied them in a university environment; but I’ve always envied my wife’s experience of learning basic Biblical Greek in a course taught at her church. What an experience it would be to learn (or at least learn about) the languages of the Bible as a part of your spiritual training at church!

Obviously, some churches do this. How about yours? Has your church ever attempted to offer any training in the Biblical languages—through Sunday school, special classes, occasional seminars, or any other means? If not, have you ever thought about learning about them yourself, through a local university or personal study? Stop by our page on Facebook and share your thoughts.

(For those of you who are interested in exploring ancient Hebrew or Greek, you can find both of those languages represented in our library of Bible translations. Using the side-by-side view feature lets you read the Hebrew or Greek text alongside your favorite modern language translation.)

Image via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.

Related posts:

  1. Your response to our question: Why read the New Testament in Greek?
  2. Biblical Literacy Video Series Starts Tomorrow!
  3. Learn Biblical Stewardship with the Discovering God’s Design Devotional
  4. Has the Term “Biblical” Lost its Meaning?

Posted by Andy

Filed under Bible Study