Culture At Large

Can you read the Bible in Greek or Hebrew?

Andy Rau

Over on the Koinonia blog, John Walton has a series of posts called Hebrew Corner—commentary and discussion about interesting bits of the Biblical Hebrew language. It's good reading, even if you've never studied Hebrew.

And so the predictable question I've got for you is: can you read a Biblical language? Have you ever studied ancient Hebrew or Greek? Do you want to do so at some point?

I'm a big proponent of exposing Christians to the original languages of the Bible. Not because I'm a snob who thinks that you can't really understand Scripture unless you read it in its original language, but because I've found even a basic understanding of Hebrew and Greek to be really eye-opening. Reading a Bible passage in its original language won't clue you in to any secret doctrines or hidden messages, but it does make you more aware of subtle textual elements that don't always come through in translation: puns, humor, poetry, emphasis, and more. And laboriously translating a Scripture passage yourself over the course of hours or days has a way of really making you think through its meaning.

And the neat thing is, you don't have to be a master of Greek or Hebrew to have your linguistic appreciation of the Scriptures deepened. I've long thought that churches would do a great service for people if they offered very basic-level introductory classes on Hebrew and Greek—not aimed at creating great language scholars, but at just increasing people's appreciation for the cultural and linguistic context of the Bible. (My wife has actually given some thought to teaching such a class in our church community, but we've been told there wouldn't be a lot of interest, which is disappointing.)

Is anybody else with me? Pastors, you've certainly had to study Biblical languages—do you think it'd be a good idea if more Christians studied them? If you're not a pastor, have you ever studied Greek or Hebrew, and was it worth your time?

I've created a new poll asking this very question off to the right—vote in the poll, and share your comments below!

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, The Bible