Should Seminary Students Learn Hebrew and Greek?
Jim West has asked the question today, “Should Seminary students learn Hebrew and Greek?” He answered, “absolutely,” and I agree.
Often pastors or seminarians will be too “busy” to learn or engage with the original languages. I am the son of a pastor, and I have seen the strains that can be placed on one person emotionally and time-wise when they take too much upon themselves. However, I believe some of these “time” issues arise from the pastor as CEO model of many modern churches.There are many things that could be said about this one way or the other, but what I would like to focus on is preaching.
Now I don’t think I would get much argument if I was to say one of the important jobs, if not the most important, for a preacher is actually preaching. The clue is in the name. Therefore the issue for me would be then: does learning the original languages make one a better preacher? My answer, the same as Jim’s, would be absolutely. There are a hundred examples of this already here on my blog but let me give you a new one.
Recently, my brain had to be abused as I sat through a forty-minute sermon that was built on a few exegetical fallacies to set up a rhetorical dichotomy to “spur on” the congregation. Basically it went like this: the logos word of God is the written word, the rhema word of God is the living word. We don’t just want dead legalism and law. The letter kills but the spirit gives life. Let us pursue the rhema word of God.
Now, I get what this guy was going for. There’s just a few problems a) dichotomies can be false (false dilemma fallacy here) b) he brutalized the Bible to make his point (one meaning fallacy for his Greek words).
I like to keep my iPhone handy so while the pastor was droning on I pulled up my Logos (Bible program) and did a quick search for logos (Greek word). I had a certain verse in mind, and lo and behold:
Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐνεργὴς
For the logos of God is living and active
Let us not forget as well that in John, Jesus is the logos.
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος
In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and God was the logos
We could do this for a long time as logos and rhema are common words in the New Testament, but hopefully with just two examples you can see that expressing logos as the dead, legalistic, law, written word is problematic for a variety of reasons. (Seriously, wouldn’t nomos or graphe be easier choices?)
So what, you say? He was merely trying to make a point that is true even though he used the wrong words. Well first his point wasn’t true, and second it wasn’t his point. When I showed the pastor (who is an extremely nice guy, and who always asks me about his sermons) just how faulty his exegesis and reasoning was, with unsustainable logic that reached a faulty conclusion the truth came out: he was taught the ‘meanings’ in seminary. Guess what they didn’t teach him? That’s right, any original languages.
So what do we ultimately have then? It’s what I like to refer to as indoctrinate and regurgitate. Here’s the denominational line, don’t ask any questions, go out and do the same.
I suppose another question related to Jim’s could be, “Should Seminary Students Learn?” From some of the sermons I have listened to the answer to that question has been a resounding “NO!”
If Bultmann was right, that we encounter the Christ of faith in the language event of the kerygma, then some congregations haven’t met him in a while!