Original Language Study: A Boutique Specialty

Today’s Guest Blogger is Dale Pritchett, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Logos. Also be sure to read Dale’s follow-up article Mountain Climbing: The Challenge of Learning Original Languages.


Greek and Hebrew professors are fast becoming an endangered species. Some contemporary people in “ministry” refer to Greek and Hebrew instructors as “traditionalists” when they are being kind, and “relics” when they are being critical. Language study has been labeled as elitist, impractical and unnecessary.

As VP of sales and marketing at Logos I enjoy a unique vantage point over churches, denominations and educational institutions. Because we deal with virtually every segment of Christendom, it is easy to spot common trends.

One of the easiest-to-spot trends over the past two decades has been the spiraling decline in original language requirements in seminaries and Bible schools. With two decades of momentum, this trend is now so well established it has migrated from the classroom to the pulpit. We now have pastors all over the world who lack the ability to consult or teach from original language texts common to prior generations. An unintended consequence of less rigorous study is the general lack of encouragement and emphasis on Bible study and Bible study methods courses for lay people. If a pastor does not demonstrate original language skills, there is little motivation for lay people to explore beyond the reach of their teacher.

As a result, it is now easier to find an original language Bible study methods course outside the church than inside the church.

Today we have prospective Bible college and seminary students who have grown up in churches totally devoid of original language informed teaching. These prospective students now evaluate the relevance of a seminary program on the basis of their own exposure to preaching and Bible teaching. It should come as no surprise that the most attractive seminary programs are marketed with compelling phrases like, “does not require study of the biblical languages for graduation.”

It is easy to fault the spirit of anti-intellectualism in the church today. It is easy to say there is little immediate payoff for all the hard work, and perhaps easiest of all to say, “Original language study is a lot of work for something I will never use.” Unfortunately, the preceding statement may be proven quite true in the reality of today’s church.

Original language study needs to be a reasonable amount of work for a skill you will use all your life. I believe this can be accomplished with automated tools.

I know seminaries would like to see more students take an interest in original languages but they are faced with a trend they don’t expect to see reversed any time soon. While they lament the state of Bible literacy, their first priority is student enrolment. Schools are competing for tuition dollars and they often find they must deliver the programs demanded by the market as opposed to programs designed by the institution. I believe this can be changed. This is where the cycle can be broken.

If a seminary really wants its students to work with original languages it needs to adopt methods which can make this happen. Original language study needs to become a pleasant and profitable experience for all students, not just the linguistically gifted or the doggedly determined. Let me make a couple of analogies. If you want to get a lot of people to a mountain top, you can hang a climbing rope, mark a trail, install a tram, build a road or install an elevator. Each successive technology will empower more people to get to the top. If we want everybody to get across the river we can offer swimming lessons, put a rope and pulley across the river, build a raft, operate a ferry or build a bridge. Each successive technology will empower more people to get to cross the river. If we want every student to learn to use original languages we need to build a bridge that gets everybody to the destination. This is the purpose of the Reverse Interlinear texts in Logos Bible Software.

I will say it again. Original language study needs to become a pleasant and profitable experience for all students. There needs to be a formal course of instruction to achieve this end. An English language Bible student can go a long way in Greek and Hebrew with the aid of our reverse interlinears but the benefits are best realized with first class, formal instruction in grammar and hermeneutics. If the very best Greek, Hebrew and Hermeneutics professors adopted the best computer based reverse interlinear technology, the following benefits would be realized.

  1. All students would be able to study original language concepts.

  2. Original language exegesis would take place earlier in the educational process.
  3. There would be a larger potential pool of students motivated to go on in original language studies.
  4. Language skill retention would improve dramatically because. . .
  5. Students would have a permanent and familiar tool for ongoing ministry.

The gifted students will still be gifted students. There will only be more of them because the original language student pool will be larger. The gifted students will move on to traditional courses and become future faculty. The average students will be functional but always dependent on the tools. But this is the key point! All students will use original languages the rest of their lives. The tide of biblical literacy will rise and the entire church will benefit.

And finally, Greek and Hebrew faculty would have secure, full, long term employment. They are the people who can generate the most value from the new tools. Powerful tools are best used by powerful teachers.

Comments

  1. Steve Maling says:

    Preach it, Brother:)
    Steve

  2. I completely agree with you. The Bible wasn’t written in English for a reason. God chose greek and hebrew for a reason. As one learns to read the Bible in the original language the Bible does take on a life of its own. I have studied koine greek and I teach my class on Sunday in greek. Without looking at the original text language, you can come to a completely wrong interpretation of the text. I really do pray that no one thinks that needing to know greek and hebrew to study their bible is not needed.

  3. Thank you for a good article. So, aside from the Reverse Interlinears, what do you consider some of the most helpful tools for the beginner in the original languages?

  4. Many students today are LAZY and Seminaries are GREEDY (driven by revenue). It is a shame that pastors would take the time to get a graduate degree with no language requirement and shameful for seminaries to confer higher degrees on people who have the equivalency of an undergraduate degree.

  5. As someone once said, reading only translations of a wonderful work is like kissing one’s bride through a veil. If someone claims to be a knowledgeable teacher of Shakespeare’s works but knows them only through translations, people may have reservation toward such a claim, but interestingly not so toward teachers (pastors etc.) of the Bible.

  6. Dale Pritchett says:

    Right now the reverse interlinear stands alone as an explicit, context linked bridge between English or Spanish and the original languages. The real potential will not be realized until skilled Greek and Hebrew teachers develop courses and books designed to exploit this new technology. All the original language resources teachers take for granted need to be explained and demonstrated to a totally new kind of student. This will take some time. I just attended a Morris Proctor Camp Logos II and saw Morris teaching a whole new class based on the reverse interlinear. It was a glimpse of the future.

  7. I agree with the article written concerning study and use of the original languages in the Bible. I personally think that not only Greek and Hebrew should be studied in seminaries and Bible colleges but also Aramaic inasmuch as it is one of the three languages in which the Bible was written. It is sad to see those whom are in the lead in various fellowships who do not know any of the original texts, refused to learn or use it in teaching. The very reason we have so many people falsely speaking and telling people what they do and do not understand the basics of what is written in the Bible. We would not have the paula whites, juanita bynums, and joyce meyers misleading so many men and women with their explanations which are totally wrong. It is horrible, men and women are suppose to walk side by side not women wanting to take over and be in charge wrongly.

  8. Hate to sound like a commercial, but if professors only knew about Logos exegetical tools…
    I took a bible study methods class at Grace School of Theology that equiped us with just enough Greek to be dangerous. We had to purchase an interlinear, Greek Lexicon (BDAG), Englishman’s Concordance, Verb parsing guide, etc. Though it took me hours to work through a passage finding the lemma and looking up the Greek, I was hooked on Greek study.
    Luckily, my professor encouraged us to get Logos, which I did. I have since sold my hardcopy BDAG to purchase the electronic version. now exegetical work is easy, especially with the “Exegetical Guide”. And I don’t have to squint to read the tiny font in BDAG. :)
    Thanks guys.

  9. Sorry, I use good electronic tools, but using cool tools to find neat words, is hardly even related to reading the languages. And that has always been and always will be hard work. How much different is “making Greek easy” from “no Greek needed”? We’re moving from peanut butter to hot dogs, but we’re still a long way from steak and potatoes. There’s no substitute for reading.

  10. Leroy Fulford says:

    I have tought New Testament Greek for several years. The sadest thing I know of is to see a student complete four semesters of Greek and then never use it again. I have herd preachers use greek, but when I talk with them about the Greek they reply; “I really have not kept up with my greek since graduating. Greek was the best class that I had in Bible college, it was the hardest but it was worth all the effort that I put into it and more. I agree with your article. Your Logos program is the greatest. thank you.

  11. Leroy Fulford says:

    I have taught New Testament Greek for several years. The saddest thing I know of is to see a student complete four semesters of Greek and then never use it again. I have herd preachers use greek, but when I talk with them about the Greek they reply; “I really have not kept up with my greek since graduating. Greek was the best class that I had in Bible college, it was the hardest but it was worth all the effort that I put into it and more. I agree with your article. Your Logos program is the greatest. thank you.

  12. Albert Sadler says:

    I am 80 years old and am now auditing a Greek Class to brush up on an unused skill. I decided to purchase Logos because I find it very helpful in the other classes I am taking to pursue my MDIV. It is also very helpful in my personal Bible study.
    It is not necessary to know the original languages to study the Bible or to learn the way of salvation in Jesus Christ but it sure helps in Christian growth.

  13. Well said, Dale.
    I majored in Greek at Grace college and took Greek exegesis courses at Grace Seminary in the 70s under Dr. Homer Kent, Jr. I refer to original language words in my messages and have found that over the years people in the pews want less and less intellectual content and and more “Meeting my needs” type of messages. The “Emerging Church” movement is the extreme of what is taking place in our evengelical churches today. Doctrine is very unpopular and people want their ears tickled – something that makes them feel good, not a focus on the Biblical text. I use Logos language tools and find them very helpful in my studies, even though I do not refer to the Greek and Hebrew words as often in my messages. The trends you mentioned are very apparent and are of great concern to me. Thanks for the insight.
    Bill

  14. While I appreciate the attempt to get more ministry leaders educated with Greek and Hebrew I do not think there is an easy way out. I appreciate the tools logos provides but the tone of this blog is still too accommodating. I had a teacher say to me once “there is NO shortcut to excellence.” We cannot rely on tools, though they are of great value to the educated, to eliminate hard work.

  15. John Lawless says:

    I grew up in a conservative, evangelical and orthodox church. Yet I never heard one word about the original languages.
    As I write to you I am a third year divinity student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. I have completed my Greek requirement and it was not easy. In fact the acrostic “FOG” speaks of friends of Greek to describe the state of a Greek students after his/her first two weeks. But, the FOG does lift and the work is worth every destroyed brain cell.
    My exegetical Greek class was in 1 Thessalonians. The rich treasures waiting for us were simply unfathomable. I used the Logos tools extensively.
    For over one thousand years the church was forced to believe what ever our leaders told us the Bible meant. We should never allow ourselves to enter that sphere ever again. Only from having a thorough understanding of the original language can we assure that.
    As I begin this semester in Hebrew I the work will be hard but the effort will produce many great treasures just waiting for those who learn the original languages.

  16. I attended a Seminary 15 years ago where Greek and Hebrew were mandatory for an M.Div. I enjoyed language study, but it is not always easy for me. I have used my Kittel’s (a gift), and took a refresher Greek course a year ago, but to use it in depth takes more time than I have. In Seminary I heard that Pastors didn’t have a lot of time to do the in depth study they did in school, but I hope they use it to some extent, at least my pastor does.
    I would LOVE to learn about my Logos software and how it can help me in Greek and Latin studies, and even some moderate Hebrew help. I haven’t been able to join a M. Proctor seminar yet; there is so much about Logos I need to take the TIME (there is that word again) to investigate!
    God bless, Cindy”:-)

  17. David Roseland says:

    The most striking statement in the article is how pulpit ministry is driving the decline in language study in seminary. BINGO!
    I have recently graduated from seminary, where I focused on Greek and Hebrew studies for exegesis and exposition. I cannot say at this point I really understand the value of a reverse interlinear, though I have heard several people say heartily that it is a valuable tool. When I mouse over my NAS or KJV, the Strong’s keylink tells me what the GK or Hebrew word is in the original. Is this function that I was already using the same function as the Reverse Interlinear? Where can I go (short of a conference) to find out the use of this new tool? Thanks! Grace and Peace –Dave Roseland

  18. It is always nice to study another language beside my native laanguage. I learned more about English when I studied Hebrew and Greek.

  19. I sure hope you are right about the need, because I’m about to graduate with a Master’s in Greek and Hebrew real soon, and I do want to find work.

  20. While what you say might be the case over all, not all school suggest such a trend.
    In the past four years, Moody Bible Institute has added two new Greek professors to their staff because class room sizes are significantly increasing. About 100 students take at least one year of Greek with at least half as many taking Hebrew for at least a year.

  21. I agree that study of the original languages is both detrimentally neglected and indispensably crucial to pastors and shepherds. Anyone with a heart to know God and His Word better and then a desire to help others in their understanding of God’s Word must learn both Greek and Hebrew. I was blessed to receive my undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies from The Master’s College where the language program is known for its standard of excellence. I took 3 years of Greek (only 1 was required for my specific degree) because it made studying God’s Word so much more exciting and enjoyable. As I’ve continued with a master’s degree I am seeing that it is absolutely essential that I learn Hebrew as well. I have every intention of learning Hebrew as soon as I finish my degree. To have colleges and seminaries sending young men and women into the world to shepherd the church without a firm grasp of the Bible in its original context and language is a huge disservice that needs to be rectified.

  22. I’m currently an undergrad at the Moody Bible Institute with a “Biblical Language” major. What you’re talkin’ about is right up my alley. I was blessed to have a pastor who cherishes God’s word take the time to help me understand the basics of Biblical Greek this summer. That’s really helped me in class this semester. He shared with me some quotes of God’s faithful servants testifying to the cruciality of knowing the original languages. Martin Luther makes this point well:
    “In so far as we love the Gospel, to that extent let us study the ancient tongues. And let us notice that without the knowledge of languages we can scarcely preserve the Gospel. Languages are the sheath which hides the sword of the Spirit, they are the chest in which the jewel is enclosed, the goblet holding this draught. So although the Faith and the Gospel may be proclaimed by preachers without the knowledge of languages, the preaching will be feeble and ineffective. But where the languages are studied, the proclamation will be fresh and powerful, the Scriptures will be searched, and the Faith will be constantly rediscovered through ever new words and deeds.”

  23. I wonder about all those uneducated fisherman who turned the world upside down in the first century. No seminary. No formal education. Yet they seemd to experience a powerful, effective ministry :)
    Seems to me that for years much emphasis has been placed on degrees, etc but very little emphasis on the student’s CHARACTER! The emphasis on the qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 is Christlike, biblical character, not knowledge. A student (congregant) will not be above his teacher (pastor).
    That said, I’m not against seminary OR pursuing original language skills. I’ve audited some courses and taken what others have told me to be seminary equivalent courses through the Vineyard (VLI – Vineyard Leadership Institute) and found them to be wonderful and practical.
    My impression is that for many years (at least in the past) seminaries have produced pastors who are sorely lacking in Christlike character. I have been told that this is changing though and that many seminaries are emphasizing spiritual transformation in the life of the student as well as skill and knowledge.
    My 2 cents :)

  24. I agree, original language study is VERY GOOD, many folks think that ‘Strongs’ is the extent that they will get without going to seminary, however, I have been quite pleased with the Scholars Gold Library and all the exegetical tools. Thank you for keeping this ‘workman unashamed, acurately handling the word of truth!”
    Derek

  25. I am a lay person with MDiv. My background was AB in Chemistry & MBA in Finance. I am not a liguist, but I do appreciate those who are. While I would love to know Greek & Hebrew, and probably could pass the courses, I know I would never remember as much as the true Biblical scholars have forgotten. I often read several commentaries to get ideas about language nuance, use Bibleworks for a look at definitions of underlying Greek & Hebrew. When I teach Bible Study we always use at least 3 translations. I think these resources far exceed what I would have retained from courses in Greek or Hebrew.

  26. As often is the case some original language enthusiasts overstate their case. To state that “without the knowledge of [original] languages, the preaching will be feeble and ineffective” is simply untrue. A hearty “Amen!” to learning the original languages. An equally hearty “Boo and hiss!” to the arrogance and presumption that sometimes accompanies such.

  27. I just wish that someone would wise up and offer Greek instruction on the Internet USING the internet. I for one would love to learn more and I have all the resources available.
    Hey Logos! Why not contract with some Greek scholars and produce an instructional DVD which digs into the very thing you are suggesting?

  28. OT Scholar H. H. Rowley observed: “One who made it his life’s work to interpret French literature, but who could only read it in an English translation, would not be taken seriously; yet it is remarkable how many ministers of religion week by week expound a literature that they are unable to read save in translation.”
    Sadly, pewsitters empower Biblically unprepared pastors because they often stir their emotions, provide positive motivation, or make them feel better about themselves. Little said is derived from the the text of God’s Word.
    Across the board U.S. culture has deteriorated: morally, intellectually, and especially spiritually. Education within and without the Church has been minimized and diluted. Many in the Church pray for revival. But revival seems postponed. Could it be that genuine revival only comes on the heels of devotion to biblical study and exposition?
    In the Reformation the return to biblical Truth and understanding of grace, justification by faith alone, the priesthood of the believer, and the power of the Bible came as godly men gave themselves to a study of God’s Word in the original languages.
    Logos and Dale Pritchett should be highly commended for their tremendous vision and efforts to make the Word available in the original with such an extensive array of tools for study.
    How can anyone stand in the pulpit and say, “Thus saith the Lord…” unless he knows the original. Further, how can any pewsitter give credence if the Shepherd knows not the original voice of the Great Shepherd.
    At Chafer Theological Seminary we make the knowledge of the original languages the highest priority and the center of our curriculum. We use the tool of Libronix along with classic, time honored means of instruction. Chafer Seminary has recently moved to Albuqueque, New Mexico. For those interested in truly knowing God’s original Word so they can know His mind and will better, no better education can be found.
    Thank you Logos for all you have provided.
    Dr. Robert Dean Jr., Chairman, Chafer Theological Seminary.

  29. Every step away from knowledge of the words which the Holy Spirit chose in revealing his truth is a step in the wrong direction. Every step back toward use and knowledge of the original languages is a step in the right direction. Nothing can replace being versed in Greek and Hebrew, but getting closer to it is always good. The current situation is bad on bad. Thank you, Dale, for the article. I pray that the Lord will continue to send power and life to America’s ailing churches through increased hearing. Lord, let there be greater humility, stronger wisdom and higher learning in your courts.

  30. Interesting. Since my seminary graduation 2 years ago, I have gotten out my Greek books and try to spend time every day reviewing. There is no replacement for exegeting the text to teach the original intent of the Holy Spirit. I would like to see more penteostals learn and teach from exegesis of the Hebrew and Greek.

  31. David Woodall says:

    Moody Graduate School is committed to the necessity of knowing the biblical languages as a foundation for exegesis and expository preaching. We are also committed to use of Logos technology in the classroom. Our language program is called CAPABLE: a Computer-Assisted Practical Approach to Biblical Languages and Exegesis. Our M.Div. students graduate with a knowledge of grammar and syntax in addition to a working knowledge of the tools available in the Logos software. All our students are introduced to the software in their introductory course on hermeneutics. Thanks, Logos, for this tremendous contribution to the body of Christ.

  32. As a seminary student I am whole-heartedly for the study of the original languages of the Bible. I own Scholar’s Gold and find it to be a helpful tool. Sadly most people will look at a Greek/Hebrew lemma and read way too much into a word. The danger of the very helpful tools we have is the assumption that a word means everything or most of what it could mean. Context and and an understanding of the syntax are vital for true understanding of any text. Only then will one be equipped to come to an informed opinion where the translation of the reverse interlinear is flawed (That’s right, the ESV gets it wrong occasionally) or an explanation is needed why it differs from other translations.

  33. I have taught Biblical Languages at the Bible College level for 20 years. I also pastored for approximately 20 years. I can think of nothing more relevant to the preacher than the study of the original languages. Martin Luther wrote:
    “In the measure that we love the Gospel, so let us place strong emphasis on the languages. For it is not without reason that God wrote the Scriptures in the two languages Hebrew and Greek. That language which God did not despise but rather chose above all others for the final revelation of His Word is the language which we also should honor above all others. It is a sin and a shame that we do not learn this language of our Book, especially since God has now provided us people and books, and gives us all kinds of things which both help us with this task and at the same time stimulates us to do this.”
    Martin Luther would have been totally blown away by Libronix!

  34. I don’t understand all the concern about professors. A teacher of the Bible should study all he or she can, which includes languages (latin also)because you are doing it for the Lord. We need to keep in mind that Hebrew was a lost language. Ask 5 “experts” about a text and you might get 5 opinions. I love Logos tools, and recommend Logos to everyone who teaches and or preaches. But, if the Holy Spirit is not the main teacher, it doesn’t matter how many books on languages you have, you will NOT rightly divide the Word of God.

  35. As a professor of Greek at a Lutheran seminary where roughly a year’s worth of Greek is required, I can certainly applaud the sentiment of your post. Given the demands facing church leaders today, I encourage my students to take as much language and Bible as possible, but I also know that I am not going to be changing our core requirements anytime soon. A year’s worth of Greek is better than none, but what can a person do with only that much Greek? You hold up Reverse Interlinears as the key, and while I recognize their value, I fear that emphasizing this tool is not the answer. Yes, it can help someone get at the underlying Greek, but if that only means being able to look up words in a lexicon, it is only going to have limited value. I think there is much greater value in understanding the possible ways that a circumstantial participle can be rendered or the importance of recognizing the various ways that a noun in the genitive case can be translated or why a verb is in the perfect rather than the present or aorist tense. That is to say, the first step to understand Greek grammar is to understand English grammar. I’m teaching my students how languages work, and then how to use the great software tools we now have available to be able to get at the underlying Greek grammar. How might this be applied? I encourage my students to take a look at a number of English translations of a text in parallel. If they can see not only the obvious differences but also the more subtle ones, then they can ask the correct questions of the Greek text that will really help in understanding its nuances and potentials.

  36. Has anyone tried teaching “Basic Greek” in the context of the local church? I did it just this last year and will be doing it again this coming year. Not many students, true, but it is greatly beneficial. One of them is a pastor of another church. However, I have an ulterior motive … I get to brush up on my own Greek skills as I teach others (heh, heh). Mounce’s book is a great tool for this along with Logos software.

  37. How timely! I’m a second career seminarian in my fourth year of what might take 8 to finish, and the pastor of a small congregation. I’m about ready to drop out of the M.Div. program because I’m 1/4 through the 55 lesson on-line Hebrew course and I don’t think it is worth the effort because I don’t believe I’ll use it enough to justify the time and effort and cost of learning it. Being 58 my memory isn’t what it used to be and the first part of Hebrew seems to be all about memorizing rules, exceptions and vocabulary. It’s harder than ever for me to memorize it and the half-life of my memory seems to grow shorter all the time.
    So, while I would agree that it would be great to know Hebrew I wonder if I have enough lifetime left to learn it and if that time might be better allocated elsewhere. I don’t want to retire from ministry before I even get going, but if my being adequate is dependent upon Hebrew then I’m doing a dis-service to my congregation now. I know they wouldn’t agree with that, but that doesn’t mean they are correct. If I could only reach them by knowing Hebrew then they might be falling away from the Lord as we speak. Hmmn! That doesn’t seem to be happening.
    Why is it that Jesus chose fishermen rather than scribes as disciples? Maybe language skills are just part of the gift set required in the Body of Christ. Maybe some pastors and scholars are called to focus on Hebrew but not all. Maybe some pastors can serve with other gifts.

  38. Richard Ward says:

    I can relate to the comments, as I grew up in a series of churches whose total emphasis on original language insight was an occasional Strong’s or Young’s concordance reference. Even that was considered deep back in the day. Thankfully, I came to serve under a pastor with 3 Master’s and and earned doctorate that did systematic exegetical teaching with an emphasis on original language insights. It was he who directed me to Logos, when it was Logos ver. 1.0 on floppy disk. I still have the disks! I have since upgraded to Logos Scholars Gold, and find it invaluable. With 3 quarters of Greek and 2 of Hebrew as a minimum for my M. Div., your software proved itself more than adequate, enabling me to achieve 3 ‘A’s’ in Greek. I have yet to take Hebrew, but when I do, you can count on me utilizing Logos to fill in the gaps, and enhance my studies. Keep up the good work, guys! One thought, though…your requirement for a 45 day window to register newly loaded software (or it locks up), seems unnecessary for someone like me who purchases your product by phone to your own salse staff. It seems to me that if I buy it from you directly, the registration should be included automatically. Think about it.
    Sincerely in Christ,
    Rick

  39. As a current Hebrew student at NOBTS, I am beginning to realize how vital a good working knowledge of the language is, and how much we miss in just looking it up on the computer or in a concordance. I love my LOGOS and I’m looking forward to tying everything together one day – however, I can definitely see the value in knowing the language for myself. Since God called me into the ministry, I’ve always wanted to be diligent to present myself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth! How important it is when we stand at that sacred desk that we know the word and what it says. Thanks Libronix and thanks NOBTS for making it mandatory to take Hebrew and Greek for MDIV.

  40. I hope those who reject the study of languages would read the postings. Because it seems that those who reject the languages have never struggle with the languages or quit at the beginning of their studies or they are lazy. It is thru the languages that we combat heresies. Heresies come because of the misuse of Scripture. As ministers of the gospel it is our job to use the tools God has given to us, yes, that includes the Holy Spirt!

  41. “While a preacher may preach Christ with edification though he may be unable to read the Scriptures in the originals, he cannot expound or maintain their teaching against the heretics without this indispensable knowledge.”
    – Luther
    In other words, the fewer that truly know the original languages (beyond relying on the tools), the more pervasive heresy will become.

  42. I completed a B.A. in religion, emphasis in Pastoral Ministry in 1994, from Northern Caribbean University.
    Two years of Greek was required, Hebrew was optional. Today Hebrew is required.
    I consider myself an avid fan of Libronix, and desire to learn more of the biblical languages.
    However, in addition to studying the languages, we need the power of the Spirit, and the ability to apply it so that we can touch people where they hurt. If we fail to do this, our exegesis amounts to ….
    “Everything ever printed in Religion and Theology, formatted for Libronix.”

  43. Danny L. Trussell says:

    It’s best to keep your Greek & Hebrew skills alive to use throughout your life if you learn them. But, even if you don’t keep them up to par as high as they should be, the background in the original languages gives the minister a better understanding of the context of scripture and he/she can utilize the knowledge for better exegesis which makes for better sermons and Bible lessons! Let’s keep up the original language studies!

  44. I have used Logos software since the days of Windows 3.11 and have always appreciated the language tools. I have completed my Hebrew and will complete my Greek at Bethel Seminary in San Diego this year and I agree with the sense that the original languages should be valued, but the post here misses a couple very important points:
    1) Interlinears are actually a huge mistake for a language student. Before you can translate a text you actually have to be able to READ that text in its original language. This is the only way to recognize the significance of turns of phrase, literary styles, etc. Interlinears can too easily become a counter-productive crutch and leave students “illiterate” if only in a very technical sense.
    2) The problem really has to do with how languages are taught. Seimnary profs tend to teach the way they were taught rather than systematically accounting for where their students are coming from and where there students are going. (This really boils down to choosing to teach Geek/Hebrew or to teach students.) Today’s student comes to language class from an educational system that devalues memorization in favor of critical thinking (which is not necessarily a bad thing). They also come into class far more competent with technology than only a very minute percentage of their profs. When they go into ministry, if they do continue to interact with the original languages, they will have various tools at their disposal, and most will use some form of Bible software, and even if they do not they will rely on their lexicon to look up the more infrequent words and their grammars for the more unusual constructions. Yet language is still taught like it was before these tools were available, in a way that emphasizes memorization instead of the exegetical significance of grammatical forms.
    I would highly recommend Logos focus more on how language can be effectively taught at the seminary level using software tools.

  45. Colin Smith says:

    We should post this discussion in an Islamic studies website. The Koran is not translated for use by Muslims; one must learn the Arabic of the Koran be a devotee, much less a teacher of Islam. That means that, for millions of people in Indonesia, Maylaysia, and Africa, anyone who teaches the Koran is expected to learn the language of the book in addition to their national and tribal languages.
    Could the works of Shakespear be taught effectively without any knowledge of the English language? Tools such as Logos make the original languages acessible to any teacher of the Bible who wants deeper and and more coherent understanding of what he or she is teaching. Learning the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible is not a mandate for effective teaching, but it is a poser, “Why not?”

  46. It is certainly important that Bible teachers are competent in the original languages. Those who disagree are almost always those who have never studied the languages very deeply. A knowledge of the languages brings a color to the text and opens up a whole new world of resources by which one can increase understanding of the Scriptures.
    However, with all due respect, I see a problem in this article. (Am I the only one?). The article presents a problem in our seminary curriculums and pastorates– people don’t want to study the languages (or don’t feel the need to do so). It then implies that this reverse interlinear is a partial solution. Granted, I feel that this would be a great resource for the pastor who does not know Greek or Hebrew and cannot feasibly study the languages. (I especially like the ‘lemma’ search capabilities and the easy-access definitions to syntactical classifications).
    The problem: we need pastors and teachers to go far beyond this sort of study. In my own experience, it is easy to let the computer do the work and tell you what things mean. But translators, editors (of the Greek text), lexicons, definitions, and even software make mistakes. Further, this interlinear leaves the most important questions unanswered: how are the participles, infinitives, and articles functioning? What about the genitive phrases, etc.? There are dozens of options for each of these questions.
    As my Greek teacher always said: “It takes a lifetime of study.” There is no magic way around hard work. If this resource is the ‘elevator’ to the top of the mountain, I think that it really only goes about a quarter of the way up. As with hiking, the summit is only conquered with time and hard work.
    Perhaps this resource is a start, but I think it will only bring a man to a one or two semester ability in the languages. We must go further as those called to teach.
    [I might add– Great resource for the layman!]

  47. Funny, I just had a discussion about this topic with classmates today, encouraging them to take Greek if they have the opportunity. After reading Greg’s comment about character, Cynthia’s about resources being sufficient and Samuel’s boo to arrogance, I think the lack of appreciation for the original languages and not so much it’s priority. There is definitely no way understanding Hebrew or Greek can supplant the Holy Spirit’s direction, as Steve has mentioned, but I have had the unfortunate experience of witnessing someone express complete disregard for it during an exegesis class, perhaps even with a bit of disdain. I’m sure he would have done better than some who remained with the class, so the issue was not capability but attitude.
    There needs to be understanding from both sides – for those who press on in Greek and Hebrew to appreciate the difficulty others have and simply cannot do much more, and for those who are overwhelmed by the languages to desire to derive insight from them, even if through commentary instead of direct translation work. I wish there were more ministers who took Cynthia’s method and had her diligence!
    Regarding the slippery slope of whittling away languages from program requirements, I do lament my school having adjusted the curriculum to lessen the workload (we no longer require exegesis, only the initial grammar courses). It’s part of the training and should be experienced for the insight and richness gained when viewing from a more aligned perspective of the original author and audience. God gave us the Holy Spirit, but he also gave us these tools and other methods to understand him. If anything, learning Hebrew and Greek allow the Holy Spirit more freedom to reveal to us God’s Word!

  48. I am teaching Biblical languages at Northeast Ohio Bible College. Language is a requirement for graduation. My emphasis is to learn to READ the texts in Greek–Hebrew is an elective for more advanced study. A practical reading knowledge of the texts makes the original texts far more accessible than just using them as an exegetical tool. The Libronix resources have placed a reading knowledge of the Biblical languages within the grass of every Bible reader.

  49. Woodrow Freeze says:

    I attend a divinity school where Biblical languages are not required. However, teh school offers a “with languages” certificate upon graduation with certain hours in the original languages, plus a concentartion in Bble is offered, requiring Biblical languages. I have completed the requirments for Hebrew and have started Greek. Both languages have been challenging, but indeed are a blessing. If one were to attend seminary/divinity school, it just seems that the original Biblical languages would be an integral part of that process.

  50. Debra Janney says:

    I can’t help but think that as accurate and/or well intentioned the English translations are it is still only the original languages that were Holy Spirit inspired. I am thankful to be in graduate school at Moody Bible Institute and as an MDIV student the biblical languages are required. This isn’t an easy task but the payoff is well worth the efforts and thanks to Logos you make the endeavor less painstaking!
    Thank you!

  51. Karl L. Luman says:

    Thanks! I agree, since I teach New Testament at Wesley College. If we move away from the original languages then we will miss the riches that can be found. I’d like to see a “scholar” write a commentary who does not know the langauges and grammar! I’m glad I took Greek and Hebrew in College and seminary. Wesley Biblical Seminary requires Greek for the M.Div., whereas many seminaries, as you said, are just requiring English Bible. How sad! Thank the Lord for Logos, which helps in the original languages!
    Lord bless you all!

  52. Emmer Chacon says:

    I highly do agree that moral and spiritual backbone are necessary prerequisites for teaching, proclaiming and preaching the Word but a working knowledge of the original languages is as well needed. Reformers made a call to go the sources and we must not go back from that call. We need to go forward digging deeper and deeper in the Word of God so we might have everyday a fresh and high quality “food” to share from our pulpits and classrooms. I am a OT PhD student and I do have libronix and Bibleworks. Tools are tools, they are useful but they cannot replace personal commitment.

  53. “Original language study needs to be a reasonable amount of work for a skill you will use all your life.”
    Dale, this is a good comment concerning the amount of work needed for study of the Biblical Languages. However, I am not sure I agree with your analogies of the elevator and bridge to get the most people to the place you want them to be. If you build a elevator to the top of the mountain just to get them to the top, I agree, many will arrive, however, they will have missed the beauty of the journey.
    All of the struggles, work and skill required to actually climb the mountain are put on someone else, and in your analogy, the skill to climb a mountain isn’t even a factor, because an engineer built the elevator, not a mountain climber.
    In the same way, automated tools are great, and any individual can open Logos and mouse over a word and have it parsed and have a lexical definition shown to him. However, like some of the other comments have stated, without the effort spent learning Greek and Hebrew in depth through hard work and hand over foot skill building, all one will become with automated tools, is dangerous with the biblical languages. Even at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, two years of Greek, and three semesters of Hebrew are just enough to make most pastor’s dangerous. However, with that much work invested in classes, the Logos tools enable, and help a student in the languages progress to be much more than just dangerous. But it still takes hard work and daily effort translating the languages with a pencil and paper.
    Thanks for the article, and thanks for the work done in Logos.

  54. One of my professors was asked to teach a very simple intro. course to Greek and Hebrew at the elementary/high school which was connected with our university. He lamented the fact that there was not more study of the languages on the elementary/high school level. He made comments to that effect in the classroom. The next day a student brought a catalog of the school from the 1920′s or 30′s. It showed that in those years there were EIGHT years of Greek required to graduate. In addition, I have heard of one man who gave the valedictory address in Greek when he graduated from college!! It was required that he and all other valedictorians do that at his particular college in the late 1800′s. Yes, the study of languages (classical and Biblical) has gone the way of the dinosaur. I hope that this trend can be reversed!!

  55. I agree with all the points in the original blog. There is great benefit to thorough understanding of the biblical languages for the purpose of study. However I sense in some comments a haughtiness, as though there can be no legitimate teaching of God’s word without these skills (“How can anyone stand in the pulpit and say, “Thus saith the Lord…” unless he knows the original. Further, how can any pewsitter give credence if the Shepherd knows not the original voice of the Great Shepherd”) Does not the scripture teach that we all know our Shepherd’s voice?
    We won’t be speaking Greek or Hebrew in Heaven. God used the language of the people, because He was writing to them, and wanted them to understand Him. Likewise, in spite of the shortcomings of interpretation, God still wants EVERYONE to understand Him, and has provided the Holy Spirit to guide us into all wisdom. We must do our own part in that, there is no vitamin pill that instills biblical knowledge. Of course studying the original language with excellent skills imparts greater understanding. Is there no good gain to be had any other way?
    I admit to frustration when someone at the podium uses English scripture to pound an invalid point due to a lack of knowledge of the languages. But they do it even more often because of a lack of comprehension of the English text where the text is clear, but taken out of context. There is a trend toward Bible “Light” that seems to allow every man to interpret that which is right in his own eyes.
    This is exacerbated by the lazy ones who don’t engage the text either, and have no alarm system to warn them of errors, and those who rely on study bibles for their understanding, treating the notes as inerrant. The lack of language skills in today’s preachers does weaken the body, but is just the tip of the iceberg.

  56. As a graduate of a seminary I must say that I am very appreciative that language study was required. I will not say I am a scholar, but the tools which were given to me in the languages are some of the most important I received at seminary. That is not to say that without the languages there is not benefit, but to use an illustration which one of my professors used,
    There is much insight gained while studying them. While I don’t believe that everyone must be able to .

  57. Steve Scansen says:

    As a graduate of a seminary I must say that I am very appreciative that language study was required. I will not say I am a scholar, but the tools which were given to me in the languages are some of the most important I received at seminary. That is not to say that there is no benefit to studying the Bible in a tranlsation, but to use an illustration which one of my professors used,
    “Reading the Bible in a translation is like kissing your bride through the veil”.
    The language tools in Libronix and especially the Interlinear Text are extremely helpful and assist me to keep honing my language skills. Thank you for you continued effort to put these tools in the hands of every believer. Keep up the good work.
    Steve Scansen

  58. Geoff Chapman says:

    The need for original languages is huge. Pastors and teahcers without them will not only limit their own study of Scriture, but also lose out on properly understanding the best commentaries. Good commentaries will always highlight grammatical, lexical and translation issues that are key to a text. Good students of Scripture need not only to understand what they are saying, but be able to engage with their reasoning and decide whether they agree or not. One simple example – Phil 2:4 is almost universally translated “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (so ESV, NIV, NKJV, NASB). In Greek however it actually reads “Let each of you look not to your own interests but the interests of each other” (so TNIV, NRSV). Removing the “not only … but also” significantly corrects the meaning in a way that challenges many materialistic assumptions of our age. The current controversies in North America around translation issues (mainly around the “gender-inclusive” debate) surely has to remind us that translations will always remain translations. Teachers cannot function well without the original languages.

  59. Reverse interlinears are a useful tool, but they have a serious shortfall. You can get definitions and speech parts from them, but if you don’t understand Greek grammar and syntax you are vulnerable to error. They may be better than translations, but they are not as good as knowing the original language.

  60. Matt Dunavant says:

    I received a Bachelor’s in Biblical Study: Languages and then an M.Div. with significant a year in Hebrew and two in Greek for a combined two years in Hebrew and three in Greek. After spending 14 years in the pastorate I realize that the time spent learning the original languages was time well spent. I spent time in the languages every week preparing to preach. I also taught as an adjunct on the college level for several years and began requiring Logos software back in 2004. I required students to learn and use the software as a fulfillment of class requirements. It was amazing to watch first year college students (many who were bi-vocational ministers who had been out of school for 20 years) beginning, with the use of the software, to use the languages with success. I believe in it.
    Now I am working in another part of the world helping train pastors and church leaders. I love the Word more than ever before. I plan on seeking my Doctorate in the coming years and so am no critic of education. We should be the greatest thinkers and hardest workers in the world. However, I would contend that one resoarce that is conspicuously missing from the Logos resource list is a missions collection. God is at work making His name famous among the nations through Jesus in unprecedented ways. This has always been His plan and it is the “big picture” message of the Bible. I would contend that Logos has been helping us not only see the trees for the last 15 years but giving tools to better dissect the leaves. For many however, the problem is that they still don’t see the forrest. Let’s encourage them to give us resoarces for both. One thing you can do is order “Text and Task” on the Pre-Pub list. It is close to being ready for production. The purpose of the book is to connect the Task of the Great Commission to the entire text of scripture.

  61. Great word. I have a man in my congregation who does not have a college degree and is in his 30s. He is a gifted teacher and wanted to get into the Greek and Hebrew. I pointed him to Logos because I was never that gifted in the nuances of the original languages at Seminary. And unless I had Logos and reverse interlinears, I would have forgotten all that I learned in language class because of disuse. Even one of the best New Testament Profs I had discouraged me in a way. He commented that he read greek every day and it still was difficult. So, a pastor really did not have time to do it justice. But, with Logos. I can get deeper quicker and I use it. Thank you for a great article.

  62. What Terry said a couple of days ago is right, the Reverse Interlinears are a great tool but you need to spend a little time learning how to use them, and part of that time should be spent learning the basics of the language.

  63. Philana Crouch says:

    I just finished Attending the seminary at Andrews University. We were required to have either two semesters of Hebrew and Greek, or for those who could remember it from an undergrad degree pass a proficiancy exam. That would be a good option, but you had to pass the exams or take the classes at the appropriate level in order to take an exegesis class. Our schools philosophy was how could you even take an exegesis class without working in the origional langauges. We were required to tranlate passages in class. I think this is a great philosophy. The various class were so rich because we could understand what Moses and Paul origionaly wrote. People make a big deal about the 12 Disciples not beging educated. But that is a falacy. All Jewish boys were required to learn and go to school when boys, they had to learn to read and study the Bible. They may have been fishermen, but they were not ignorant. Also in that day if you wanted to have advanced education you would travel around study under a Rabi for several years remembering what he said. That’s what the disciple’s did, they got the ultimate Master’s degree. They traveled being taught by Jesus. Which they had to do BEFORE they went and shook the world upside down. To keep up with your Greek and Hebrew try staying in contact with your classmates when you graduate and translate via email. Or get together with another pastor near you who studied it as well. Try to make sure you translate the passage you are using for sermon preperation. Logos has two books on how to do exegesis for both the Old and New Testaments. Each one has a section on how to do exegesis for sermons, each require working with the origional languages, use them and go through the process, and use Logos to help of course.

  64. Steven Masters says:

    I am a 24 year old preacher about to complete my undergarduate studies. I am currently working on my Greek studies and the rewards thus fare are emmense. I have every intention of moving on to seminary and pursuing futher biblical language studies and exegetical studies and the resources in Logos have enhanced my studies greatly.
    Drawing from church history, I think there is an important lesson that we dare not forget. When was the Greek reintroduced to the church?
    It was in 1516, when Erasmus compiled Greek mauscirpts to make hs new Lation translation of the Bible. From this spawned a resurgance in original language studies that allowed the Reformation to blossom. As a result we now have the Bible in English and every other major language. Pror to this, believers had to depend on church leaders to tell them what the Bible meant. It is wonderful that we all have a translation of the Bible that we can read and study on our own but if we simply take that tranlation by itself we neglect ourselves from what the authors of Scripture actually said. My Greek professor has an analogy that I think is great. Thhe English Bible we have is like a black and white TV, you can see things but not everything is distict and clear. The original languages are like a color TV, now you can see the picture in its clarity and vividness of color. I support and complement any effort to put a “color TV” in the hands of all Christians that they may know the riches and power of God’s Word!

  65. Amen! As a Christian worker in Bosnia who teaches biblical languages and works on Bible translation, I couldn’t agree more. Keep up the good work.

  66. Diane Kettlewell says:

    Hi:
    While I believe it is helpful to know the original languages (I’ve learned Greek and will learn Hebrew this year) I think it is a non-sequitor to think that people do not study if the pastor does not know Greek and Hebrew. There is much mis-use of power when Pastor’s include their knowledge of the original languages in their sermons – and often mistakes are made and then publicized. The Bible was written in Koine Greek – street greek, and meant to be understood easily. Unlike in previous centuries, there are today fabulous translations – in “street english” that God has made available to His people. We must be careful not to become too proud of our knowledge and humbly lay what we do know before God to be used, and not misused, for His purposes.

  67. “Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:5-11)
    I think God intended the Scriptures to be translated and taught to every tribe and nation. I would add that learning Greek is important only if one is able to transfer that “original language” understanding of God’s Word to the minds and hearts of one’s hearers — in their language.

  68. I heartily support Biblical Hebrew instruction (I’m a lecturer in BH and doing doctoral work in BH pedagogy).
    I have an example that I like to bring up when I hear people say that computer technology is a “crutch” that can cripple someone learning a language. Namely, calculators in the math classroom. Twenty or twenty-five years ago basic calculators were just being permitted (albeit begrudgingly) in many schools. More recently scientific calculators and graphing calculators entered the classroom. At first there was a large contingent of teachers and administrators who cried that this was the end of students being able to “do math” correctly. It was a “crutch.” However, in hindsight, we are able to see that when teachers changed how they taught the math classes to take advantage of the new technology, that students were actually able to do even more in the math (and science) classroom.
    I think that the biblical languages instructors of today need to learn a lesson from their math colleagues. We need to develop courses that utilize the tools so that we can focus on other areas… such as discourse analysis, narrative syntax, etc. We also need to build classes that take into account the end-use of the language. Not everyone will be a BH scholar or text critic, but we often train everyone as if they will be. One size does not fit all in BH instruction. Not everyone is best served by the same curriculum.
    I hope to be one of the people who will embrace the technology and identify better ways of teaching with it to better equip future pastors, translators, scholars, and laypeople with a specific level of competency that will be a lifelong skill, not just a hoop to jump through to finish seminary.