Preacher, Don’t Lose Your Hebrew and Greek

Most Seminary trained Pastors are required to take the biblical languages (and woe betide those pastors who don’t- for their preaching will always thereafter depend on second hand readings rather than first hand familiarity with the text: they will, in the witty Rabbinic phrase, always be kissing their spouse through a sheet).

Unfortunately, after Seminary, most Pastors (if not 95% of them at least) leave Hebrew and Greek aside and only ever again refer to it if they have Strong’s concordance on their desk.  This is really tragic since it means that 1) all those hours of study and work acquiring familiarity with the biblical languages is wasted; and 2) they’ve gotten a bit lazy.

So how does the busy Pastor make use of the biblical languages?  Simple.

1- Read the Bible each day in the original languages.

2- As you prepare your sermon, make a vocabulary list and memorize those words with which you are not familiar.

3- Base your study of the appointed passage not on an English version but on the underlying Hebrew or Greek (or Aramaic).  Only after you’ve translated the passage for yourself should you permit yourself to look at other versions and commentaries.

I realize it sounds like a lot of work but it pays huge dividends.  You’ll learn what the passage means and you’ll be able to share that with your congregants.

However, don’t refer to this or that Hebrew or Greek word in the pulpit unless it’s necessary to make your point.  And do it only sparingly.  Nothing betrays a foolish parson quite like his constant reference to ‘the Hebrew says’ or ‘the Greek says’.

In other words, don’t bring the workshop into the Sanctuary.  Bring the results.

Why is this important?  Put simply, it’s important because the Pastor cannot possibly communicate what he doesn’t understand for himself.  The better you understand Scripture the better you can explain it.  And you just won’t ever understand Scripture unless you read it as it was written.

And always let the warning of Zwingli ring in your ears: ‘Only those are real preachers who know Hebrew (and Greek).  All the others are impostors’.

7 thoughts on “Preacher, Don’t Lose Your Hebrew and Greek

  1. Pingback: don’t lose your Hebrew and Greek. « συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

  2. Yeah, thanks for the advice Jimbo! I especially appreciated point 2. Had honestly never thought of it as a means to help me keep my Greek and Hebrew.


  3. This article stirred interesting discussion among pastors and classroom teachers. Thanks. I’m very interested to know why majority (95%) left their seminary training. There must be a good reason. As we know that majority of growing churches now are pastored by non-seminary grads according to study. Anyways, you are a pastor, I assume. Perhaps you can shed light on this too


    • they abandoned their focus on scripture and hence the languages of scripture because they have bought into the lie that real church growth has to do with external signs rather than spiritual substance.

      those ‘growing’ churches pastored by untrained clerics, just exactly what sort of growth are they experiencing? are they growing like weeds and producing the same or are they sending down real roots and growing strong enough to weather any storm?

      shallow christianity and modern churchiness have nothing to do with what the bible teaches about the true church.


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