John Byron asks the question- which I think an odd one (but one that makes the rounds every few years): should seminary students learn Hebrew and Greek?
I want to chip in some observations on, not John’s response- you can read that for yourself and make your own evaluations- but on the nature of the question itself. The question, it seems to me, is a symptom of a sickness. No one would ever, ever tell first year medical students ‘you don’t need to learn basic biology’ nor would anyone tell a first year physics student ‘you don’t need to learn calculus’ and then follow up those statements with ‘there are already plenty of good textbooks out there and all you really need to do is consult them’.
The question shows a lack of appreciation for the absolute and utter necessity of Pastors – of all people- charged with proclamation of the Word of God- to be familiar at first hand with the text they are proclaiming. The ‘busy pastor’ excuse is a load of hogwash. Pastors aren’t too busy – they are – for the most part – too lazy. I have known and do know a lot of Seminary students and Pastors and believe me, they have leisure time aplenty to play golf, ride their motorcycles, play video games, and generally waste time. No, the time excuse is just a smokescreen for the sort of indigence that’s too common these days.
Pastors who attempt to interpret scripture without knowledge of the biblical languages are parrots, simply mouthing words they may or may not understand. Seminaries, and seminary professors, are duty bound to reinforce the necessity of linguistic ability at every opportunity. To fail to do so is to give pastors and students permission to both be lazy and to be unacquainted with the very text for which they bear interpretive responsibility.
Or as the Rabbis put it- reading Scripture in translation is like kissing your beloved through a sheet. It may work at one level, but it’s never satisfying.
UPDATE: Don’t, for any reason, miss Scott’s take.