What Languages Must One Know in order to be Competent in the Field of Biblical Studies?

I’d like to do something different than what Chris has (see his post for the background- and by the by, I’ve never heard of the people he’s responding to except the Duane guy – so this isn’t really part of that meme.  I’m just using it as a launching pad).

So, what languages must people know?  I’m going to answer in parts-

Part One- Pastors

Pastors need to know the Biblical languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek.  At a minimum.  No pastor worth his salt will ‘kiss the beloved through a sheet’ and come away satisfied and none can expound the biblical text without being able to read it.

Part Two- Old Testament Scholars

These folk need to know Hebrew, Aramaic, Ugaritic, Akkadian, Eblaitic, and Greek.

Part Three- New Testament Scholars

Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Coptic, and Latin

Part Four- Text Critics

These need to know the relevant ancient languages of the text they are examining.  If an OT text, than all those which the OT scholar masters plus those of the NT scholar plus at least German and French.  If a NT text critic then, frankly, many more (since the NT is attested in numerous languages from up to the 5th century CE).

All of the languages listed by section above are the bare minimum for each.  It really is necessary to read one or more modern language as well so that one can keep up with developments in one’s field and not be shackled to the narrow parochialism so common of pastors and academics in North America.

Without mastery of the requisite languages, pastors will be deficient, and academics will be as well, incapable of understanding that which they profess to be explaining to others.

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7 thoughts on “What Languages Must One Know in order to be Competent in the Field of Biblical Studies?

  1. Jason 6 Sep 2011 at 11:59 pm

    And don’t forget 17th-century English! HAHAHAHA!!!

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  2. BW16 7 Sep 2011 at 9:21 am

    And Korean!

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    • Jim 7 Sep 2011 at 9:23 am

      but why?

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  3. Xalem 7 Sep 2011 at 9:44 am

    Hmmm. Very few clergy learn more than one biblical language, and many if not most clergy slowly lose the biblical language they did learn because, honestly, in the parish, writing real sermons for real people, the tense of a Greek verb or the exact meaning of sarx and pneuma matters less than one might think.

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    • Jim 7 Sep 2011 at 9:50 am

      maybe to some. maybe even to most. but in the parish people really want to know what the bible says. and that cant be acquired through versions

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  4. The NT wasn’t written in Greek? 10 Sep 2011 at 5:38 am

    […] What Languages Must One Know in order to be Competent in the Field of Biblical Studies? (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com) […]

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