Heiser v. Decker: The Thrilla in Bellingham

Michael writes

Someone sent me this link today by Dr. Rod Decker of Clarks Summit: Can you skip 1st year Greek and start with 2d year?  Dr. Decker proceeds to bash the “Learn to Use Greek and Hebrew” product produced by Logos Bible Software, of which I had a part in producing (and we plan to produce a 2.0 version in 2013).  Once again, a critic has managed to misunderstand the marketing claims for the product.

It must be v. day today.  Sometimes days shape up to be thematic.  Today is brought to you by the letter V – versus.  It’s a good word to know, quite frankly, given the pale accommodationism of our day.

And then the real fun begins

Since Dr. Decker felt free to insult the product (and me, by extension, along with the company I work for), I’d like to enter a dialogue with him.

Question: What discipline in the world embraces a 90% failure rate and calls it a success and the right course to follow?

Year after year thousands of students take Greek and Hebrew to learn to be translators – to reproduce (crudely) what they could buy in any given bookstore, and get free from the Gideons). In schools that require only one year of Greek and Hebrew, the student never gets to exegesis. Many seminaries fall into that category. So what does the student take away?  However, a good number of schools do require a second year (albeit a smaller number than 20 years). So, of those students that get through the second year, how many graduate and use their Greek and Hebrew *regularly* (week to week) in sermons? If the number was high, I’d expect that we’d see congregations across the United States where people are being fed solid meat from the pulpit. Pardon my skepticism in that regard.

Sure, there are such places, but an abundance? What do we have to show for the thousands of students who take two years of Greek and Hebrew?  The reality is that of the students who survive two years of each language, most don’t use it. Why? reasons vary.

I’ll answer that one- laziness.  Pastors are – by and large – lazy.  Too lazy to work in the original languages and some even too lazy to do their own sermons, instead opting to buy books of sermon outlines.  Feeding, thereby, their congregations regurgitated filth.

The realities of ministry simply don’t allow most pastors to review their languages to maintain the memorization levels needed to be translators. Another is that a second year course is often inadequate (who does Dr. Decker trust more in handling the text — his two year students or his doctoral students?). Second year Greek often is just category memorization, not exegesis.  Second year usually constitutes a short review of forms and vocab, then on to memorizing syntactical categories for exams and perhaps producing an exegetical paper.

If someone is lucky, the professor actually situates all that memorization into an exegetical method. But that is rare. Personally, I took Greek syntax three times at three different schools (I got an A each time; it was just a quirk of my educational path that required me to keep taking it). I never learned an exegetical method. I also never had to produce an exegetical paper. I had to wait until I got to graduate school in Hebrew studies to get anything that looked like that.

That’s kind of sad.  At the college I attended Religion majors were required to do exegetical papers based on the original languages.   I’m sure that’s changed now, but back in the 80’s we at least had to do it.

A little Greek (or Hebrew) is a dangerous thing, my Prof used to say constantly.  How right he was.  No Greek (or Hebrew) is even more dangerous because its foundation is laziness couched in the mantle of ‘pastoral busy-ness’.

Michael has more- all good stuff.