Tag Archives: Biblical languages

Fun Facts From Church History

In the 16th century Evangelical pastors (Lutheran and Reformed) were required to know Latin, Greek and Hebrew.  Knowledge of those languages wasn’t optional for clergy, it was mandatory.

Answering Your Letters

Dear Jim,

I saw a blogpost by another blogger which recommended a version of the bible.  But I happen to know that this blogger doesn’t read Hebrew or Greek.  Do you think I should take his advice?

Manuel

Hello Manny (if I may),

That question doesn’t really require a lengthy answer.  No.  Persons may well tell you what version they enjoy or they might suggest that they are helped by this or that translation but without being familiar with the biblical languages such recommendations are utterly meaningless.  Such is akin to a person recommending a plate at a restaurant that they’ve never tasted.  ‘Oh yes, have the Veal’  ‘Have you had the Veal yourself?’  ‘No, but I hear it’s great!’…

When someone bereft of first hand knowledge of biblical texts recommends a version, take said advice with a HUGE grain of salt because they really don’t know if the translation they are commending to you is accurate or not (unless they’ve been told so by persons who do actually know).

I hope this helps (and doesn’t sound too mean.  Sometimes I’m wrongly accused of being mean and my directness is taken for rudeness but I’m as warm and fuzzy as a kitty).

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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.