This has nothing to do with immigration debates, Anglo-centrism, or the KJV-only argument. No, this is about academic rivalry/mockery, pure and simple.
The following is a picture of a cake that one of our counseling professors just bought for the students who will be spending four hours this evening learning Hebrew. I can’t wait to see how they respond. Maybe for their next lesson, Dr. Verbruggen will teach them how to make fun of Freud in Hebrew.
Okay, I finally got one too many comments from people who either couldn’t figure out what “flotsam and jetsam” means (originally a nautically term referring to the debris left after a shipwreck, it’s also used to refer to “odds and ends” in general), or who wondered if I’m just a big Little Mermaid fan (which, by the way, says more about you than it does me). So, I’m going to drop that title for a while and go with something that will hopefully be a little clearer. But, just in case there’s still some uncertainty out there, let me explain:
- “Morning” = that period of the day between when I wake up and when my coffee has finally kicked in.
- “Links” = those underlined/colored/highlighted words on the screen that take you places when you click on them.
Now, that we’ve taken care of that business, here are some links for this morning.
- William Black offers some critical reflections on speaking in tongues, coming from one who speaks in tongues. On the same subject, Diglot wants to know what people think about non-Christians who also speak in tongues.
- Calvin College cancels a concert by the New Pornographers over concerns that they were being associated with pornography.
- Michael Jensen gives a great summary of Barth’s understanding of 1 Corinthians 15.
- Here are some video interviews with Scott Rae on medical and business ethics. HT
- Kevin DeYoung continues to offer advice for theological students and young pastors.
- Jason reviews Paul D. Wegner’s Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching.
- James McGrath points out some videos of Wolfart Pannenberg and Gordon Kauffman speaking about God, Science, and Mystery.
- And, Bible and Interpretation has an interesting article on the excavation of Geshur, possibly one of the most important of the Canaanite cities. HT
- A couple of good articles at Inside Higher Ed today. One details the problems facing for-profit schools and criticisms raised by a recent GAO report. Given that many are looking to these schools as the “wave of the future,” these developments are worth keeping an eye on. In a second article, Adam Kotsko responds to an earlier essay arguing that Christians face discrimination in higher ed. Kotsko contends that the problem really comes from the fact that evangelicals have historically resisted assimilating to secular culture. So, for Kotsko the problem is less one of discrimination than one of assimilation.
- Out of Ur discusses Brandon O’Brien’s new book The Strategically Small Church. It’s nice to see small churches getting some attention for a change.
- Michael Halcomb has compiled a very helpful set of language resources at his new site Getting Theological Languages. If you’re looking for resources on learning Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, theological German, or theological French, this is worth checking out.
- Mark Stevens is giving away a copy of N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection and the Son of God.
- Roger Olson discusses his problem with Calvinism, resonating many of the same themes that came up during our own discussion of the topic. He also has a post on church music that is well worth reading. I think the focus of his discussion is misplaced (hymns vs. choruses), but the emphasis on the importance of having solid biblical/theological content is our worship music is spot on.
- The Australian Broadcast Corporation announces the launch of its religion and ethics portal. The plan is to provide both ABC content from its various media sources as well as original content from leading thinkers around the world.The home page features an article from Rowan Williams, “Refugees Make Us Strange to Ourselves,” about the role that racial and intellectual others play in fostering intellectual freedom and healthy cultural identity. (HT Byron Smith)
- Biblical Interpretation has an article challenging the idea that we can chronologically separated “early” biblical Hebrew from “late” biblical Hebrew, contending instead that they are contemporaneous styles and that this has implications for how we date OT books. (HT Jim West)
- Larry Hurtado comments on the success and frustration of his new blog.
- Ed Setzer discusses four problems with the “rock star” pastor, and his suggested solutions.
- Christopher Benson has an interesting post on “Why We Need the Dark.” I’m counting on Rev. 22:5 being metaphorical because I really like the dark. (I’m sure that suggest some deeply disturbing things about my psyche, and I’m okay with that.)
- Joel points out that students can get Amazon Prime free for one year.
- And, here’s a helpful resource for anyone who needs to learn how to talk smack in Chinese.
- Jesus Creed has started a new review series on James Emery White’s Christ among the Dragons: Finding Our Way through Cultural Challenges. This could be interesting as a follow-up to our discussion of Hunter’s To Change the World.
- Stuart reports on a Pew poll indicating that more than 40% of Americans believe Jesus will return by 2050. I think every generation of Christians has been convinced that Jesus would return in their generation. Looked at positively, this could reflect the idea that we should live as those constantly prepared for Christ’s return. Looked at less positively, this is another expression of humanity’s basic self-centeredness.
- Phil Sumpter points out a new biblioblog, Ancient Hebrew Grammar. It looks like it could be a great resource.
- In case you somehow haven’t heard by now, they’ve discovered the oldest known images of Peter and Paul in a catacomb in Rome.
- Apparently some other seminaries thought Claremont’s decision to become an interreligious seminary was brilliant, so they’re going to do it too. And, I’m sure this is all about theological conviction. It has nothing to do with money.
- And, a group is now suing McDonald’s because the toys in the Happy Meals are making kids fat. Technically, they’re arguing that McDonald’s advertises the toys to kids, and the kids bug their parents until the parents take them to McDonald’s so that the kids can get fat. They should probably be suing the parents for not being able to say “no” (it’s a difficult word), but the parents don’t have anywhere near as much money.
Yesterday’s post, “The biblical languages in life and ministry,” sparked quite a bit of discussion. So, I thought it might be worth following up on that with a few more thoughts on the subject. Why bother with learning Greek and Hebrew? By the time you are done, you will have spent countless hours and probably a fair amount of money learning these languages. Was it worth it?
Martin Luther wrote a wonderful little tract titled “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.” In it, he addresses the issue of why he thinks it is important to spend time learning the biblical languages (see relevant excerpts here). I thought we could use his ideas as a starting point for our own discussion.
First, Luther is very clear that there is a pragmatic need for learning the languages; it makes us more effective students, teachers, and preachers.
A simple preacher (it is true) has so many clear passages and texts available through translations that he can know and teach Christ, lead a holy life, and preach to others. But when it comes to interpreting Scripture, and working with it on your own, and disputing with those who cite it incorrectly, he is unequal to the task; that cannot be done without languages.
And, he continues with a fabulous statement about the importance of the languages for powerful preaching:
Therefore, although faith and the gospel may indeed be proclaimed by simple preachers without a knowledge of languages, such preaching is flat and tame; people finally become weary and bored with it, and it falls to the ground. But where the preacher is versed in the languages, there is a freshness and vigor in his preaching, Scripture is treated in its entirety, and faith finds itself constantly renewed by a continual variety of words and illustrations.
For Luther, then, we need to know the original languages because they add power to our messages, confidence to our ministries, depth to our arguments. And, those are no small matters. We should be able to handle the Word with confidence and proclaim with power. The time we have spent on the languages is a gift to our ministries and students.
But, as several of our commenters pointed out yesterday, there must be more. If understanding the languages is a purely pragmatic issue, then my best bet would be to find Greek and Hebrew scholars that I really trust and simply rely on their conclusions. It’s unlikely that I will ever spend more time on Greek and Hebrew than Bill Mounce or Miles van Pelt (since they actually wrote books on learning Greek and Hebrew). And, if I can’t really do better than they can, wouldn’t it be more efficient to use my time doing something else? Why not trust a good commentary and spend my time working on powerful illustrations and applications? This is precisely what a pragmatic approach to the languages would suggest.
So, I find it interesting that Luther’s main argument is not a pragmatic one. His starting point is the Gospel.
we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments.
Luther’s fundamental concern is that if we do not pay particular and close attention to the text, we will lose the Gospel itself. Left to ourselves, we will inevitably fashion the Gospel in our own image, after our own preferences, according to our own desires. Although Luther regularly ascribes value to studying translations of the Bible, he argues that this is not ultimately sufficient. Unless we dig deeply into the text, we will eventually lose our moorings and drift into the stream of contemporary (ir)relevance.
Hence, it is inevitable that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.
So, we have now two reasons for studying the original languages: effective ministry and protection of the Gospel. To these, I think we must add a third: spiritual formation. I would agree with a comment that Ben made yesterday: “this is part of a spiritual journey not necessarily an educational one.” We must constantly remind ourselves that we are not studying the original languages; we are studying the Word of God. The languages are simply a means to that end. As Luther said, they are the “sheath.” So, I think we would do better to think of learning the languages as a spiritual discipline. It is an intentional practice designed to draw one toward a more intimate knowledge of God so that he/she can be continually re-shaped in his image. Only by constantly reminding ourselves that this is what we are doing, can we resist the alluring pull of pragmatism and the inevitable conclusion that we should just let someone else do it for us.
Thanks to the NT Resources blog I ran across an interesting post on Original Languages and the Priesthood of All Believers. Since most of us have spent a fair amount of time with the original languages in our academic development, I thought his would be worth reflecting on.
The article begins with the following statement:
The original languages of scripture can be a blessing and they can be a curse. They can help or they can harm the priesthood of believers. I have seen both happen.
He goes on to express high appreciation for the value of studying the original languages, but also a significant concern that we be careful how we use our understanding of the languages – especially from the pulpit.
The problem for the priesthood of believers comes when someone uses the Hebrew and Greek to set himself up as “the one with knowledge.” This may happen inadvertently, but it harms the church nonetheless. For example, when a pastor (who does almost all the preaching in the modern Western church) repeatedly says, “Well, in the Greek this means…” he is telling the folks of that church that he has special knowledge that they don’t have. While he may not mean it this way, this is the message that they receive. He is the expert and they are not.What does this do to the priesthood? It can devastate it. It causes a passive church when it comes to reading and interpreting the bible. If the people think that the pastor is the one “who brings the word of God,” they won’t be motivated to study and think for themselves. Instead, they will wait for the expert to bring them “the message” on Sundays.