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Biblical Language Studies

Why is studying Greek and Hebrew important?

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Lee M. Fields, Ph.D.

What is the goal of biblical language study?
Bible study is never complete until it results in greater devotion to God. Therefore the proper motivation for studying and teaching biblical languages is to know and obey God better. The intended result is changed lives, both in the student of the languages and those who benefit from that person's preaching and teaching.

So, who can benefit from studying Greek and Hebrew?
The obvious answer would be preachers. Certainly preachers ought to study biblical languages, but so also should teachers, youth ministers, and all who are involved in professional teaching, including music ministers who write and evaluate the theology of lyrics. Anyone who wants to study Scripture better can benefit from studying the Bible in the original language. Martin Luther, who lived during a very difficult and revolutionary time in the history of the Church, wrote:

And let us be sure of this: 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. If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!), we shall lose the gospel.

Wayne McDill, a teacher of preaching, spends many pages training how to go about observing details of a passage. Though he gives examples based on the English text, he assumes that preachers will at some point go to the original languages to check out and fine tune their observations. In his discussion of the importance of noting English verb tenses in a passage, he adds, Later on, as you research the original language you may find more subtle distinctions in tense which the English text does not convey.

It is as natural for a serious, modern English-speaking student of Scripture to study the biblical languages as it is for a modern German-speaking student of Shakespeare to study Elizabethan English.

What is the payoff for studying biblical languages?
Check out this link for 16 Payoffs for studying biblical languages.

What will I be able to do after two years of study?
You will be able to do more than merely translate. You will actually be able to study the Bible in the original language and develop sermon and lesson outlines in a timeframe suitable for weekly sermon preparation.

We at MACU strongly encourage you to study Greek and Hebrew with us to the glory of God.

Lee M. Fields, Ph.D.
Professor of Bible
252.334.2080


What are Students Saying?

Never has my mind been pushed more in discovering God's Word. Not only do I work on translating, but I see different angles from which to go about it. I am constantly challenged to consider new possibilities and see things that the English could never show on its own. Every time I am through studying a passage in the Greek, I have a deeper grasp of the passage as a whole. I am convinced some of my most rewarding hours at MACU have been with the Biblical languages. Reading the English New Testament now is a bit like watching a dubbed kung fu movie. I'm open for criticism/editing.

Stuart Paul (2006)

Studying Greek and Hebrew has changed the way I look at language in general. I now understand the importance of so many aspects of language when communicating ideas. In general my public speaking has become more fluid, but it has affected me most in my sermons. Knowing the original languages allows you to see what the author meant in a passage, so much better than in a translation. This makes it so easy to write smooth outlines straight from the text, and the audience can see that and appreciates it. Since starting my studies in Greek and Hebrew I have received numerous compliments on my sermons, and I owe it all to the Biblical languages department at MACU.

Brian Paris (2006)

I am a non-traditional student in the Preaching Ministry program at Mid Atlantic Christian University. I am in my third year at MACU and my fourth semester in Biblical Greek. Since my second semester at MACU I have been preaching on 2nd, 4th, and 5th Sundays at a small rural church in Halifax County, North Carolina.
Since beginning my study of Greek, I have at times wondered if learning Greek was really worth all of the effort required. After all, there are many excellent "Greek tools" available these days for the English only student of the scriptures. My doubt was erased recently when I prepared my first sermon completely from the exegetical methods learned in my Greek classes. Not only did I enter the pulpit more confident that I had done all I could to "correctly handle the word of truth," but after the service several people told me that it was the best sermon I had ever preached since being at that church. I am convinced that learning the Biblical languages is well worth the effort.

Howard Guidry, 3/8/06

In my freshman year of high school, I decided to take a class at MACU. I didn't really know what I wanted to take, but then I decided I wanted to study Hebrew. I am pretty good at languages so I thought I'd give it a shot. At first, it was pretty difficult, learning a new alphabet and that kind of stuff. I have really started to enjoy it a lot after getting past some of the basics. It's pretty cool to be able to look at the Hebrew Old Testament and to start to understand some passages from it. It's just during my first year of Hebrew that I can understand some of the Hebrew Bible. I'm looking forward to understanding more of it after I take Hebrew 3 and 4. I highly encourage almost anyone to take Hebrew when they come to MACU. It's a great class and it's great how it will teach you to understand the Bible in its real text.

Ross Smith, 3/9/06

Even a comment from a graduate who did not take Greek

While I was a college student I did just about everything...I went skydiving, I skipped a semester and served as a missionary in Kosovo, I was a carpenter, I tried body building, learned aggressive in-line skating. Classes were great; I learned so much stuff and I absolutely soaked it all up. But when Dr. Fields suggested (as he does every chance he gets) that I should sign up for Greek, I laughed it off thinking that I could not learn another language. While in Kosovo I found out that my excuse was completely false, and I returned to MACU. With the way my schedule was worked out I only had one more year of college, and I told myself, "No point in only going half way through Greek," so I talked myself out of taking Greek, though at that point I did want to learn it.

Ludwig Wittgenstein said, "The limits of my language means the limit of my world." I understand there are excellent language tools available to help bridge the gap, but why enslave yourself to the translators? ...Learning a biblical language closes the cultural, time and linguistic gaps between you and the scriptures. I can honestly say my only regret from college was not signing up for Greek when I had the chance, but that does not stop me from encouraging current Bible college students not to make the same mistake I did.

Scott Montgomery (2004)