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An interview with A. Philip Brown II, part 2 — Author of A Reader's Hebrew Bible with Bryan W. Smith
Why is it that students and pastors seem to retain their Greek knowledge more than Hebrew?
I think the answer is simple. (1) Students and pastors read and preach more from the New Testament than they do from the Old Testament. Therefore they have more opportunity to use their Greek. (2) Most Hebrew teachers and textbooks major on Hebrew morphological minutia and verbal parsing skills rather than on exposing students to reading the text and acquiring meaningful exegetical skills. The result is most students leave graduate school with one year of Hebrew under their belt and virtually no knowledge of how to use what they've learned about Hebrew in meaningful exegesis.
In my opinion, if NT Greek teachers were to spend the same amount of time on Greek morphology that Hebrew teachers spend of Hebrew morphology, knowledge of NT Greek would suffer severely. It is time for Hebrew pedagogy to get beyond a Sherlock Holmesian passion for morphological minutia and focus on equipping students to read and exegete the Hebrew text.
How do you envision this book being used by pastors?
I envision this book being used by pastors, as well as students at multiple levels:
Level 1 -- As you are reading your Bible for personal edification, you should look up any Old Testament text that intrigues you, speaks to you, or otherwise catches your interest. In this way RHB can become a door into Hebrew study.
Level 2 -- After having read through a passage in English, open RHB and attempt to read through it in Hebrew. This will probably cause you to notice things about the text that you did not notice when you were reading it in English. To students: take your RHB to church, chapel, or synagogue and follow along in Hebrew as texts are read from the OT.
Level 3 -- Make it a practice to read through a Psalm and/or a chapter of Proverbs in Hebrew every day.
Level 4 – Make it a practice to read through an OT book of scripture in a year. Just so that you keep Hebrew text in front of you. Or find others who have some knowledge of Hebrew and meet weekly for Hebrew reading to encourage and enlighten one another. The more you read Hebrew, the more easily you will read Hebrew. Don’t just read prose. Expose yourself to various genres of poetry, at least enough to remind yourself that there’s Hebrew and then there’s Hebrew!
Begin by reading your favorite OT texts in Hebrew. If you get stuck, open your NASB or another literal English translation (KJV, NKJV, ESV) and see how they translate it. Don’t allow what you don’t understand to keep you from ongoing exposure to the text. There is no substitute for reading broadly. The more you read Hebrew narrative, the more you will see theological terms being used in ordinary non-theological settings.
I believe it is very important to understand the non-theological senses of Hebrew words (where possible) in order to properly understand their use in theological texts. God did not reveal a list of theological terms with heavenly meanings. He used words that were already in existence in Hebrew and revealed Himself with those terms. At times He invested words with additional meaning, but He wasn’t coining Hebrew words in order to reveal Himself.
A. Philip Brown II (PhD, Bob Jones University) is associate professor of Bible and Theology at God’s Bible School and College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the coeditor for the 3rd edition of Handbook of New Testament Greek, a publication for Bob Jones University and co-edited A Reader's Hebrew Bible for Zondervan with Bryan W. Smith.
Thanks Dr. Brown for sharing your insights about this great resource, and thanks for making the Hebrew text easier to navigate for all of us! --Andrew
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