My Advice to Students — Gary Burge Says “Master the Languages” and “Interpret with Humility”

Jeremy Bouma on December 4th, 2013. Tagged under .

Jeremy Bouma

Jeremy Bouma (Th.M.) has pastored on Capitol Hill and with the Evangelical Covenant Church in Michigan. He founded THEOKLESIA, which connects the 21st century Church to the vintage Christian faith; holds a Master of Theology in historical theology; and makes the vintage faith relevant at

9780310280477At Wheaton College Gary Burge, professor of the New Testament and author of Jesus and the Jewish Festivals, has opportunities to speak with budding theologians and young biblical studies students who go on to graduate and post-graduate school. Whenever he talks with these students his advice tracks along two fronts, which he explains in our video below.

First, he cannot underscore language study enough. The mastery of Greek and Hebrew is essential. Burge says, "Someone has said you really only know a language when you can write it." He explains what this means for you as a graduate student of the Old and New Testaments.

Second, he wishes that he'd been told more that we need to interpret the Bible with humility. Often we are exegetes that lack humility, he says. This is particularly clear with cross-cultural experiences. Such experiences are crucial to "realize there are different voices in the world when reading the New Testament. And that helps us to have conversations with global Christians that we might never have." In the clip he explains how his own cross-cultural experiences have helped him gain a degree of hermeneutical humility.

So master the languages and interpret with humility. While I've personally grown in the later through cross-cultural experiences in Eastern Europe, I wish I would have taken the former to heart. I hope Burge's advice will encourage you to master and interpret well.

-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)


"My Advice to Students" is a weekly video series designed to advise and guide students who are studying for a future of ministry in the Church, whether in the academy or in congregations. In these specially curated videos, leading scholars of biblical studies share their seasoned wisdom to help you navigate this important season of preparation.

(Can't see the video? Watch it, here)