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The Biblical Languages in Life and Ministry (Monday with Mounce 71)

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My friend Marc
Cortez
wrote this blog on the Western
Seminary's blog site and I thought it is worth reposting here in its entirety. I look
forward to your response.

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.

I have to say that I completely agree. This
actually happens to be one of the soapboxes that I enjoy jumping up and down on
in my Greek  classes. We need to careful
that we don’t set ourselves up as the new “magisterium” and reverse the
important emphasis of the Reformers that the Word of God is for all of his
people – not just the elite few.

But, having said, I wanted to reflect as
well on the value of studying the original languages. Or, rather, I’d like to
hear some of your thoughts. Most of you who read this blog have done quite a
bit of work in both Hebrew and Greek. What did you get out of it? Was it just a
hurdle that you had to jump through to get your degree? Has it been a primarily
academic exercise that opened up new and interesting avenues for research and
writing? Or, have you found that understanding the original languages has truly
deepened your spiritual life and made you more effective in ministry? Of course,
you might have some other response as well. Regardless, let’s hear it.

William D. [Bill] Mounce posts every Monday about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greekand is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more and visit Bill's blog (co-authored with scholar and his father Bob Mounce) at www.billmounce.com.

MounceWilliam D. [Bill] Mounce posts every Monday about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greekand is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more and visit Bill's blog (co-authored with scholar and his father Bob Mounce) at www.billmounce.com.

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