I want to piggyback on Michael Kruger’s “You Don’t Think Learning the Biblical Languages is Worth It? Think Again” and add a few comments of my own on the use of Biblical languages for pastors (and anyone who has a desire to learn them).
1. Pastors (I am not one) who actually know how to read the biblical languages (not consulting “Vines”), will tell you that they save many hours of sermon prep time because they are not dependent on secondary sources. If you know the languages you can bypass commentaries and other secondary sources because you possess the ability to work in the text without training wheels—bypass the middle man.
2. Speaking of commentaries, they are overrated, not to mention we are living in the dark ages of commentary writing; i.e. don’t equate how many commentaries that publishers produce with quality. I would rather have one good quality cigar weekly than a cheap cigar every day.
3. And even if you do consult a commentary, journal article, monograph, or the LOGOS library after your linguistic analysis of the biblical text, you are in the position to evaluate them—that’s right they are fallible, including Hebrew and Greek lexicons! I often hear people cite BDAG and other lexicons as if they are inspired and descended gold-plated from the Greek gods themselves. Lexicons are interpretive; and just like commentaries they often repeat each other. I give you permission to critically evaluate these resources. May there be a day when pastors and other students of the Bible will not perform “LOGOS-gesis”—typing in a biblical reference and poof uncritically incorporate your LOGOS results in your sermon…uhg.
4. Don’t learn the biblical languages to be able to “translate.” There are plenty of good translations out there. Why not use them if that is what you are looking for? Learn the biblical languages because you want to read Hebrew and Greek, yes? And read it aloud! Which brings me to my next point.
5. Don’t use the Erasmian pronunciation system that is taught by the vast majority of seminaries today; instead, use the Modern pronunciation or at least Randall Buth’s Koine Reconstruction system. This is a whole other topic that I will write a blog article for. But I really believe that the Erasmian pronunciation is a major impediment to learning Greek and retaining Greek. So many more seminarians will retain their Greek if they learned to read or listen to it aloud with the Modern system. This is what I listen to about every day. If you do use the Erasmian, it only takes a week to switch over to the Modern system. Well worth it, trust me.
6. I recommend Rodney Decker’s first year Greek grammar coming out in November, Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook. Stanley Porter also has an excellent first year grammar. I realize that Mounce’s grammar is the most popular; but don’t confuse popularity with what is the best. Mounce’s traditional understanding of the verb system is flawed in my opinion, as well as the opinions of many other Greek scholars including Decker and Porter.
7. As far as an intermediate Greek grammar I highly recommend Stanley Porter’s Idioms of the Greek New Testament. I realize Wallace’s grammar is the most popular, but, again, don’t confuse popularity with what is the best.
Okay, that’s it. Save on prep time so you can focus on other aspects of pastoral ministry!