Monday, September 05, 2011

New Testament Scholars Need to Know Biblical Greek and Hebrew

Students who receive Ph.Ds in New Testament studies should have an understanding of biblical Greek and Hebrew. However, and it seems increasingly som, some NT Ph.D programs today the original languages are not required.

When I study the New Testament, the scholars I look to must know the original languages. NT scholars do not look to translations of the Bible, but to the original languages themselves. Just as, e.g., a Kant scholar must read Kant in German, and not in English translations. Real biblical scholars do not read the KJV or the NIV or the NSRV when they do Jesus-studies or textual analysis.

Ben Witherington, in his web post "The Pretenders and the Contenders– NT Studies Doctoral Students,"
cites NT scholar Larry Hurtado and shares Hurtado's concerns about NT studies today. Every NT PhD graduate should be able to use the original languages. "It is indispensable to be able to read Koine Greek well. That means a good knowledge of grammar, a decent working vocabulary, and as much experience reading different texts as one can develop. Also Hebrew. Latin is highly desirable too, but not as essential for biblical studies." Computer tools are nice, but are no substitute for knowing the languages inside and out.

Hurtado adds: "Likewise, every PhD student should be able to consult and engage relevant scholarly publications in English, German and French (which are the main languages of NT scholarship)."

An aside: we recently had original language scholar Paul Albrecht at Redeemer for three evenings of Intro to Biblical Greek. Paul is an excellent Greek scholar who is an amazing teacher. It takes a great teacher to take such a foreign topic and, in three 2 1/2 - hour sessions, get 45 people very excited and wanting more. The knowledge and ability to go deep into the Greek text brings out the meaning of Scripture in ways one who doesn't grasp it would never see.