Why Study the Biblical Languages

by Jan 17, 2013NTScholarship, Tech4 comments

Ironically, technology has made study of the biblical languages both easier and less likely (technology giveth; technology taketh away). In my own experience, I can say it was very difficult to push myself to master the Hebrew verb states (or stems; i.e., Niphal, Piel, Pual, etc.) because I knew that BibleWorks would do it for me flawlessly. However, without BibleWorks’ ability to look up any Hebrew word instantly with just a mouse click (or even a mouse hover!), I wonder how strong my Hebrew would be at the moment.

I’m not old enough to say with confidence that we’ve entered a crisis in the study of biblical languages, but I’ve heard others say as much. And I have to think technology is a major contributing factor on both the positive and negative sides.

In any case, this effort at biblical languages instruction from Tyndale House looks very interesting and promising. Check out the video on the main page (and check out the interesting Cerego video about memory retention on this page, too).

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In my other life, I am the editor of Faithlife’s Bible Study Magazine, and one of my first acts as editor was to give myself a column: “Word Nerd: Language and the Bible.” They said I could. I also turn all the columns—plus a few that aren’t in print—into YouTube...

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4 Comments
  1. Paul

    Have you ever read John Piper’s Brothers, We are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: B&H, 2002), especially chapter 12 entitled “Brothers, Bitzer was a Banker”?

    I found a good used copy of Bitzer’s book about 8 years ago for my last pastor and gave it to him. He said it was the most challenging book he’d ever received! 🙂

    Reply
    • Mark L Ward Jr

      I have! That’s a good reminder; I’d forgotten about that essay. One thing I think I do remember from it (at least I think this is where I read it) is Piper’s advice to DMin programs to focus on language (re-)training rather than more “practical” courses. A provocative idea.

      Reply
  2. Jeremy Patterson

    Very interesting. Do you suppose some of these technological advances would affect the learning of so-called modern languages as well? I hadn’t really thought much about this.

    Reply
    • Mark L Ward Jr

      I imagine that modern languages are less susceptible to that kind of technological “cheating,” because most people who learn them do so in order to speak them, not just read them. But Google Translate most certainly had an effect on my own study of German, for example, a language I learned (the structure of) in order to read it, not speak it.

      Reply

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