When deciding where to go to seminary, one of the factors I looked at was the school’s approach to the study of ancient languages (mainly Hebrew and Greek). A few schools I looked at offered degrees or learning tracks that did not involve languages or instead taught how to use language software rather than the language itself. While I understood the rationalization for modifying the traditional approach to learning languages given the changing nature of ministry, I appreciated the (sometimes tedious and exhausting!) time and energy I spent learning Hebrew and Greek.
But now it’s been nearly two years since finishing my last Greek exegesis course and the question now, as it was two years ago, is “How can I keep up with these languages?”
Lucky for me, Constantine R. Campbell recently wrote “Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People” – a short and helpful collection of ten tips to keep connected with the Greek language (though most of the book would apply to Hebrew as well). The tips are basic – “Practice Your Parsing,” “Read Every Day,” etc. – and the book is more fun to read than you might imagine (Chapter 2’s subtitle is called “The interlinear is a tool of the devil designed to make preacher’s stupid”). Because the book originated from a series of blog posts, the author included a “comments section” after each chapter with interaction from readers engaging the material.
The book is filled with practical helps and advice, but it is not a magic bullet nor will it alone provide the time and energy needed to maintain (or, in some cases, relearn) a difficult language. The tips are helpful, but the fundamental problem I imagine most people will need to overcome is finding the time (and having the willpower to use the time) to spend regularly working through Greek parsings and translations.
Campbell devotes only two pages to discussing why you should keep up on Greek. It would be interesting to hear more on that question, particularly as more pastors find themselves in non-traditional contexts (bivocational, house churches, church plants, urban ministry centers, etc.) where the practicalities of keeping up a language (not to mention two) may make it seem nearly impossible, even with Campbell’s helpful guidance.
Disclosure of material connection in compliance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: I received this book free from the publisher, though the opinions I have expressed are my own.
A few questions if anyone feels like engaging:
(1) Did you ever learn Greek or Hebrew and did you keep it up?
(2) Do you think it’s important for pastors to know Greek or Hebrew? Why or why not?