Biblical Languages

Book Review - Greek for the Rest of Us

Image of Greek for the Rest of Us: The Essentials of Biblical Greek
by William D. Mounce
Zondervan 2013
Paperback 320

Have you ever wanted to learn Greek? A good number of Bible students and faithful church attenders have given a yes to this question. But these same people are often perplexed as to how they can actually learn Greek, Some may find themselves overwhelmed in a intorductory Greek class and conclude that it will have to always be “just Greek to me.”

Bill Mounce, perhaps more than anyone else, has made it his mission to make the study of biblical Greek accessible to everyone. Not content to be the author of the most widely used introductory Greek textbook (Basics of Biblical Greek), Mounce has provided a wonderful resource for those of a less scholastic bent with his excellent book Greek for the Rest of Us: The Essentials of Biblical Greek. Now in its second edition, Greek for the Rest of Us is more useful than ever and comes complete with a host of online and additional resources to guide the reader into a greater understanding of biblical Greek. Read more about Book Review - Greek for the Rest of Us

Lingua-Phobia Among American Preachers

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com

Some weeks back, on a preachers’ discussion site, I shared an extended quotation from the great Greek scholar A. T. Robertson (1863-1934) on the extreme importance, even necessity, for Bible preachers to study and learn the Greek language, for the sake of their ministry. In part, that quote said—

The physician has to study chemistry and physiology. Other men may or may not. The lawyer has to study his Blackstone. The preacher has to know his Bible or the people suffer the consequences of his ignorance, as in the case of the physician or the lawyer. The extreme in each instance is the quack who plays on the ignorance and prejudice of the public.

It is true that the minister can learn a deal about his Bible from the English versions, many of which are most excellent. There is no excuse for any one to be ignorant of his English Bible, which has laid the foundation of our modern civilization. But the preacher lays claim to a superior knowledge of the New Testament. He undertakes to expound the message of the gospel to people who have access to the English translations, and many of these are his equal in general culture and mental ability. If he is to maintain the interest of such hearers, he must give them what they do not easily get by their own reading. It is not too much to say that, however loyal laymen are to the pulpit, they yet consider it a piece of presumption for the preacher to take up the time of the audience with ill-digested thoughts. The beaten oil is none too good for any audience.

Now the preacher can never get away from the fact that the New Testament was written in the Greek language of the first century A.D. The only way for him to become an expert in this literature of which he is an exponent by profession is to know it in the original. The difficulty of the problem is not to be considered. One will not tolerate such an excuse in a lawyer or in a physician. The only alternative is to take what other scholars say without the power of forming an individual judgment. Some lawyers and physicians have to do this, but they are not the men that one wishes in a crisis.

The preacher lets himself off too easily and asserts that he is too busy to learn his Greek Testament. In a word, he is too busy about other things to do the main thing, to learn his message and to tell it. Fairbairn says: ‘No man can be a theologian who is not a philologian. He who is no grammarian is no divine.’ Melancthon held that grammar was the true theology, and Mathias Pasor argued that grammar was the key to all the sciences. Carlyle, when asked what he thought about the neglect of Hebrew and Greek by ministers, blurted out: ‘What!? Your priests not know their sacred books!?’

(These words are taken from Robertson’s superb little book, The Minister and His Greek New Testament, pp. 80-83; I quoted them at greater length in AISI 2:11). Read more about Lingua-Phobia Among American Preachers

Book Review - Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide

Image of Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide
by Miles V. Van Pelt
Zondervan 2012
Paperback 224

I’m not sure why I chose to review this book. Perhaps it was because my grasp of biblical Hebrew is poor, and I felt like I needed help. Maybe it was because I thought I might fit the target audience – those who have had some Hebrew but need to review the basics. Perhaps it was because I am absolutely convinced of the need for exegesis from the original languages, while at the same time my little grey cells seem to be happier when chewing on theology, philosophy, or history than when studying languages. So let me be clear right up front. I don’t review this book as a Hebrew expert, a Hebrew teacher, or even as a good Hebrew reader. I review it as a pastor who stumbles and bumbles along in Hebrew with the assistance of A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible, and needs all the help I can get!

An overview of the book

What you see with Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide is exactly what you get. It is a condensation of Basics of Biblical Hebrew (2nd ed.) by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt. In a pocket-sized format, it packs in an overview of basic phonology, the nominal system, and the verbal system, as well as two appendices consisting of verbal paradigms, charts and a Hebrew-English lexicon. Read more about Book Review - Biblical Hebrew: A Compact Guide