Biblical Language Research that results in Transformation: 3 Practical Reflections
Recently I have been taking a course on biblical language research. This course focuses on using the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts to do biblical research. The process which we used was not far from what I have done in this blog here, here and here. However, everytime I sit through a class, I realised that I learn more things than what I thought I know. I will share three specific reflections here on what I learned.
Biblical Language is indeed indispensable in our Bible Study
When we talk about biblical language, we are actually talking about the Hebrew and Greek used to write our Old Testament and New Testament. This includes the Greek translation of the Old Testament, or more commonly known as the Septuagint. Unless we are fluent in Hebrew or Greek, the Bibles that we read most of the time are translated into our language. To most of us, it will be English translations. And some translations lose some of the nuances that were present in the original language.
Case in point, during the class, we looked at the example of Proverbs 22:6. This is a familiar verse to most of us. I see the verse being imprinted in the missionary schools that I pass by on a regular basis. This verse seemingly exhorts people to bring up the child in God’s way. But as we observe the original construction of the verse in Hebrew and the immediate literary context of the verse, we find that it is highly unlikely that the author of the proverb was referring to God’s way in that particular verse.
As I continue to apply these skills that I have learned from my class, I find that this becomes indispensable in our Bible studies, sermon preparation or even just a regular teaching that we do in our small groups. If we, as teachers, are responsible to teach God’s word as accurately as possible, then it is definitely imperative that we do not remain comfortable with the English translations we have.
Biblical Language requires lifelong learning and application
Many people will know that even before this class, I have already completed a full course in Greek. Therefore, one of the objectives for this class for me was to at least learn how to read Hebrew. Even before this, I was already dabbling into some word studies in the Hebrew texts, through the use of Logos Bible Software.
But over time, I learned more about the tools that I need to use for biblical language research. This resulted in me stocking up my Logos library with more theological dictionaries as well as the biblical texts. I learned some features in my Logos which I never used before. As I interacted with my instructor and classmates, I found that many of them are learning alongside with me. This is humbling to say the least.
To me, it means one thing, that the learning and application never stop. Once I learn, I need to apply the skills that I learned. God has so graciously brought me through this process of learning. He has given me the privilege to learn these biblical language and the wisdom to use these skills to equip God’s people. Even as I am typing this reflection, I am also concurrently working on a series of devotion and teachings meant to equip the West Region of my church in our pioneering work. If this is indeed a privilege, then it goes to mean that stewardship of the skills is equated to lifelong application of the skills.
Hence, I do encourage all who are reading, especially if you have gone through biblical interpretation classes, to continue to apply these skills in your own personal ministries.
Biblical Language needs to result in transformation
The last reflection is really something that came to me as I was preparing to type this post. I have heard in many settings where people were marketing certain Christian classes, and touting it as “not a bible study.” In my heart, I always ask myself what is the issue with bible studies. Over time, I realised that in many other settings, bible studies are simply just bible studies. Many people learn about the Bible. Yet they do not leave the sessions being transformed by the word. This is unlike most of the book studies I have attended so far, be it in Acts College, Eagles and even those in Hope Church Singapore.
I then realised that we can learn all the biblical language we want. We can be expert in Hebrew and Greek. But this itself does not bring about life transformation. The tool remains a tool until the user of the tool uses it the right way. God’s word may be a double-edged sword. But it does not necessarily mean that there will be life transformation when we teach God’s word.
This calls me to be mindful about the way I present my findings from my own biblical language research. And I thank God that I am working on a set of devotions which sharpen my mind on this. The process itself requires more prayer and meditation than expected. It is fulfilling to know that the people don’t just leave the session knowing but that truly appreciate the implications of the Scripture in their lives.
This, I must say, is the true outcome of learning biblical language.
So share with me your thoughts on biblical language in the comments below. If you are interested to find out more, let me know too and I can see how I can help.