reasons to study the biblical languages

5 Reasons to Study the Biblical Languages

When I first became a Christian, I had many opportunities in the public school system to share and defend my faith. I sat under one professor in particular who was the leader of Gay Straight Alliance in my home state, went to Catholic seminary, and was well-versed in World History. Although we had our clear differences, he motivated me to understand the truth of God’s word and challenged me to think objectively about Scripture.

As a result of our conversations, I soon found a local pastor who discipled and guided me in the New Testament, Koine Greek language. It was slow, difficult, and many times mind boggling. I was an English-speaking American trying to put a 2,000-year-old Greek language into a 21st century box. Without question it was hard and I felt like most of the time I would never grasp the language. Fast forward 10 years, and I still haven’t come close to all the nuances of Hebrew or Greek in the Old and New Testaments. At the same time the study of Greek and Hebrew has radically transformed the way I understand God’s word.

Disclaimer…

I want to share why I study the biblical languages and why I believe you can and should study them as well. With that said, I do want to make this important note: if you don’t study the biblical languages, it does not mean you will not be able to understand the Scriptures. I believe Christians of whatever language have the ability to understand the Scripture translated in their particular language.

I would describe it this way. Many who have visited the land of Israel or Greece say that the Bible goes from “2D to 3D.” After visiting these nations that served as the backdrop for the Old and New Testaments, reading the stories and letters of the Bible take on a whole new meaning. Now, just because a person may not have visited Israel or Greece doesn’t mean they can’t understand what the Old and New Testaments are discussing.

However, when somebody visits Israel or Greece they do have the opportunity to paint a better picture of the biblical context so they can have a greater depth of biblical understanding and application. In the same way, I believe studying the biblical languages brings the Bible from black and white to full color. Although you can still understand the meaning of Scripture in a translated language, you can understand a passage in more depth with the original languages.

With that said, here are 5 reasons to study the biblical languages.

1. Inspiration

Both 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21 speak about how men were moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God, and that God breathed His word to us. Despite what some might believe, this did not happen in the English language! God’s original inspired word did not come in the form of English, but rather Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. If these are the languages God spoke in to breathe His word, I think we should put some effort into understanding what He has to say in those languages!

2. Biblical

Second Timothy 2:15 writes, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The word for “accurately handling” the word of truth is ὀρθοτομέω {or-thot-om-eh’-o}. Literally, this word means cut straight and make smooth. It has the idea of directly and correctly teaching God’s word. If we are to handle God’s work accurately, then we need to be as pinpoint as possible. Grasping the languages is the best way to be as accurate as possible with the Scripture.

3. Revealing

There are hidden gems and nuances in the original languages that you simply don’t see in the English. For example, in Psalm 29, the phrase “voice of the LORD” is repeated several times. However, in the Hebrew it is the phrase קול יהוה {col yah-weh OR col a-do-nai}. When read aloud, it gives the idea of rolls of thunder. The power of each verse builds and builds as does the description of God’s voice and power throughout the psalm. With a flood of thunder, power, glory, and majesty filling the psalm, verse 11 then exclaims how that same strength and power will be given to believers.

Such vividness cannot be picked up in the English! One other example is in Philippians 2:1-11. Verses 1-5 essentially describe the mindset of Gospel worthy living and verses 6-11 show Christ’s example of that mindset. Christ mirrors this in ways that may not be picked up in the English including His humility (vss. 3 and 8), “emptying” (vss. 3 and 7), and others mindset (vss. 4 and 6). There are hundreds of examples of these throughout the Old and New Testaments.

4. Sanctifying

I confess that studying the original languages isn’t easy. However, we weren’t promised that the Christian life would be easy, but arduous and agonizing (Mt. 7:13-14; Luke 13:24). Studying the languages is a difficult task, but it is a blessing. The result of faithful study of the languages produces a fruitful life of sanctity.

Your desire to study God’s word increases and you want to know more of His word and more of Him. We have examples of men and women throughout history who were devoted to studying the Bible in this way including Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards who likewise lived wholly holy. These examples and this type of devotion to God and His word is undeniably sanctifying.

5. Equipping

In 2 Timothy 4:1-3, the Apostle Paul charges to preach the word in and out of season. We are not to tickle the fickle ears of men and women who want to hear their own doctrine. Rather we are to preach God’s word at any moment and use it in action. Not only this but 1 Peter 3:15 writes, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Believers are to always be ready to make a defense. This is one reason I desired to study the languages to begin with: because it equipped me to preach, teach, and defend the truth at any moment. Now as I prepare for sermons or personal devotion, I can’t imagine studying the Bible without referring to the Greek or Hebrew. Studying the languages will prepare men and women for what they are called to do in the Christian life.

What Do You Think?

With these 5 reasons, I think whoever can should study the biblical languages. What do you think? Are the languages worth studying? What are some roadblocks that are stopping you from studying the Bible in this way? Have you tried? Comment below and let me know what you think of studying the original languages.

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