Is Hebrew or Greek more important?

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 21 2017 5:59 PM

Matt Hamrick:

Denise:

Francis:

Denise:
That young hebrew whipper-snapper depends on some old syntax, vocab, and spellings to appear  more old-ish.

Do you mean the MT? There are DSS that antedate the LXX.

I was careful to use the word 'Bible'. Now, some squeaky-clean historian might point out the absense of 'Bibles' until well after Jesus. Even He had to appeal to Moses or David.

Also, I'd assume the LXX is superior to the hebrew, if only to correctly support the NT (and Paul's appeal to hebrew expertise, was only to demonstrate the truly bad path he had chosen earlier).

The LXX is a translation of the Hebrew. No translation is superior.

Translations are just as good since many people have been saved by the gospel that was presented through a translation.  Though there are nuances, you can still teach people how to be saved from a translation.  We still have the Word of God, even though is a translation.  If you claim that no translation is superior you're basically implying that people received a watered-down version of the Gospel and hence, with less power to save or no power at all.

From an academic standpoint, scholars may think that no translation is superior, but God begs to differ, because, through His providence, He has made sure we get everything that pertains to life and godliness through a translation or so called "original language."

If I tell a Spanish speaking student "Siéntate" and I tell an English speaking student "Sit down" what result will I get? They will both sit down.  It would have to be an extreme mistranslation if I tell them both to sit down, but the english speaking student all of the sudden started running...LOL...so yes, there are nuances, but we still have God's Word with us whether in English, Spanish, Hebrew or Greek.

Blessings!

DAL 

Posts 10031
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 21 2017 6:31 PM

Matt Hamrick:

The LXX is a translation of the Hebrew. No translation is superior.

Any question concerning the the LXX, places the NT in question .... the latter from a Diety, using the former, irrespective of Divine motivations.

Personally, I've no issue either way (I'm not an angel as per Hebrews, etc). And I agree with DAL ... if the translation is worse, then there's another theological disaster of cosmic dimensions (cosmos=world).

The problem Jerome could never quite answer was the life of the hebrew. Jewish-hebrew goes dark shortly after Jeremiah, and then comes up for air, with large chunks of Judah embracing the greek language. So, demanding a pristine linkage is a risk that Jerome took.


Posts 1216
Matt Hamrick | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 21 2017 6:39 PM

DAL:

Matt Hamrick:

Denise:

Francis:

Denise:
That young hebrew whipper-snapper depends on some old syntax, vocab, and spellings to appear  more old-ish.

Do you mean the MT? There are DSS that antedate the LXX.

I was careful to use the word 'Bible'. Now, some squeaky-clean historian might point out the absense of 'Bibles' until well after Jesus. Even He had to appeal to Moses or David.

Also, I'd assume the LXX is superior to the hebrew, if only to correctly support the NT (and Paul's appeal to hebrew expertise, was only to demonstrate the truly bad path he had chosen earlier).

The LXX is a translation of the Hebrew. No translation is superior.

Translations are just as good since many people have been saved by the gospel that was presented through a translation.  Though there are nuances, you can still teach people how to be saved from a translation.  We still have the Word of God, even though is a translation.  If you claim that no translation is superior you're basically implying that people received a watered-down version of the Gospel and hence, with less power to save or no power at all.

From an academic standpoint, scholars may think that no translation is superior, but God begs to differ, because, through His providence, He has made sure we get everything that pertains to life and godliness through a translation or so called "original language."

If I tell a Spanish speaking student "Siéntate" and I tell an English speaking student "Sit down" what result will I get? They will both sit down.  It would have to be an extreme mistranslation if I tell them both to sit down, but the english speaking student all of the sudden started running...LOL...so yes, there are nuances, but we still have God's Word with us whether in English, Spanish, Hebrew or Greek.

Blessings!

DAL 

We will always differ, I won't argue against our translations because they serve a purpose. But learning biblical languages for those nuances you say is always better. I am no Hebrew or Greek scholar and I read English translations more than Greek or Hebrew, but translations always take something from the text. It's why all English translations differ. I can say no translation is superior to the biblical language and I am not implying anything against our translations. But I will still say, the biblical language is far superior to translations.

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David Ames | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 22 2017 5:08 AM

Matt Hamrick:

We will always differ, I won't argue against our translations because they serve a purpose. But learning biblical languages for those nuances you say is always better. I am no Hebrew or Greek scholar and I read English translations more than Greek or Hebrew, but translations always take something from the text. It's why all English translations differ. I can say no translation is superior to the biblical language and I am not implying anything against our translations. But I will still say, the biblical language is far superior to translations.

Well said - when in doubt go to the original - If you can find it.  (IMHO) The LXX was not translated from the Hebrew text that we now have.

And well done translations at least give us a hint of what the original said - but may put our eternal salvation into the translator's hands.

Hopefully God will give us grace and mercy. 

Posts 3655
BillS | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 22 2017 1:34 PM

christopher Adam:
I won't be able to nail both languages down anytime soon and would love to focus on one language for the time being. I love the OT and I want to bring its depth to light but as a preacher Its hard to ignore the NT greek. Which language, in your experience, as been more beneficial in understanding Jesus and the Bible etc...

In my seminary there were only 2 quarters of basic Hebrew & 3 quarters of basic Greek. Each series was followed by an exegesis class. If we really wanted to go further, there was an intermediate class in each, & in Greek there was also a classical Greek class. 

That said, for me Hebrew was MUCH more labor intensive. Greek was logical enough I could use conventional study methods to learn. Hebrew made no sense to me, & in the exegesis class I ended up studying 40hr / week (our prof was a world-ranked scholar who told us we'd have an oral final on any one of the passages we'd worked up in the semester).

Although I made A's in all my language classes (thank you Lord), the Hebrew classes took a lot more work. If time is limited, I'd start with Greek. I worked full time through my seminary journey. If time isn't an issue, I'd flip a coin. You'll need both. The longer I study, the more I find that the God of the OT is the God of the NT, & God hasn't changed. There's just as much wrath coming from Jesus' lips (& scarier) as there is from any OT prophet. And the stories of God's grace started in the OT when God rescued Israel BEFORE He gave them the law. Besides, the prophecies about Jesus are all in the OT. You're gonna need both to understand the whole Scripture.

That background brings me to the point. I went thru seminary with Logos & my laptop in every class. I took notes on the laptop. I used Logos with all its language tools in every language class. Why? I knew going in at 55yo that I'd never remember all that I was learning. I planned from the outset to master the language tools in Logos instead. Right-click, left-click? I have a hope of remembering that for 20 or 30 years, long past when my initial language skills have gotten rusty. What I'm finding now, 12 years later, is that Logos has kept me in better touch with the languages than any other effort could've, given that I've been a solo pastor in small churches for the 12 years. 

Blessings on your educational journey.

Grace & Peace,
Bill


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mab | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 23 2017 6:26 PM

Greek is easier to get into and harder to master. Hebrew is foreign in most every way. The alphabet is nothing like ours and everything is read right to left. Learn some Greek even if you want to do Hebrew. This gives you a better basis for understanding the Bible and will give you more confidence in your Hebrew studies. 

If you really want to do language study, start now. And don't stop. It's a skill set that depends more on your continuing use than scaling a mountain.

The mind of man is the mill of God, not to grind chaff, but wheat. Thomas Manton | Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow. Richard Baxter

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Oct 23 2017 11:10 PM

mab:
If you really want to do language study, start now. And don't stop. It's a skill set that depends more on your continuing use than scaling a mountain.

My background is a non-Indoeuropean language Finnish, but learning Greek was much easier. I also learnt some Hebrew while in Israel in 1972 but did not read or use it for a long time. Since 2008 I've tried to re-learn both. Greek came back quite quickly but I am still working on Hebrew. If I could go back in time I would take more time with Hebrew.

Then there are some other languages: Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic (Ge'ez), Akkadian, Arabic, Latin etc. No way to master them all, but I look forward to computer aided language interpretation for the original textual material from the Ancient Near East.

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 24 2017 12:37 AM

I did not find Hebrew harder to grasp than Greek, but it is true that there are elements that make learning Greek "easier":

(1) The vocabulary of the NT is smaller (~ 5.6K) than that of the OT (~ 8.6K).

(2) Many books of the OT are much larger than that found in the NT. As a result, it is easier to complete reading even larger books in the NT and feel rewarded for it than to do the same with larger OT books (compare trying to read a Gospel versus Isaiah). 

(3) There are more widely ranging syntax styles in the OT and that includes a lot of poetry.

(4) Textual criticism is more of an issue when working with OT texts (with the possibility of emendations for instance). 

These are also some of the issues that make it harder to "keep up" one's Hebrew along with the fact that most preaching and teaching in churches is on the NT and so you may have more opportunities to practice. 

On the other hand, I should mention that modern Hebrew is closer to biblical Hebrew than modern Greek is to Koine Greek. For anyone going for Hebrew, I would recommend doing at least the introductory Rosetta Stone course on modern Hebrew. You will learn modern vocab you don't need (telephone, computer, coffee) but you will also learn vocab you need (man, woman, boy, girl, horse, to drink, run, eat, etc) and more importantly, it will ease you into the language and make you feel confident that you can do it. 

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Michael Childs | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 24 2017 7:40 AM

Of course, it depends upon what text one is studying.  But this is what I have done, and it has served me well as a busy pastor.

Study both Hebrew and Greek in seminary.  Get proficient enough in both so that you understand what the critical commentaries are talking about when they discuss language issues.  

Put your emphasis upon Greek, as the New Testament is written in Greek.  Work with your Greek every few days, at least.  (Not so much the Hebrew, but stay proficient enough to understand the critical commentary discussions.)  Keep growing in your understanding and use of Greek.  Keep proficient enough in Hebrew to understand and use the best commentaries.

You will be blessed.

By the way, I did not find Hebrew harder than Greek, or vice versa.  

"In all cases, the Church is to be judged by the Scripture, not the Scripture by the Church," John Wesley

Posts 170
Al Het | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 24 2017 11:29 AM

Like everyone else, my preferred answer would be, it is best to learn both.

My experience in learning each was that Hebrew was harder for me  to learn, because reading and vocabulary was significantly harder.  I'm sure that for me, this was because it looks/reads so much differently than English.  Grammar was much easier in Hebrew, as it is fairly straight forward, and Greek grammar is vary nuanced.

Over all, I found learning Hebrew much more rich and beneficial in the learning, and Greek more beneficial since graduating seminary, in the using.  Learning both languages gives you something of a feel for the culture they existed in.  However, my Hebrew experience impacted me more significantly, I think largely in how the Hebrew people viewed God, and something of their relationship with and internal understanding of Him.  The process of studying the language was much more of a spiritual journey than Greek was.  There were similar moments in studying Greek, but they were fewer and further between.

However, in the years since, I have found Greek to be more helpful to my studies and teaching.  I think it due to the nature of much of the OT and NT, as well as the nature of Hebrew and Greek.  Much of the OT is narrative, and many times the understanding of particular words or Grammar are not as illuminating for me as other types of literature.  Also, in using original languages while studying, I am finding that much of the instruction in the OT is somewhat more straight forward compared to much of the NT, not so nuanced.  I also think the Hebrew language is much more straight forward.  Some would call the language more "crude," though that characterization might create something of a firestorm among some on this forum.  Greek, even Koine, is certainly very nuanced and can be used very precisely.  And I have found that those nuances are often very important in the NT.

All that to say, I find myself digging longer into Greek when teaching from the NT than I do into Hebrew when teaching from the OT.  Much of the time, when working with the OT, my language work doesn't significantly alter the direction of my teaching.  More often, my understanding of Greek DOES impact various elements of my teaching in the NT.

All that leads me to end with where I began.  I wouldn't give up either, both are useful, and I would recommend both.  However, Hebrew changed me a bit more, and Greek changes my understanding and messages a bit more.

Posts 4
christopher Adam | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 28 2017 8:57 AM

Wow. Thank you everyone! All this discussion has really helped me. Great community, I wasnt expecting so many responses. 

Posts 1874
Alan Macgregor | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Oct 28 2017 12:57 PM

Christopher

When I started on my first theological degree 30 years ago I began with Greek. However, at the end of my first year I realised just what I would be missing without Hebrew, so I attended a Summer School, when I crammed a year of Hebrew into 10 weeks. That allowed me to undertake honours in both Old and New Testament. In my final year of honours I added Aramaic in both OT passages and DSS. I have never regretted having reasonable proficiency in the 3 biblical languages. Even though my PhD was undertaken in New Testament and majored in Greek, I found both Hebrew and Aramaic invaluable for my research and work. As a parish minister for over 25 years I have kept going with  Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. I added LXX Greek, then Classical Greek, then Homeric Greek and a familiarity with Syriac, which though using a different orthography is of the same language family as the Semitic languages.

Familiarity with the languages is helpful in exegesis and analysis.

Given the choice, I would start with both Greek and Hebrew.

Every blessing in your studies

Alan

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Glenn Hansen | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Oct 29 2017 1:28 AM

Both the NT and OT are in Greek. The LXX was usually/often quoted in the NT, including by Jesus himself. One language gives you access to both testaments, whereas Hebrew gives you access to one. A basic knowledge  of Hebrew is useful but using Greek, you can do topical and word studies throughout the entire Bible, not so with Hebrew. The LXX is an authoritative translation.

What type of ministry are you preparing for? In many countries of the world, you need another modern language, not a "dead" one to communicate the gospel. The Chinese Bible most often used and available to over a billion people was translated from the English Revised version, not the OL. Spending 40 hours a week learning Hebrew, Syriac, and Greek is going to have very little impact on your ability to win souls for the kingdom of God. 

"Ever studying but never coming to a knowledge of the Truth." Don't go there

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Oct 31 2017 12:28 PM

I came across this Luther's opinion 493 years ago (I am currently reading this book mentioned in the bottom):

[The Study of Languages Helps Preserve the Gospel]

In proportion then as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused the Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his word, then we too ought to honor them above all others. St. Paul declared it to be the peculiar glory and distinction of Hebrew that God’s word was given in that language, when he said in Romans 3[:1–2], “What advantage or profit have those who are circumcised? Much indeed. To begin with, God’s speecht is entrusted to them.” King David too boasts in Psalm 147[:19–20], “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation or revealed to them his ordinances.” Hence, too, the Hebrew language is called sacred. And St. Paul, in Romans 1[:2], calls it “the holy scriptures,” doubtless on account of the holy word of God which is comprehended therein. Similarly, the Greek language too may be called sacred, because it was chosen above all others as the language in which the New Testament was to be written, and because by it other languages too have been sanctified as it spilled over into them like a fountain through the medium of translation.
And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.


Hall, H. A. (1524). To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany that They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools. In H. J. Hillerbrand, K. I. Stjerna, & T. J. Wengert (Eds.), Christian Life in the World (Vol. 5, pp. 259–260). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 4 2018 8:23 AM

One more opinion, I across this today. Randy was in Kenya in 1980s around the same time as I. The video is half an our long but I did watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoA-mkjFwZw 

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Lee | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 4 2018 10:39 AM

He talks about Lindsey's Lucan priority theory, which I heard consumed his energy in Lindsey's later years. It's very intriguing. Anyway, score +1000 for a knowledge of Hebrew, Hebraic culture and Hebraisms. Smile

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David Ames | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Mar 4 2018 5:30 PM

Gao Lu:

On the other hand, if you study Greek, you have the LXX, which means you can read it all, including the OT from a later Hebrew perspective. 

Matt Hamrick:

The LXX is a translation of the Hebrew. No translation is superior.

A translation of the LXX into English differs from a translation of the current MT into English.  

Is the LXX a bad translation of the MT or is it a translation of an earlier Hebrew text?

Or does the LXX represent a latter text as Gao Lu suggests. 

My “feeling” is that the text under the LXX is an earlier Hebrew text. Maybe going back to before the Babylonian captivity?

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 6 2018 8:22 AM

Could not resist adding this to the discussion

"All things are better in Koine"

A Tongue-in-cheek music video about Biblical Greek. From Biola.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvVylnHnn9s&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0x7fdVGetv0QVsURcMTiGLH6kZ1WnjIFqr33j0uETMaEZ56ManSPnJjyw 

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Michael S. | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 6 2018 9:45 AM

BillS:
I knew going in at 55yo

That is an encouragement to me!  You have no idea. 

Im 40, and thinking I will be through with all my schooling just in time for retirement.

Posts 3655
BillS | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Nov 13 2018 1:44 PM

Michael S.:
Im 40, and thinking I will be through with all my schooling just in time for retirement.

I took early retirement from a large commercial airplane company, & since then my retirement income has been part of my equipping to be able to afford to serve small churches... God is so good! Blessings on your journey. Keep leaning on God. If He's called you, it's His job to get you through each barrier that presents itself (e.g., work & research papers, language studies, taking more than one class at a time due to prerequisites for required classes, etc.). Just keep praying your way through. He'll make it happen... Blessings! 

Grace & Peace,
Bill


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